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First drive: Ford Ecosport

As the world goes micro-SUV crazy, is Ford's Fiesta-based crossover the one to have? Paul Horrell investigates

Ford wants to become your universal provider of crossovers in Britain. What with the Kuga, now this dinky Ecosport and the upcoming Mondeo-sized Edge it unveiled at the LA show, the Blue Oval will have pretty well every size covered a year from now.

Supermini-sized crossovers are a red-hot corner of the market, with sales ballooning. Even so it’s questionable whether the number of people who want a cute-ute is big enough to satisfy the hunger for sales of all the new entrants: Peugeot (2008), Renault (Captur), Vauxhall (Mokka), Fiat (next year’s 500X) plus this Ford.

The Ecosport was styled and engineered in South America, and has a bit of a gaucho vibe about its styling. The big assertive grille and high bonnet are truck truck truck, and the tailgate-mounted spare wheel is trad-4x4 too. Pity the wheels look a bit undernourished, and, like the B-Max, the Ecosport doesn’t have the width to balance its deep sides so ends up looking a bit pinched.

Never mind the 4x4 looks, it’s strictly front-drive. The mechanical bits are adapted from the Fiesta, and the one I drove had the lovely little three-cylinder Ecoboost. By the way, Ford people insist on pronouncing the engine ‘eek o boost’ but the car ‘echo sport’.

So on slippery roads you can easily lose traction if you use full boost in a corner. But then it’s not a car for hooning, is it? The soft suspension, good clearance and four-season tyres should get you up muddy and snowy tracks with some dignity.

Try to drive it like a Fiesta and the thing comes unstuck. It corners like a little truck, not like a tall supermini. It rolls a lot and the four-season tyres grip like they were four-season pizzas. But as it’s a Ford, it has nice accurate steering and an expensive-feeling motion to its damping, so when you drive it more reasonably it’s perfectly agreeable. The bodyshell and mechanicals feel solid and well-made.

Sadly, when you run you reyes and fingers round the cabin the impression of quality melts away. It’s all hard plastic mouldings, and when you put anything in the storage bins they’ll rattle like a hyperactive playgroup. Surely the expenditure of just a quid on rubber moulding to fit the cubbies would make things feel a lot more finished. There are voice-activated apps including Spotify and Glympse, but no option for the colour-screen amenity of its rivals.

Still, it’s very practical. The front is full of storage cubbies, and the high seats and low floor (no 4x4 propshaft) make for loads of rear leg-room. The back seats recline too, and the boot is deep because the spare’s hung out the back - though that means a side-hinged tailgate and so you have to leave space behind when you park. Roof rails complete the picture.

If you want the most rugged-looking of the baby crossovers, this one will do fine. But approach with caution. It’s not the clear class leader a Fiesta or Focus is.

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