'Living with the car has been easy. It's good looking, fashionable and practical. Ride and refinement are almost class-leading...'
Want a small Juke-style Crossover model? Lots of people do. This is the market's fastest-growing segment at present. But what would it be like actually living with a car of his kind day-in, day-out? We thought we'd try it - at the wheel of Ford's entrant in this category - the EcoSport.
The variant chosen for our test was the one most EcoSport buyers choose - the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol turbo unit. In this model, this engine comes in its pokier 125PS form, which is just as well because the EcoSport is quite a chunky thing for a compact car. This powerplant isn't the least powerful petrol engine in the range but it still manages to be cleaner and more economical than the base 1.5-litre four cylinder petrol variant, a much older-tech unit.
We haven't been inclined to thrash this Ford about much but were we to do so, the official figures suggest that 62mph from rest occupies only 12.7s on the way to 112mph. It also helps that there's about 30kgs less weight in the nose with this smaller three cylinder engine fitted, which means that turn-in to corners feels a touch sharper - or at least it would do were there a bit more feel from the electric power steering. Still, this car isn't designed for handling heroics. Instead, it's at its happiest in an urban jungle you can to tackle from a raised driving position over 150mm higher than that of a Fiesta. The light power steering helps here, as does the slick 5-speed gearbox and a decently tight 10.6m turning circle.
On the move, the extra weight and the higher stance mean that you don't get the sweet handling sharpness of a Fiesta or a Focus: that would have entailed ride quality firmer than most typical small Crossover segment buyers would probably want, people with no need and even less desire to throw their cars about. So the EcoSport development team chose instead to put their efforts into ride and refinement. So though this car corners with more bodyroll than we thought it might, it rides far better than we ever thought it would. Better than most other cars in this class in fact.
It's also quieter than most other small Crossovers we can think of in this segment. That and the supple ride together make this one of the few models of this kind in which we'd very happily undertake a long journey - and we have frequently since out long term test began.
Living with the car has been easy - once you get used to the mobile phone-style array of buttons on the centre console. It's a button-fest that can seem rather overly complex at first, but one you quickly adjust to. The six-way adjustable driver's seat offers a supportively commanding perch and the instruments are clear and concise. As for build quality, well you might guess that one of these is screwed together in an Indian factory from the hard, utilitarian plastics used around much of the dash. Still, it all feels solid and Ford's European division has done its best to plush things up with this smart gearstick and leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel.
It's a practical cabin too. The odd coat hook would have been nice but in terms of stowage space, owners are undeniably well provided for with no fewer than twenty different cubbies and compartments for 'phones, sunglasses, coins, cups, drinks and chocolate bars. You get properly sized doorbins able to swallow a 1.5-litre bottle of water, a decently sized cooled glovebox that can hold six 330ml cans, large seatback pockets and a drawer under the front passenger seat to keep valuable items away from prying eyes.
As for running costs, well it's a lot harder to get a boxy Crossover model to return efficient fuel and CO2 returns than it is with a conventional supermini or family hatchback. Our EcoSport neatly illustrates this point. Its 125PS engine returns 65.7mpg on the combined cycle when fitted to Ford's Fiesta: here, it manages 53.3mpg, which is a bit of a drop - but probably acceptable, given the extra weight this car must cart around. It's a similar story when it comes to CO2, the Fiesta's 99g/km showing falling to 125g/km here.
Overall though, we're enjoying our time with this car. It's good looking, fashionable and practical. Ride and refinement are almost class-leading. It's very well equipped. And the SYNC connectivity AppLink system is just brilliant. All these reasons will combine with the small Crossover segment's current popularity to ensure that Ford will probably sell as many of these as they can import. My daughter, for example, would love one. It is, as ever, a case of giving the market what it wants.
Facts at a Glance
FACTS AT A GLANCE
CAR: Ford EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS
PRICES: from £15,345
INSURANCE GROUPS: 11E
CO2 EMISSIONS: 125g/km
PERFORMANCE: [1.0 EcoBoost 125PS] 0-62mph 12.7s / top speed 112mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: [1.0 EcoBoost 125PS] (combined) 53.3mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Six airbags, stability control, hill start assist, ABS brakes
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height mm 4011/1765/1665mm
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