Ford’s EcoSport has had something of a dream run in India. Its modern take on a compact SUV really thrilled Indian car buyers and what also helped was that Ford got the price right. Little surprise then that the EcoSport was our Car of the Year for 2014. But how well would we get along with it, a whole year later? Familiarity, after all, does breed some amount of contempt.
What’s pretty clear even 12 months on, however, is that Ford’s baby SUV continues to exert considerable pull and appeal. There’s still that sense of wonder that a sub-four-metre car (it’s 3999mm long) can feel so substantial and full-sized on both the inside and out. I still marvel at the punch from what is essentially a 1,000cc engine, and it still has the ideal blend of urban agility and high-speed highway stability. Whichever way you look at it, this is a contradiction that works.
I recently spent a week and a half again with the EcoSport, driving it both in the city as well as over long distances, and found myself admiring it even more. What I love most about the car is the effortless manner in which it covers ground at a good pace. You can throw it at a rough road and not have to worry too much about adversely affecting the suspension or damaging the underbody. The EcoSport, in fact, instilled so much confidence, I chose to drive to Janjira on the coast of Maharashtra via some seldom driven over roads. Needless to say, the hard-charging EcoSport was an absolute pleasure to drive around the serpentine roads of Pali and Pen. Exploiting the considerable punch of the engine felt really good and the composed manner in which it tackled some bad patches was really impressive. The EcoSport petrol does possess a bit of stiffness in its springs, which helps give it a nice balance of ride and handling. But we did consistently find that it administers the occasional loud ‘whack’. This is especially true if you encounter a large horizontal ridge, over which the light nose of the car tends to skip. Still, on an everyday basis, the car isn’t uncomfortable to sit in or drive, and the undulations don’t toss you around too much either. Sure, it isn’t as well settled as a Duster, but then, what really is?
What we also didn’t like too much was the bit of turbo lag this engine suffers from. It’s all very well if you like to hum along at 3000 revs on the dial. But if you are a lazy driver and you let the revs fall, especially in traffic, you need to downshift as the engine goes off boost and lacks the cubic capacity to pull forward cleanly. Still, turbo lag isn’t that much of an issue.
What really is irritating is the fact that the engine has developed a transient on/off hesitation, encountered when the boost comes on and off in normal driving conditions. And this, at times, does make driving the car smoothly difficult. Other bits on the car we weren’t crazy about include the speed at which Ford Bluetooth-based Sync works (your first call seldom connects), the fit on the door at the rear on which the heavy spare wheel is mounted and, of course, the fact that visibility past the oddly positioned ‘A’ pillars is challenging. And surely, Ford could have calibrated the servo on the brakes better; they are fine at lower speeds, but seem to lack bite and stopping power when you hit them really hard. And to make matters worse, the ABS cuts in early if you are on a slightly bumpy road. Also Ford, can we please have a decent glovebox?
Still, there are plenty of things we’ll miss about our EcoSport. Fuel economy was quite decent for an over-1200kg car with a 123bhp motor under the hood, the build of the car is seriously robust, space and comfort is surprisingly good. And despite being a bit slow and having only a two-tone screen, the Sync system is a real boon. I used it to play all manner of audio off my phone — music, interviews, music off YouTube — and I even managed to fiddle a bit and get the quite brilliant Google Maps app to call out directions via the speakers. And does anyone manage factory-fitted audio better than Ford? No. One thing’s for sure, we’re going to miss our EcoSport; wish I’d taken the time to explore more of those seldom-used back roads and state highways.
Price: Rs 12.39 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 10.5kpl (overall)
Maintenance costs: None