Marcus De Guzman / Marcus De Guzman | March 23, 2018 17:15
Who would have thought that this tiny crossover would become one of Ford Group Philippines' best-sellers in the country? For a brand that is more famous for having the Explorer, Everest, Fiesta, Ranger and the Mustang, the EcoSport stands out from the rest for quite a few of reasons.
For starters, it's as small as a hatchback but is as tall as most SUVs. It's also quite zippy and agile which makes it ideal in both city and highway driving, not to mention those long roadtrips. Indeed, the EcoSport is a flexible jack-of-all-trades that makes it appealing than your average hatchback or sedan.
To further expand the EcoSport's already massive appeal, Ford released yet another Black Edition version only this time it's for the mid-range Trend, not the Titanium. Will it be able to draw buyers with its more stylish appearance inside and out? We take a closer look.
From its namesake, it's clear that this particular EcoSport differs from the run-of-the-mill offerings. The front fascia bears a prominent black grill along with black-tinted headlights and gloss black foglight bezels that give it a sportier look. Also bearing the black finish are the side mirror caps and the 16-inch alloy wheels borrowed from the top-spec Titanium. Paired with the Ingot Silver hue, the blacked-out extras make for a sleeker-looking crossover.
Beyond the dark aesthetics however, Ford did install several new features on the Black Edition. These include a rear spoiler and a roof bar for placing additional cargo. Still present at the back is the rear-mounted spare tire carrier which gives the EcoSport a distinct look.
Overall, the EcoSport is still a good looking crossover and it's quite surprising that it's nearly four years old now.
Step inside and everything still felt familiar inside the Black Edition EcoSport. Despite its age, the EcoSport's cabin design still looks fresh and contempt. Granted, the plastic trim used makes for a rather dated fit and finish. The dashboard is a mix of modern and traditional styling, with the controls within easy reach.
Being the special edition model that it is, the Black Edition EcoSport also comes with several extras inside. These include gloss black plastic trim on the infotainment system, center console and aircon vents, sport pedals and illuminated door sill plates. Subtle these upgrades may be, they do freshen up the EcoSport's plastic-riddled cabin.
The steering rack is only tilt adjustable but I was glad Ford was able to install a three-way adjustable driver's seat, allowing me to get into a suitable driving position easily. However, I wish the it had better side and shoulder support as I found myself re-adjusting my seating position every so often. Seating at the back, there is ample legroom and headroom for all three individuals. Elbowroom, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired given the EcoSport's limited width. Luggage space, on the other hand, is adequate for its size.
It has yet to receive a touchscreen infotainment system as the EcoSport still comes with the first-generation SYNC. Awash with buttons, it does take some getting used to but it is not that complicated to familiarize yourself what operates what. While most may find it archaic, I actually find it easy to operate and connecting your phone to the system (via Bluetooth) was a breeze. It also supports AM/FM radio, CD, Aux and USB connectivity. What could have been done better? I wished it had a bigger screen but maybe that’s just me being nitpicky.
Since this is the mid-range offering, the Black Edition Trend loses some features from the top-spec Titanium. No leather upholstery here as the seats are wrapped in cloth. Also gone are the power sunroof, automatic headlights, rain-sensitive wipers, automatic climate control, driver's side arm rest, auto-dimming rearview mirror and keyless start. Despite having less equipment, these are features that one can live without. Plus, it makes for a relatively affordable price tag which I'll get to later.
Under the hood is the ever familiar 1.5-liter Ti-VCT four-cylinder engine that produces a modest 110 PS at 6300 rpm along with 142 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. The motor is then saddled to a Powershift six-speed automatic that drives the front wheels.
What is it like on the road? Well if you’re out on the highway, the EcoSport feels spritely and has a relatively smooth power delivery while cruising. Don’t let the ‘Powershift’ name fool you though as the EcoSport has a dual-clutch automatic gearbox much like its hatchback brethren, the Fiesta. The result is a powertrain that is not afraid to make use of all available revs although I did find out that most of the engine’s pulling power is at the mid to upper rev range. Still, the high-riding EcoSport was able to return 14.0 - 15.0 km/l of fuel on the highway.
Smooth it may be, overtaking other cars on the open road has to be done with timing and commitment given the EcoSport’s small engine capacity. Throwing the transmission into Sport Mode (which also engages manual-select) does help since it sharpens acceleration and makes the revs climb faster. Don't expect to find paddle shifters however as the EcoSport only comes with buttons on the shifter for gear-changing.
On the flipside, the EcoSport felt clunky and frankly quite annoying when driven on stop-and-go traffic. Why? The same smooth-operating dual-clutch transmission suddenly becomes rough at slow speeds. While most (if not all) dual-clutch gearboxes have a tendency to be jerky in heavy city traffic, I wished Ford could have made the transmission operate more fluidly. One way to eliminate the DCT’s tendency to be jerky during heavy traffic is to allow it to move a few meters instead of inching the car forward during bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The drivetrain does smooth out in lighter city traffic as shift shock from the DCT becomes less noticeable compared to stop-and-go traffic. As for fuel consumption, expect the EcoSport to average between 7.0 - 8.0 km/l while traveling along city and town roads. It could have been better but you do have to remember you are in a high-riding crossover, not inside a sleek hatchback or sedan.
One redeeming feature of the EcoSport is its handling. Since it’s basically a Fiesta on stilts, the EcoSport was able to dart around corners with ease. Turn the wheel and the EcoSport just follows through in every turn thanks to the finely tuned suspension and electronic power steering (EPS). Sure the system does lack some feedback (i.e. roadfeel) but I did notice that its steering felt more precise compared to hydraulically-assisted power steering systems. There is also the matter of body roll which was no surprise since the EcoSport is quite tall.
As for ride quality, the EcoSport felt relatively alright despite having a short wheelbase. The ride does get jarring when faced with rutted streets but it’s not entirely bad. The slightly firm suspension meant the EcoSport was not as wayward and allowed the crossover to travel along smooth pavement with no drama. But perhaps better Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) deadening could be made in the future to make the ride that much smoother. But then again, the refreshed model will be out soon so let’s hope it has an overall better ride quality.
With a sticker price of Php 971,000, this blacked-out special is Php 13,000 more than the standard Trend which retails for Php 958,000. Not that expensive sure but do remember that it's already knocking on the Php 1 million mark. At this price range, the Black Edition is on par with the slew of new mini seven-seater crossovers like the Honda BR-V and the recently-launched Mitsubishi Xpander.
While the EcoSport is still a capable family crossover in the lucrative B-segment, it is starting to lag behind due to the arrival of new players that come with more technologies, more space and more bang for buck. All in all, the EcoSport is facing stiff competition. Here's to hoping the refreshed EcoSport makes it local debut soon.