The good, the bad, and that transmission
The EcoSport is, undoubtedly, one of the better selling compact crossovers in the market. Let’s face it, the Blue Oval brand has been around for far too long that regardless of what decade it is, their vehicles still have a following that is alive and well. That being said, it’s not as if they haven’t had their share of problems, too; and the EcoSport was not exempted at all.
Last year, Ford released the EcoSport with a lot of updates in and out and a new engine choice. With that, the preppy little Ford crossover seemed poised to do well in the segment. Add to that the fact that it came with a new transmission which, for the most part, was the bane of its other good qualities, a lot got even more excited.
We got our hands on the 1.5L Titanium AT variant of the EcoSport and we put it through its paces. Aside from its different looks and a heart transplant, has Ford really corrected the wrongs from its past? Let’s find out.
On a very personal note, I’ve always liked how modern Fords looked. There’s something about its front end that screams macho and the new EcoSport is no different – for this generation, that is. A bold grille, reshaped headlights, sharper-shaped foglights, they all come together to give this tiny crossover a bigger-than-i-am vibe. Overall, its shape may not have changed, but really, the face value on this thing is absolute tops. On to the back, the rear-mounted spare tire takes nothing away from its overall design. Of the few vehicles that now sport a spare tire cover on their tailgate, I still think that the EcoSport has done so in the most tasteful way to-date. A slight redesign to the cover isn’t that noticeable, but it’s a good giveaway that what you’re seeing is the latest model.
A few things we would’ve liked to see, though, are chrome door handles. This being a Titanium variant (which already has a chrome grill, by the way), that would add to the premium look of the EcoSport. The bigger missing piece, though, would be LED headlights and fog lights. Yes, they did equip the higher-end EcoBoost with HID projectors, but with the Titanium badge, that’s something most really expected to come with this one, too. Overall, it still looks better than the previous generation, though.
The inside is just about as pretty as the outside, too. A leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls and tilt-telescopic adjustment, a power sunroof, fully automatic climate control, pockets aplenty, and even a cooled glove box, the EcoSport is not short on its amenities. Most impressive, too, is the update to its infotainment system. It now comes with SYNC 3 connectivity which features Applink and voice control. Gone are the dated, clunky controls old; this is just too easy to use and get used to. Kudos to Ford for this one. Speaking of infotainment, 7 speakers are found all around the cabin. They may not be of hardcore audiophile quality, but they do sound nice. Not bad for such a small space.
The bad? Well, that may be an overstatement but two things that we think may be improved on are the abundance of plastic, and the use of fabric. The plastic bits aren’t an eyesore, but knowing (again) that this is pretty much a top-tier variant, maybe the use of a little bit more leather on the sidings would’ve been nice. That being said, they could’ve done the same to the seats. All in a future minor model change, maybe?
In the safety department, Ford definitely did cover all the bases for the 1.5L Titanium (as with the entire EcoSport lineup). Aside from the standard seatbelts, the EcoSport comes chockfull of features like front, side, and curtain airbags, ABS, electric power-assisted steering, EBD, ESC, TCS – the list does go on. It’s a mouthful, but it’s also safe to say that Ford’s attention to safety, security, and driver assistance is next to none. Top marks for this.
And now we get to the meat of things: how the engine and more importantly its new transmission performed on Metro Manila’s streets. While it still has a 1.5-liter engine, it's actually a new one. In fact, it's no longer a four-cylinder either. Yes, this new EcoSport has a three-cylinder, but it makes a bit more power than the old one too with 123 PS. The old 1.5-liter four only mustered just 110 PS.
So, new engine, new transmission. All is well and forgiven, right? For a 1.5-liter with just three cylinders, it’s quite surprising that it did not return the fuel economy that we were expecting. At best, and even with minimal traffic, all we could muster was 9 km/l. Take note that this was the figure we got with barely any lead-footing involved. How did this happen? A light foot on the gas plus properly planned no-traffic times and routes were taken, why does the EcoSport give back fewer numbers than the competition?
See, I personally don’t think it’s the engine. Give it some gas, and it has enough power to get you moving. It’s not fast, but it’s quick. But that’s about where it gets stuck – going up the revs quickly and feeling short on juice all of a sudden. It doesn’t feel that way low on the gears and revs, though. It’s only when your foot stays on the pedal longer and further than usual that the EcoSport starts to stutter. The culprit, in my opinion, is the new transmission.
Gone is the old Powershift box of old, and in this new model, Ford saw fit to put in a new 6-speed automatic. The old dual-clutch really did underperform, and this new transmission was supposed to save the EcoSport’s performance from the brink. Sadly, we think it fell quite short. It’s not a disaster of a transmission, though. The only point for improvement that is glaring is that the gears from 1st to 3rd (even 4th, actually) are far too long.
Step on the gas for longer than you have to and the revs just keep climbing without shifting – take note that this is not even mashing the accelerator to the floor. The engine itself carries all the power that you need to get you moving, but translating it to the movement of the wheels comes with difficulty. This is why even with the best efforts, the gas mileage wasn’t as good as we expected. This is why even with a peppy engine, its early power turns into engine grunts just as quick as the revs go up.
Despite this, this engine-transmission combination is still a lot better than the previous generation’s, and that is for sure. There is no clunky feel when shifting, and this unit performed a lot smoother than the previous one. A little fine tuning would do it and the EcoSport’s economy a lot of good. Seeing that Ford has done away with their troublesome Powershift, we see no reason why they can’t address this little hiccup.
Sure, there is a bit of footwork adjustment to get your engine and transmission to work better together, and for better fuel economy, but it’s something you can still live with. With a price of PhP1,098,000, and with this variant already bearing the Titanium badge, despite it being second from the top of the line model, the 1.5L EcoSport Titanium AT brings a whole lot to the crossover table. Handsome looks partnered with a comfortable and classy interior, plus a safety list that virtually has all the boxes ticked, there really isn’t much to naysay or even nitpick about this cute econobox from Ford. Now, if only they come up with a fix for the transmission woes, we’re bound to see more EcoSports on the road than we already do.