The Ford EcoSport isn't a perfect car, far from it. Just ask those who had (or still have) one.
Still, you have to give some credit to Ford for actually making this car in the first place. It was one of the first mini crossovers out there that offered SUV-like ride height for less than Php 1 million. The EcoSport bursted on to the scene in 2013, but a lot has changed over the past six years.
Over time, the EcoSport went from being the de facto small crossover to an alternative to others. Many rivals have cropped up since it was first introduced and felt behind the competition. Ford updated and upgraded the EcoSport last year by giving it more tech and totally ditching four-cylinder engines.
And now, we arrive at this, the entry-level EcoSport 1.5 Trend.
We drove the 1.0 EcoBoost model late last year. With a turbocharged engine and a new six-speed automatic transmission, the driving experience went for coarse and jerky to (more slightly) refined and smooth. At over Php 1.1 million, it might be a bit too much for some, especially given its tight cabin. Perhaps the entry-level 1.5 Trend will be a better value proposition.
So how can you tell a 1.0 EcoBoost from this 1.5 Trend? There isn't much exterior differences. From our eyes at least, the matte dark silver effect finish on the front apron has been left unpainted in the Trend, and the headlights are different, losing the projector lenses. Also, there's less chrome detailing to dazzle (or distract) you and the roof rails are black. On the outside at least, you'll be hard pressed to tell one EcoSport variant from the other. All in all, we think it still looks good; even better post-facelift.
That's the exterior covered, but what about the interior? Like we mentioned before, hard plastics are abound, but what did you expect from a six-year old car? It's a budget Ford after all, not a Lincoln Navigator. Space is still limited but at least there's more headroom thanks to the deletion of the sunroof. At least you get a telescopic steering wheel and seat height adjusters, always a plus in any car. So while it feels tight in there, at least you can find a comfortable driving position.
As for equipment levels, you don't lose out much from the top-spec model. Sure, the aforementioned sunroof is missing, you're left with the previous iteration of the Ford Sync infotainment system, and you lose automatic climate control. These are some features I actually didn't mind losing at all. After all, you still get two USB ports at the front, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and surprisingly, cruise control. Now those are items definitely worth having around and boosts the value proposition of this entry-level model. So far, so good then.
Now, on to the engine. Remember when we said all EcoSport variants have ditched four-cylinder engines? The same applies here. Powering the base EcoSport is a 1.5-liter mill, just like before, but it's now a three-cylinder instead of a four. Despite that, it makes more power and torque than the engine that replaced it. From 110 PS, it gets bumped up to 123 PS with a torque rating of 150 Nm, not bad for a three-banger. The best part is, it uses a conventional six-speed automatic instead of the much-maligned Powershift dual-clutch transmission.
So how does the more powerful engine translate on the road? Let me be brutally honest: It feels much like the old four-cylinder mill. While there's more power and torque, you have to rev it to wring power out of it. That means you have to hang high up the rev band if you're going to go for some passing. It's not helped by the long gearing of the six-speed automatic transmission.
Yes, the clunky, jerky experience of the Powershift have been banished, but the new self-shifter makes it feel like you're lugging around a lot of weight, forcing you to step on the gas a bit deeper than usual. That's not going to do you any favors for fuel economy. At least the long gearing works great on the highway, keeping the revs low at cruising speeds.
While we're on the subject of fuel economy, city driving didn't yield results we were hoping for. You'd expect a three-cylinder to be light on fuel, but its 8.0 kilometers per liter rating isn't exactly stellar. Even a modern 2.0 liter engine can do that these days. Like we said before, we expected more Eco out of the EcoSport. It does regain good points at cruising and highway speeds. It managed 13.2 kilometers per liter in light traffic, and 15.0 kilometers per liter on the highway.
While we're on the subject of fuel economy, city driving didn't yield results we were hoping for. You'd expect a three-cylinder to be light on fuel, but its 8.0 kilometers per liter rating isn't exactly stellar. Even a modern 2.0 liter engine can do that these days. Like we said before, we expected more Eco out of the EcoSport. It does regain good points at cruising and highway speeds. It managed 12.8 kilometers per liter in light traffic, and 15.0 kilometers per liter on the highway.
As it's based on the Ford Fiesta, handling is commendable despite its tall ride height. Sure, it's no hot hatch, but it feels sharp and planted for what it is. It's nice that Ford added more steering feel and feedback too. With its small footprint and good handling, the EcoSport can be a fun car to zip around the city or winding roads. Ride's good too, more comfortable than the pre-facelift model.
At Php 1,030,000, the EcoSport Trend is the most affordable variant you can have with an automatic transmission. Yes, it's over a million pesos but we reckon this is the best variant to get, especially in terms of value. You still get loads of standard features, tech, and most importantly, safety kit. By all measures, this is the EcoSport Ford should have sold from the start.
But the thing is, the EcoSport is no spring chicken. It's great that Ford finally ironed out most of its kinks but its age makes it a difficult car to recommend. Still, if you want one, the Trend is the one to get. Personally, I wouldn't mind one as a daily runabout, provided I get a gas fleet card.