Ford Ecosport review: baby SUV gets a makeover
Ford has given its smallest SUV a makeover after a few years of slow sales. Most conspicuously it has a new nose, the full-size spare has been removed from the tailgate and there's now a tyre inflator kit under the cargo floor. Not ideal if you plan to venture beyond the city and suburbs. The door still opens out rather than up, which can be a nuisance in car parks. The starting price of the base Ambiente tested is $26,400 drive-away, which is at the pricey end of the segment. Standard are rear camera and sensors, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and digital radio. Warranty is good at five years/unlimited kilometres. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km. Capped price servicing is $765 for three years.
The cabin plastics are hard to the touch and the grain looks as if it was inspired by outdoor furniture plastic. However the door pockets and glovebox are generously sized and the centre console is narrow but deep. The seat fabrics are covered in a good quality material and are comfortable and supportive. The rear seat split-folds 60-40 and there are two Isofix child seat mounts and three top tether points, meaning you can fit an old-school kid seat in the middle.
The instrument display and the tablet-style central touchscreen are clear and easy to read. Vision is pretty good except for the rear three-quarter view, which is a bit restricted.
There are seven airbags, rear-view camera and rear parking sensors. Autonomous emergency braking is not available on any model Ecosport. Rear cross-traffic alert, blind zone warning and front parking sensors are available only on the most expensive model. The Ecosport's five-star safety rating is from 2013 - if tested today the lack of preventive safety tech would preclude that.
Don't laugh. The 1.5-litre three-cylinder (90.5kW/150Nm) is a sweetie. It loves to rev, is incredibly refined for a triple, runs on regular unleaded and is super frugal. It's no ball of fire but its 0-100km/h time of 12 seconds means it's only a tad slower than a Toyota HiLux. Ford has ditched the previous twin-clutch automatic (which triggered a class action after thousands of cars needed repairs). In its place is a smooth, conventional six-speed automatic. Hallelujah. Most impressive is the way the Ecosport deals with bumps. It's supple over rough roads and speed bumps. It's a joy to drive … for what it is.
Holden Trax From $23,990 drive-away
Bargain price. Powered by a zippy 1.4 turbo but requires premium unleaded. No autonomous braking but has a bigger boot than the Ford and Mazda.
Mazda CX-3 From $25,990 drive-away
Comes with a more powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and city autonomous emergency braking as well as rear camera and sensors.
Suzuki Vitara From $24,490 drive-away
Has a bigger boot than the Ford and the above rivals. Sharp pricing as it's in run-out mode. AEB likely to come with next year's update. Three-year warranty looks skinny against others' five-year coverage.