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Ford targets all the right spots with this update of its popular small crossover: we test the Ford EcoSport 1,0 EcoBoost Trend auto derivative...

In many respects, a car’s midlife overhaul can be likened to renovating and redecorating a much-loved home where thoughtfully targeted and professionally executed updates can mean the difference between a new lease of life ... or a disastrous do-over. But it’s often not that simple, especially if the original is a goody that needs only sprucing up. In these cases, even the simplest changes have to be artfully applied.

The EcoSport is a good example of such an endeavour. Ford’s small SUV has cemented its place as one of the company’s pillar products, racking up 45 000 local sales since its arrival in 2013. The foundations were great – a spunky SUV frame perched on the chassis of the nimble Fiesta – but, after five years, niggles such as a budget-feeling interior and compromised ergonomics, not to mention some accomplished competition joining the fold, had the potential to become the automotive equivalents of smelly old carpets and an avocado-coloured bathroom suite. Ford claims to have addressed these shortcomings in the recently updated EcoSport but does this raft of small yet noteworthy updates constitute a tasteful renovation, or is it merely plastering over the cracks?

While comparing the previous car’s cabin with hideous 1970s sanitaryware might seem a touch harsh, its cockpit execution was perhaps the most obvious blot in the EcoSport’s largely clean ledger. It wasn’t ugly per se but the combination of hard, scratchy plastics and a centre console with small, poorly sited controls did it few favours. So, with the previous Fiesta’s scattergun facia binned in favour of a cleaner, infotainment screen-centred affair, it was only logical the mechanically related EcoSport should follow suit.

And what an improvement it is. Largely echoing the treatment doled out to its hatchback cousin, the cabin offsets the remaining stiff plastic trim with slush-moulded elements on the upper dash, while the third and latest iteration of Ford’s proprietary Sync infotainment system soaks up much of the previous car’s fiddly switchgear, housing it in a floating’ panel above the remaining analogue controls. In this mid-tier Trend model, the Sync3 system incorporates a 6,5-inch touchscreen interface, with extended connectivity for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone apps taking care of the sat-nav that’s standard fitment in the halo Titanium model’s eight-inch unit. Opt for the base-level Ambiente variant and the less user-friendly first-generation Sync system is what you’ll get.

The EcoSport’s interior remains a friendlier place for the smaller-framed, with a decidedly narrow feel to both the cabin and the front seats. The boot is a similar affair. While the on-paper measurements look generous, the tall load bay mirrors the cabin’s plentiful headroom but also reflects its narrow width and depth. That’s something prospective young families with kids and their associated gear need to investigate before considering the EcoSport.

Ford has also persevered with the side-hinged luggage door which, despite proving useful when trying to thread taller objects into the car, can make access to the rear tricky in tighter spaces and swings towards the kerb in right-hand-drive markets, forcing its owner to walk round the door and closer to the road in order to access the bay.

Externally, the biggest change is a front-end design following the larger Kuga’s template, with sharper-looking, LED-trimmed headlamps, a re-sculpted bonnet and the latest take on the signature trapezoidal grille ditching the previous car’s somewhat “chin-heavy” visage. Our Trend test unit rolls on a fetching set of gunmetal grey 16-inch alloys, with 17-inch items the preserve of the Titanium.

Revisions to the rear are subtler, comprising tweaks to the bumper and taillamps (sporting one of the most discreetly executed boot releases out there). Otherwise, the EcoSport’s chunky SUV shell, complete with rear hatch-mounted spare wheel, remains pleasingly intact.

Back when we first sampled the EcoSport, we were rightly enamoured with the driving experience afforded by the Fiesta-related mechanical foundations and, with minor revisions to the suspension and steering, that stance largely remains. Despite its tall centre of gravity, the EcoSport’s supple body control means it still feels composed in corners and is a reasonably entertaining little thing to pilot. The steering remains light yet responsive. Complemented by the car’s trim dimensions and now-standard fitment of park-distance sensors across the range, it makes round-town manoeuvring a doddle.

Motorway driving did, however, unearth some quirks, with the car tending to sniff out ridges in the road and tramline slightly, requiring small but constant steering adjustments. Although the MacPherson front/torsion-beam rear suspension setup remains, Ford has opted to fit the updated car with revised suspension bushes, softening the ride a touch. It does iron out some of the previous car’s fidgetiness but it still never quite settles like a Fiesta until the road surfaces smooth out.

The updates have also extended the suite of safety features fitted to the EcoSport. An electronic stability-control system is now standard across the entire range, along with hill-start assist and tyre-pressure monitoring. Barring the Ambiente model, the EcoSport’s complement of airbags stands at seven, including a driver’s knee bag and side airbags remodelled to improve lateral crash protection.

Power is still provided by the multi-award-winning 1,0-litre EcoBoost 92 kW turbopetrol engine, which continues to please with punchy performance that’s aided by the arrival of its maximum torque of 170 N.m in a pleasing swell between 1 400 and 4 500 r/min.

The previous car’s dual-clutch transmission has made way for the six-speed torque converter unit which debuted in the latest Fiesta and it’s something of a mixed bag. While it’s smoother than the occasionally shuddery Powershift unit, the new ‘box is a bit lethargic when confronted with brisk throttle inputs.

Fuel consumption has been a perennial issue with Ford’s lively little three-pot but the new car’s 6,8 L/100 km on our test route came close to matching its claimed 6,3 L/100 km consumption on a mixed-use cycle. More town-bound duties do, however, see the trip computer frequently registering more than 8,0 L/km.
DURBAN, KwaZulu-Natal – When the Ford EcoSport bounded onto the local scene way back in 2013, the mini-crossover landscape was a vastly less populated one. The Blue Oval brand’s diminutive Fiesta-based SUV found itself with very few direct rivals (the Renault Duster launched in South Africa at around the same time, but appealed to a slightly different audience), and slotted in below traditionally larger, more expensive offerings of the time.

The EcoSport quickly found favour among South African motorists whose appetites for both a lofty ride height and a raised driving position – at light hatchback prices, no less – were rapidly growing. In fact, this city-biased model soon became the Dearborn-based automaker’s second most popular local offering (behind the Ranger, of course).

Fast-forward around five years and the EcoSport finds itself having to contend with considerably more (and significantly stiffer) competition. Indeed, after seemingly reserving itself a place on our monthly list of SA's 10 best-selling passenger vehicles, the EcoSport has fallen off the pace somewhat in 2018, making the cut only twice in the first six months of the year.

Examine the sales figures a little more closely and you’ll find that rivals such as the Hyundai Creta are threatening the EcoSport's long-held title as the country’s best-selling light crossover (in fact, the Creta outsold Ford’s offering by 261 units in first half of 2018). Sure, a fair part of that slowdown could be attributed to the Ford going into run-out stock ahead of this very facelift, but there’s no denying the EcoSport was showing its age.

Rejigged range

So, in need of a refresh the EcoSport most certainly was. And that’s exactly what it’s been given. Still, while this long-awaited facelift rings in meaningful styling changes up front, a couple of new transmissions and significant refinements to the previously button-festooned facia, it’s the reshuffled make-up of the local line-up that is perhaps most interesting.

Trimmed from six derivatives to five, the renewed range no longer features the naturally aspirated 1,5-litre petrol engine that previously powered both the base model and the flagship. Instead, Ford’s 1,0-litre EcoBoost mill now provides urge to four variants (in mid-range Trend or top-spec Titanium specification), with the old 74 kW/205 N.m 1,5-litre TDCi mill (South Africa won’t get the new 1,5-litre EcoBlue diesel unit offered in some overseas markets) now available solely in entry-level Ambiente form, fitted with a manual gearbox.

Interestingly, while this single diesel derivative is still sourced from India, South Africa’s 1,0-litre EcoBoost derivatives now come from the brand’s Craiova plant in Romania. And it was the turbocharged three-cylinder that was on hand to drive at the local launch.

Transmission trade

As before, this characterful yet refined little three-pot delivers 92 kW and 170 N.m to the front wheels. But it’s now available with either a new six-speed manual gearbox or an equally box-fresh conventional torque-converter automatic with the same number of cogs (in the pre-facelift range, the EcoBoost mill was mated exclusively to a five-speed manual). Offering this self-shifter – and ditching the dual-clutch from the range – in conjunction with the 1,0-litre will likely prove a deft move as South Africans living or working in our traffic-infested cities continue to shift away from manual transmissions.

While paddle shifters ship standard, you rarely need them as the automatic gearbox does a fair job of keeping the turbo-triple – which offers its peak twisting force from as low as 1 400 r/min right through to 4 500 r/min – on the boil. While the 1,0-litre powerplant feels up to the job in the EcoSport, there’s no denying that it feels decidedly perkier in the (admittedly lighter) Fiesta.

In addition, the new auto transmission carries a slight fuel consumption penalty, with Ford claiming a combined figure of 6,3 L/100 km compared with the 5,4 offered by the manual. For the record, our trip computer indicated a figure of around 10 L/100 km after a fairly spirited drive through the KZN Midlands, but one of less than six after a more leisurely highway cruise back into Durban the following day. It all depends on how you drive, then.

Gravel gambol

Little has changed under the skin, which means the EcoSport still serves up a relatively pliant ride (more so in the case of the Trend derivatives with their 16-inch alloys than the Titanium variants, which run on slightly lower-profile 17s) courtesy of its (previous-generation) Fiesta-based underpinnings. Ford included plenty of gravel roads in the launch route and the little SUV performed admirably, chiefly thanks to its generous 206 mm of ground clearance.

While the steering is accurate enough, the EcoSport feels somewhat ponderous through sweeping, high-speed bends and, when driven with gusto, generally lacks the sparkle that defines its Fiesta sibling. Still, that’ll matter little to the majority of prospective buyers, who will place more value on the EcoSport’s ease-of-use at city speeds, its improved safety levels (six airbags for the Ambiente and seven for the Trend and Titanium, along with rear parking sensors and electronic stability control across the range) and its noticeably more modern cabin.

Step inside...

The latter is perhaps the most striking element of this update, seeing the EcoSport borrow much of the new Fiesta’s uncluttered facia. The result is a vast reduction in the number of physical buttons, an easily legible new instrument cluster and a 6,5-inch touchscreen display (in the case of this Trend model; the flagship Titanium boasts an eight-inch item with integrated navigation) running the brand’s clever Sync 3 software.

That said, some scratchy plastics remain, the vast majority of which are thankfully tucked away in infrequently handled areas. Space inside is more plentiful than the EcoSport’s exterior dimensions might suggest, while the luggage compartment, which is again accessed via a side-hinged door (SA-spec models furthermore retain their tailgate-mounted spare wheel) that proves cumbersome in tight spaces, gains a nifty adjustable floor.

While the rejigged range makes it tough to compare outgoing prices with new ones, the line-up’s bookends haven’t shifted implausibly far north (particularly when one considers that most derivatives are now shipped from Europe). In addition, Ford has been fairly liberal with its standard specification, and this mid-spec Trend variant boasts items such as LED daytime running lights, front fog-lamps, roof rails, tyre-pressure monitoring, manual air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel (and gear-lever), the touchscreen mentioned above and electric windows all round.

Titanium models add the likes of cruise control, keyless start, a fancier air-con system, leather upholstery, a centre arm-rest/bin, the larger touchscreen, puddle lamps, automatic headlamps and rain-sensing wipers, but the Trend trim level seems positioned as the pick of the range and will in all likelihood do the heavy lifting in terms of local sales volumes.

New lease on life?

So, do these changes run deep enough to breathe new life into Ford's baby crossover? Well, first impressions suggest so, with prospective buyers likely to be drawn in by the sorts of things they’ll immediately notice (a more modern look to both the EcoSport’s visage and its cabin) and further tempted by less obvious improvements, such as added safety kit and the increased availability of (new) automatic transmissions.

But it'll be interesting to see how Ford’s decision to extensively rearrange the line-up will affect the EcoSport’s popularity with local buyers, who enjoy more choice in this segment than ever before. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on the sales charts…

Latest Resutls for Ford EcoSport

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Driver knee airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 7
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear
  • Central locking: remote
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: rear
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 825 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 6
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Front tyres: 205/60 R16
  • Reartyres: 205/60 R16
  • Spare wheel size full: steel
  • Length: 4325 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1765-2057 mm
  • Height: 1663 mm
  • Wheel base: 2519 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 206 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 10.6 m
  • Approach angle: 25
  • Break over ramp angle: 25
  • Departure angle: 35
  • Wading/fording (water crossing) depth: 550
  • Load volume / capacity: 333-705 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 705 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1336 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1760 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 680
  • Towing capacity - braked: 900
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 52l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 8.3 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 5.1 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 6.3 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 143g/km
  • Power maximum: 92 kW
  • Power maximum total: 92 kW
  • Power peak revs: 6000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 69 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 170 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1400-4500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 170 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 127.0 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 12.7s
  • Maximum top speed: 181 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 999 cc
  • Engine size: 1.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.0T
  • Engine + detail: 1.0 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 3
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i3
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 12
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 4
  • Warranty distance (km): 120000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 4
  • Service plan time (distance): 60000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 3
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Brand: Ford
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 22048130
  • MMVariant: ECOSPORT 1.0 ECOBOOST TREND A/T
  • Introdate: 2018-06-27
  • DuoportarecordID: FordEcoS1Fe03

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