This has often seen it among the top ten best-selling vehicles in South Africa and indeed, makes it the most purchased vehicle in its segment. There’s a heavily updated EcoSport heading to SA in the second quarter of 2018 and I had a chance to sample it in Portugal recently.
The styling of the outgoing model has likely been one of its biggest selling points, with a pseudo off-roader look that blends mini-SUV styling with an urban runabout. The updated model gets a more imposing front-end, where the previous three-piece grille makes way for a one-piece item.
The headlamps are new too, and feature integrated LED daytime running lights and a more streamline design. There’s also a new front bumper which rounds off a far improved front-end design.
In side profile there’s a selection of new alloy wheel designs and the familiar small and boxy silhouette. It’s at the rear where I noted a big change on the European version, there was a distinct lack of the rear-mounted spare wheel. I’m told that the current model was available with this as an option in overseas markets.
The Ford South Africa representative at launch assured me that SA will likely receive the spare wheel at the rear again, making any assessment of the updated rear styling, besides the new rear bumper, rather redundant.
The models that we drove at launch were built in Romania whereas our outgoing models are built in India, which appears to have made a difference. It is inside where I noted a massive improvement in the design, ergonomics and quality of the EcoSport. The design inside has been cleaned up, with the same steering wheel as the latest Fiesta as well as the same ‘floating’ tablet-like infotainment set-up which sees a screen mounted on top of the centre console.
Depending on the model chosen, there are three screen options, a 4.2-inch colour-screen unit with Bluetooth/USB, a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen item with the Sync 3 operating system and the range-topping eight-inch colour touchscreen version which also includes Sync 3. With the addition of these new systems, Ford has been able to remove all of those buttons present in the current model, which gives the interior a more upmarket, simplistic look.
Besides the improved interior aesthetics, the tangible material feel has also been improved upon. My first impression of the outgoing model back in 2013 was that it was sub-standard, fast forward four years and there are several new, very capable alternatives to the EcoSport, meaning the overall improvement was much needed and brings the car in-line with the competition.
There’s not much to report about in this department as very little will change. Expect the local EcoSport models to be sourced from both India and Romania, with the 92kW/150Nm 1.0-litre EcoBoost model in both six-speed manual and six-speed automatic guise to be from Europe and the outgoing 74kW/205Nm 1.5-litre diesel manual model to be sourced from India.
There’s and all-new EcoBlue 1.5-litre Euro6 diesel motor as well as a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder motor for Europe and India respectively, but Ford South Africa has said that these are not on the cards in the short term.
The EcoSport range is likely to retain its Ambiente, Trend and Titanium spec levels when the models are launched in 2018. There’s a new ST-Line trim as seen on the new Fiesta, which adds sporty wheels, body-coloured panels, red stitching inside and on the EcoSport, many two-tone roof/body colour options. Ford SA stated that South Africa is unlikely to receive this model though.
At launch I was able to drive the 1.0-litre EcoBoost auto in Titanium guise for two days. This car I felt best represents what we’ll get locally. The little EcoBoost motor in combination with the automatic gearbox makes for relatively impressive progress but you’ll pay for this at the pumps, with our two-day drive through Lisbon resulting in a consumption figure of 9.1-litres/100km, a far cry from the 5.8-litres/100km claim.
Aside from the consumption, I found the ride to be quite harsh for what is essentially a city car on stilts. The handling is respectable from a car such this though and the overall driving experience is much improved in terms of cabin insulation and refinement.
The updated EcoSport is significantly different to the car that it replaces. Ford has done well to ensure that the product feels of a higher quality while modernising the looks and interior. On the other side of the coin I would like to see more powertrain and specification options as well as more automatic gearbox options for the local market.
I still feel that South Africans will enjoy this product, but there is certainly potential to broaden its appeal locally. Local pricing is set to be announced closer to the model's introduction in Q2 of 2018.