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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ford Ecosport Urban SUV Review

The much awaited moment has finally arrived. We checked out, had breakfast and got a briefing about the drive-routes, stops, who drives when etc. Yours truly along with Arun Bhat was assigned Ecosport 3. A total of 9 ecosports were there in the cavalcade, all with 1.0 ecoboost engine and top end titanium optional. Once inside we started experimenting with audio system and SYNC voice commands. Within few minutes we were flagged off by Deepti, head of communications at Ford.
Ecosport in front of a Church in Goa, during a stop for photos
Journalists/invites of Media drive getting into their cars lined up for media drive
Deepti, head of Communications, Ford, Flagging off the media drive


We drove in a controlled environment (guided by a pilot car (Endeavor all terrain) on a pre-defined route. The drive lasted for about 140kms/half a day from Hyatt to Lalit and back to Queeny (hotel names in Goa). The road involved city traffic, NH17 highway and fair amount of hill terrain. Rest of the post is a review of the car- Ford Ecosport, with some details of the drive thrown in.

Ford Ecosport Price in India
This is the most frequently asked question and we didn't have an answer at the media drive. Ford will announce the price in the beginning of June when bookings open. Till then, we won't know the exact price. My wild guess is that cheapest variant might begin at around 7 lakhs or less (Ambient 1.5 litre petrol variant) with top end Titanium Optional pack crossing 10 lakhs+.

Ford Ecosport Variants: With 3 Engine options, 4 variants and auto option in petrol, about 10 different variants of Ford Ecosport will hit the market. We drove the Titanium Optional with 1 litre petrol ecoboost engine-Manual transmission. Rest of the review is focused on this top end variant of ecosport. I'll touch upon other variants in the end.

Design:
Design and looks are subjective, so I refrain from passing any judgments. There're enough photos in this post and you can decide for yourself. We were earlier explained how each of the curves were carefully studied and introduced for aerodynamics. From the front, ecosport looks very bold and has got smooth curves all along. Rear also presents a symmetric look with carefully crafted door handles and a macho wheel mounted on the rear.

How is the 1.0 Ecoboost Engine?
I am impressed with the engine. 125PS power from the tiny 1 litre 3 cylinder engine is amazing. During the drive, the need to downshift or upshift was very minimum. Between 20kmph to 80kmph, 3rd gear can handle it all without straining the engine. It felt like driving automatic for sometime. It is also very silent one. Except during quick acceleration, engine noise can't be heard in the cabin. Titanium Optional gets keyless entry with start stop button, which adds to the fun. Without doubt it is a great package.

1.5 petrol and diesel engines are have slightly less power. (Note: 1.5 litre petrol engine is not ecoboost, it is existing engine from Fiesta, giving out 112PS. So 1.5 litre engine variant will be cheaper than ecoboost)
Ecosport Console
Console is pretty straight forward and clean. Shows instantaneous mileage, temperature and a host of other information

Driving Comfort
Tilt and Telescopic adjustment (available in all variants) helps adjusting steering column to everyone's convenience. (Note: Duster offers only tilt, not telescopic) Driver seat height adjustment (available in all variants except the lower most Ambiente) helps get commanding view of the car. Arun bhat complained that right side arm rest, which is on the door is too low. Then I reminded him that he is feeling so because he has raised the seat height. (Ford Engineers: please note). Driver gets a left side armrest.

We tried auto climate control, which instantly increased blower speed with noise. It didn't ask for our temperature preference. Seemed to decide on its own (well, that's why it is Auto?) Anyways, AC is powerful enough to cool the car in few seconds.

Entertainment and Microsoft SYNC
We tried pairing our phones with the car, which didn't seem to recognize the phones at all. At next stop we got help from Ford staff, who informed us that we should do a scan in the phone for mutual linking. After that we started issuing voice commands, which involved asking it to play music, make calls etc. It felt difficult in the beginning, but after sometime we got familiar with the system and then it is easy.

While making calls via voice command is great, I told it to give a miss call to Arun, it didn't obey my command! Miss call feature will be a nice value add for Indians.

2 years ago, Topgear review of new Ford Fiesta didn't have a favorable review of voice command. I feel that's been rectified in Ecosport (voice command is more capable of dealing with Indian accent)

True like any Microsoft product, SYNC did HANG once during our drive (didn't respond to any voice/manual inputs). And again like a true Microsoft product, started working perfectly fine after a restart!

Safety in Ecosport:
Safety comes with a price. Cheapest variant sheds everything (Airbags, ABS etc) except front disc brakes to save on cost, as you go up the variants you get more and more safety kits. Trend gets ABS, Titanium gets ABS and dual Airbags and Titanium Optional pack gets side airbag as well.

Electronic stability program-ESP is available in 1.5 petrol AT only

If brakes are applied rapidly, hazard lights (all indicators) start blinking

While driving uphill, vehicle holds the brake for 3 seconds one you lift the leg- this helps avoiding rollback.

No disc brakes for rear wheels (We can keep asking for these and more, but they keep adding to cost, so somewhere manufacturer has to take that hard decision)

No rear view camera. We get sonar enabled display on bashboard, which shows thicker waves and sound beeps if there're obstacles. But do read your manuals carefully, as sonar can't detect certain objects which do not rebound sound.

Emergency assist which comes with SYNC is another life saving feature- if airbags get deployed or fuel supply shuts off, SYNC will call the 108 helpline, giving location coordinates and then facilitates communication between passengers and emergency operator, who can then dispatch an ambulance. Success of this feature depends on 108 service promptness. Ford on its part has trained 108 operators to deal with these calls. Be sure to pair your phone with SYNC, else it won't be able to call 108. 108 was started by EMRI (with a vision from Ramalinga Raju of Satyam) to be like 911 of US.

Halfway through the drive, when we stopped at a hotel for lunch, one car was less in the cavalcade and there were rumors of a small accident in a vehicle which was behind us. While the details of the accident wasn't shared officially, but tits and bits of it could be overheard everywhere and the tension in the face of organizers was apparent. Whether Ford liked it or not, the news of an Ecosport crashing was all over the web by late evening. Ecosport 6, which was 2 cars behind ours in the cavalcade had toppled over, reportedly due to over speed/misjudgment of the driver. The airbag got deployed instantly and the emergency assist called the 108 promptly. Within minutes the occupants of the car (which had drive spark editor in co-drivers seat) were rescued, who escaped with some minor injuries, fit enough to flyback to their cities same day. This way, a key safety feature of the car was promptly put to test and verified. Ford shouldn't hesitate to talk about the accident.
Above: Ecosport crash tested by journalists during media drive. Image from wheelomania.

Space:
Ecosport is a 5 seater. Given its proportions, it offers much better head room and overall space than regular sedans or hatchbacks. Rear seats can be folded (60:40) to create 702 litres of cargo space.

However space is not enough to add 2 jump seats in the rear. Due to safety reasons, Ford won't encourage it either. Some countries like China get a long wheelbase version of Ecosport, but that may not happen in India.

Co-passenger gets a storage box under the seat, doors can accomodate 2 bottles easily.

Colours:
Ecosport will be available in about 8 colours (all colours in which Fiesta is available currently). We saw Orange and Blue ones in flesh.

Maintenance and Aftersales
Ecosport shares many parts with Ford Fiesta. Also ford's child parts strategy is aimed at reducing maintenance cost to owners, by enabling replacement of specific component which's damaged and not whole unit/assembly. Only if the model flops spare supply will get limited, which I don't think will be the case for Ecosport, which is expected to log good numbers.

Post lunch we drove directly to the end point. I was expecting to stop at few places on the way for photos, but that didn't happen.

What we didn't test:
  • Water wading depth- there was no provision to push the ecosport into some waterbody and test its waterwading capabilities (550mm, a very high number). If an artificial facility could have been set up for this, it could have added to the fun.
  • Top speed and Acceleration performance numbers
  • Crash test and Emergency assist (but one of our fellow riders did check this and confirmed that it works)
  • Offroad: Though it misses out 4 wheel drive, with good ground clearance, high power, high torque engine, Ecosport is fairly good at getting off road, however we couldn't drive it on demanding terrains

What could have been better:
  • No provision to add a touchscreen device in dashboard device. Can be added later as aftermarket fitment, which will have to be mounted on the bashboard/windshield. Duster added it later. 
  • The tailgate opens on the wrong side. We need to open it on the right side and pull it towards left, which is opposite of what's offered in all cars in India. Not sure if Ford forgot to change the design from left hand drive markets or if this gives any value adds. However integrating the handle inside the tail lamp assembly is a smart design.
  • Default tyres are optimized for city & highway driving. I would have opted for slightly rugged tyres which will help in tough terrains. However one should be able to work this out with the local dealer.
  • To give a voice command, driver needs to press a button on the steering wheel. Giving same button on co-passenger side would have been convenient when driver is not the one giving command. But then, the co-driver can always operate the controls manually, since he is not driving. So I might be asking for too much.
  • The instantaneous mileage display is not very intuitive. Just showing the value instead of bars would have been better
  • I am not a fan of all black interior. Few more interior options will be nice.
  • Thick A-pillar creates SX4 like blind spot
  • FM radio was not clear in the woods. Not sure if I should blame the car for this- may be the signal itself was weak outside city limits.
Ecosport vs Duster
Duster will be primary rival to Ecosport. There're a few pros and cons
  • Duster is bigger vehicle, has more space and more powerful diesel engine (on paper). This also means that Duster attracts more tax. Even if ex-showroom price is same, Duster on road price will be heigher. (it goes up to 14 lakhs on road currently). Ecosport enjoys tax advantage and can be sold cheaper overall. I've not driven diesel duster and diesel ecosport yet, hence can't compare on actual performance.
  • Duster automatic is NOT available, while ecosport has AT option in petrol
  • Ford has much larger dealer network than Renault, which should work to the advantage of Ecosport
  • Ecosport comes with few segment firsts-like SYNC and Emergency assist
  • Duster diesel has better fuel economy rating that Ecosport (on paper again, not tested), while for Petrol, Ecosport engines are more efficient. Duster also has 5mm more ground clearance (205 compared to Ecosport's 200).
Ford Ecosport vs Mahindra Quanto
Ford may not be able to compete with Mahindra on pricing front. Quanto will be for budget constrained compact SUV buyers, while Ecosport will be a bit premium. In terms of Engine, performance and many other aspects Ecosport is miles ahead of Quanto
Ford Ecosport vs Maruti Ertiga
Ertiga is 7 seater and is a MPV than an SUV. But then these two categories rub into each other, so Ecosport has to consider Ertiga as competition. Again can ford price Ecosport at par with Ertiga is something we need to watch out. Ertiga offers a value for money package without any of the bells and whistles and seems to be ideal for a user group different from Ecosport's target audience (Sameer)

Final Verdict: Ecosport is a nice package overall. I couldn't find any reason to say "Don't buy". It has got many segment firsts and is sure to get you a recognition among peer group. Fuel economy claims are at par with that of sedans and if priced rightly, Ecosport can be a nice buy. I've only tried 1.0 ecoboost petrol which was very impressive,unable to comment much on other variants at this moment. I wish all the success to Ecosport which would open bookings next month.

View more photos of the drive on my facebook album

Bangalore based Zoom cars are reportedly planning to add Ecosport to their fleet after launch. I am waiting.

You may read my Kannada article on Ecosport, published in Vijaya Next here

12 comments :

mysay.in said...

looks like an awesome car .. very detailed review

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks

Debopam Banerjee said...

Looks like a great car........ Most impressed with the safety feature....

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Deb

M.D.subramanya Machikoppa said...

ಉಪಯುಕ್ತ ಮಾಹಿತಿ. ಇದರ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಮಾತಾಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ನನ್ನ ಕಸಿನ್ ಗೆ ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ಲಿಂಕ್ ಕಳಿಸಿದೆ.

TravelNonu said...

Really nice and detailed review...looking forward to more updates from you...

Manu scribbles said...

Something which I was looking for.... nice read indeed...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks MDS, TravelNonu, Manu

best cars in india said...

Ford Ecosport is the mini-SUV latest launched in India and found a place in the compact SUV segment which is slowly and steadily gaining popularity. This car has the compact size which is easily fit on the congested Indian roads.

Anonymous said...

Why they stopped test drive for one week. there must be a technical problem with this car

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Not sure about that news.. May be because demand was so high, they sold off even the test drive vehicle?

Karthik said...

How does it compare with XUV 500?