2018 Ford EcoSport Review

2018 Ford EcoSport - Ford's EcoSport boomerangs home


 It's a homecoming of sorts for Ford's impish EcoSport. 

Although the subcompact hatchback is all-new to U.S. audiences, it's been tried, tested and sold extensively in other corners of the globe during the past several years. 

Size wise, it's the smallest five-door hatchback/crossover Ford offers here in the States, slotting below the mid-size Edge and compact Escape, measuring a substantial 16.8 inches shorter than Escape.

Subcompact hatchback competitors include relative newcomers Honda HR-V and Chevrolet's Trax, but with an overall length of 161.3 inches, EcoSport remains the runt of the litter. Popular in Europe and many other parts of the globe where narrow roads are the norm, subcompacts are a key ingredient of automaker's world-wide strategy.

Ford's U.S. introduction of EcoSport coincides with the company's portfolio-altering announcement this spring detailing the end of sedan sales in North America. Familiar Ford nameplates including Taurus, Fiesta  and Fusion retire in the next year or so, providing more shelf space to versatile (and popular), five-door crossovers.

Best one-word description of EcoSport's overall exterior design; pleasant. It's more utilitarian than flashy. Ford's familiar trapezoidal front grille with iconic Blue-Oval logo adorns the front.

Four trim levels include S, SE, SES and Titanium and team with two available engines.  All but SES welcome the return of an inline three-cylinder engine to Ford's U.S. lineup. Three bangers were largely AWOL in the States for nearly three decades before the latest incarnation of Mitsubishi's Mirage and Mini Cooper subcompacts returned.

EcoSport's 1.0-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 123 horsepower and connects with front-wheel drive. Turbochargers run off of recycled exhaust gases spinning a pinwheel-inspired turbine to pump concentrated air into the engine.

Only the SES offers a standard 2.0-liter four cylinder engine producing 166 horsepower and connects with all-wheel drive. Both engines mate with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter all-wheel drive engine/platform is optional ($1,595) in S, SE and Titanium and tows an impressive 2,000 pounds if desired.

Fuel economy needs serious upward tweaking. The three-liter engine manages a pedestrian 27 miles per gallon city and 29 highway.  The four-cylinder all-wheel drive averages 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.  Neither engine surpasses 30 miles per gallon highway, a key component if purchasing a mini-utility vehicle in the first place.

EcoSport includes Ford's cap less fuel lead, negating the need for a tethered twist cap as the fuel nozzle pushes past a self-sealing plate when filling and disengaging from the diminutive 13.6-gallon tank with regular, 87-octane petro.

Subcompacts make wonderful city cars, negotiating tight parking quarters easier then crossovers almost twice their size. Despite a short wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) which usually dictates a rather rough ride, SES trim's enhanced sport-tuned suspension proved effective as around-town driving sustaining a pleasurable experience as road imperfections were handled admirably.

Despite its rather diminutive girth, expect pleasant front headroom clearance even when ordering the optional power moon roof, expanding above front passengers. Slightly elevated seating positions offer drivers easy ingress and egress and decent visual road commands.

Pricing starts at $19,995 for the base S trim. Our 'Lightning Blue' SES tester, featuring the 2.0-liter four cylinder, checked in with a $25,325 bottom line including a $995 destination charge. Six assembly plants worldwide now build EcoSport.  Those sold in the U.S. ship from Chennai, India.

When precipitation begins falling and front wipers ready for action, blades fan out from the bottom, then in towards the center, rather than dance in unison side-by-side.  Ford employees this choreography in many of its vehicles, covering a larger swath of the windshield. The back wiper remains a one-blade show, employing a half-moon swipe.

Front wipers deviate from the industry norm, as does the rear hatch.  Rather than opening from the bottom up, the door swings open left to right similar to the design of a left-side-hinged refrigerator door. An electronic push plate releasing the lock and cupped grab region remains hidden under right-side wrap-around tail light housing.

The swing hatch is designed to carry a spare tire, but here is the States, the extra round rubber is optional only in base S models for $185. Most trims suffice with a flimsy repair inflator kit.

Row two seatbacks manually fold forward with a 60/40 split falling semi-flat onto cushions.  When prone, room awaits for two adults.  Ford brochures promote three, but only if all qualify as preteens or toy poodles. Leg room may need negotiations with those seated in the adjustable front buckets.

For those utilizing the 50-cubic-feet of cargo room with these seats backs down, the cargo floor includes a gently sloping 'incline adjustment.'  During most situations, a cargo floor board rests completely flat. However, if the situation dictates, this lightweight bottom may be lifted up and slotted into a pair of bi-level lower corner notches, butting up against rear seatbacks.  The highest notch position corresponds to the same height as the folded seatback, creating an even plane at that intersection, allowing for additional cargo-carrying options when toting larger items.   

With row two seatbacks prone, a usable 20.9 cubic feet of space remains available; enough for groceries and/or weekend luggage.  An available retractable black privacy cover extends out and keeps items hidden from prying eyes. 

A manual pull stalk parking brake locates between the front buckets along with dual inline cup holders. Lining these beverage buddies, available ambient mood lighting with similar accent hues found near interior door handles. 

The easy-use ventilation system includes three rows of push buttons flanked by two twist dials. The left circle controls fan speed while the one on the right monitors temperature (with digital readouts center circle).

The upper center dash is home to a flat multi-function touch screen mimicking a flat-screened paneled television.  Our tester included an eight-inch upgrade (up from 4.2 inches) and housed Ford's available Sync3, driver interface including voice commands. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard with Sync3 to interact with Smartphones as are two plug-in ports up front and a 12-volt outlet. Sync3 is relatively easy to navigate and twist dials outside the screen assist interaction; a vast improvement from the first incarnation. Sirius Satellite radio comes standard in all trims sans base S.

An electronic start push button locates next to the instrument panel, slightly skewed towards the captain. The IP features two circular analog gauges (right-side speedometer and left-side tachometer) and two quarter-moon gauges in between along the bottom (temperatue and fuel information). A multi-panel digital window above the quarter gauges monitors on the steering wheel buttons 9 o'clock position. Below, a separate push plate panel operates cruise control.

At A Glance

Price as tested: $25,325

Engine:  2.0-liter four cylinder

Horsepower:  166

Overall Length:  161.3 inches

Wheelbase:  99.2 inches

Overall Height:  65.1 inches

Overall Width:  81.0 niches

Fuel Economy:  23 mpg city,  29 mpg highway

Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000 miles

Assembly: India

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.