Today temptation plays a pivotal role in marketing campaigns of automobile companies. For years manufacturers have been mixing this marketing ingredient subtly in their customer-targeting effortsthough in case of innovative and path-breaking conceptsthesesubtle cues of temptationmust be handled very delicately. Ford seems to realized this fact very well and that’s why its first ever compact urban SUV; Eco Sport took such a long sweet time to get finally unwrapped on June 26, 2013 amid all glitz and glamour. The launch ceremony of Eco Sport that was initially planned months ahead of its actual inceptionhad been extended and pushed forward many times before finally this compact SUV came out in open. Through a controlled and well maintained temptation Ford has been successful in creating much hype and euphoria at the inceptionbash of its newIndian offering. This tempting strategy seems to pay off well as Eco Sport has now been grabbing more eyeballs than even its marketing team had wished for. Further this temptation could go a long way in ensuring the feasibility and commercial success of thisrelatively new concept. So when normal masses couldn’t salvage from this materialistic temptation cleverly fabricated by Ford, how could we; the wheel-crazy people at ecardlr could have gone unaffected by the high magnitude current created by Eco Sport waves in Indian automobile ocean. After bringing you exclusive road test of Eco Sport’s diesel version, this time we jumped straight into driving seat of its petrol variant fitted with very famous and hyped Eco Boost technology. This sub-1 litre capacity motor though feels small on paper yet it is extremely powerful in reality and Ford promises to bring out best of both mileage and performance through this new techno-marvel invented by army of its engineers. Now to test how well this promise of company actually translates into reality, we decided to force our way through the wheels of this new urban chariot. With no other way around, Eco Sport humbly accepted the short end of ourroad test stick as we prepared ourselves for another awfully rigorous and stringent road test. As always the whole process in itself was strenuous though results was very relieving as we came back pleasantly surprised by the all-around performance of this new gem of the engine and even of a car. Hop on to our test drive article in order to enjoy an uninterrupted andbest ride experience that is second only to your own personal test drive; And maybeeven equal or better than that.
Looks of the Eco Sport is one of its primary assets and is sure to woo the Indian masses. Futuristic style wrapped in tight and compact dimensions is one of the best qualities of this new urban and compact SUV. While city practicality has been taken care of; this hasn’t come at the cost of any sacrifice on the visual appeal that a SUV commands. One can easily find all the signatures of a SUV design on Eco Sport like big wheel arches, roof rails, steeply raked wind screen and rear mounted spare wheel.
Front face of Eco Sport has been dominated by the large open mouth chrome grill drawing hints from the kinetic design language of Ford. High mounted angular headlamps flanking the Ford icon make smart impression in addition to confirming the high stance of this SUV
High bonnet, steeply raked windscreen and rising belt line gives this SUV a very modern and contemporary looks. Huge ground clearance of 200 mm inspires confidence while all-around black cladding blends well with the overall posture of Eco Sport. Subtle wheel arches add the robustness to the overall design theme though rising window line has actually eaten up some of the very usable glass area.
Rear portion of Eco Sport has some interesting details like back mounted spare wheel, wrap around tail lamps and windscreen. Opening handle of tail gate has been incorporated in tail lamp of right hand side which won’t be of everybody taste. Rear wind screen though small but looks very nice as it wraps around the D-pillars to give Eco Sport a distinctive look.
Overall Eco Sport looks very modern and contemporary in its flash and Ford indeed has done a stellar job as Eco Sport feel sporty and young just in tune with its strategy to attract young urban buyers. Also as Eco Sport is less than 4 meters of length, it has got the benefits of excise exemption which really helped Ford to launch this compact SUV with aggressive price starting from Rs 5.59 lakh. That said, the quality of paint and fit-finish is not a class leading. Door openers feel fragile and there is enough scope of improvement on precision front. Weexpect Ford will soon take a call on it.
INSIDE THE CABIN
Youth centric design theme of exterior has been extended to interiors also of the Eco Sport. Every effort has been made to make the cabin funky and Ford has got the considerable success in achieving the task. Dash board with a bit small centre console lends a fresh air to cabin design however things could have been better on control front. Inspired by mobile phone layout, controls at the console feel a bit cluttered. There are too many buttons and it requires a good time to get used to this chaos. However there is MFD screen with the very useful function of SYNC. This application not only allows you to take your telephone calls but also give you the facility of voice command. Similarly glove box has large capacity and provision of AC duct inside it makes it even more usable to cool down the stuff in summers.
Adjustable steering wheel is nice and very handy in size. It also gets the audio controls but these buttons are too small to get used effectively. Dials that come in binoculars design are not very convenient to read as the numbers font is small. On equipment front, Eco Sport is fully loaded with almost all gadgets and gizmos are available on top model. In addition to the SYNC system, automatic climate control, USB, aux-in, airbags, ABS and brake assist comes standard in top of the line Titanium model of Eco Sport.
Coming to the space and room, Eco Sport is a mix of a bang. Front seats are roomy, supportive and well bolstered. Driving position is high though the view is still not as commanding as in some other SUVs’. Bonnet line though seems high from outside; it doesn’t help in steering this vehicle. Simply put the ergonomics are not as user friendly as we would like. O the contrary though there are number of useful storage spaces scattered all-around the cabin. Front door pockets are wide, cup-holders are nice and sliding tray neatly stashed under the driver seat is capable of holding a good amount of necessary stuff.
Cross over to rear bench and one can easily sense the lack of space especially if you are trying to fit in three fully grown adults. Though leg room is in plenty there is some issue with the overall width of the rear bench. Moreover high transmission tunnel makes it even more difficult for the middle passenger to settle in with comfort. So at the back only two adults or two adults with a child can sit in a proper comfort. On the comfort seat has some good thigh support and high mounted bench will be comfortable for long journeys though passengers have to work hard while getting in-out as the stance of this mini SUV is quite high.
Eco Sport comes with very usable 346 litres of boot space that can be expanded up to 705 litres by fully folding of rear seat. There is also option of 60:40 seat split that enhances the overall flexibility of the trunk area. Though the overall luggage space is capacious, the less- intrusion of the suspension could have been it even more usable than its present form.
Inside story of Eco Sport is similar to its outside saga. There are plenty of good things though enough scope of improvement has also found its place. Like exterior, interior also lacks the tactile feel. For example door openers feel very breakable and it seems they would get in our hand if we operated them hardly. Rubber mouldings have glaring gap and fit-finish needs some improvement.
UNDER THE HOOD
Eco Sport has been launched with 3 power plant options with variants as many as 10 in numbers. There have been two choices on petrol front; all new 1.0 L Eco Boost petrol engine and 1.5 L TiVCT but in diesel choice has been limited to 1.5 TDCi motor. After testing the very rev-happy and linearly powered diesel mill, this time we got our hands on the very famous and hyped Eco Boost petrol engine featuring some of the very first-in-class features like turbocharging and forced induction. Meek displacement of 1.0 Litre; 999 cc in precise is just about average and usually churn out power in the range of 60-70 PS. But the output figure of this 3-cylinder motor is like a revelation as this turbocharged motor even put a segment higher power plants to shame. Max power of 125 PS along with a humongous torque of 170 Nm (for 1-litre capacity) is capable to blow any body’s mind. We also got shocked but then something more astonishing was on roll. Refinement was the second shocker as we were hard pressed to believe that this was a 3-cylinder motor as there were no hints of vibrations once engine settled down. Of course the soft mountings of the power plant give it quite a mellow jerk at the start and non-existence of any cover on the engine also exaggerates the starting jerk.
Low down the rev range torque is available at par with norms but it is not as eager as its diesel brother. Unlike diesel motor that starts giving the rotating force to wheels right from the 1000 rpm, this petrol motor has some obvious inhibitions due to its size limitations. That said once turbo spools up the story changes quickly. Now there is no hint that the motor relates to sub-1 litre capacity as the punch is solid and push is enjoyable. Midrange is far sweeter than the slightly weaker bottom end and this approach is a bit opposite to its urban position strategy. Still this weakness doesn’t rise to the level of deterrent factor as there is still a workable energy restored in the lungs of Eco Sport and if you haven’t driven the diesel variant this won’t bother you much.
Mated with 5-speed transmission, the gear box of petrol variant is slick and snappy. Throws are short and clogging of teeth is perfect. There is no need to apply directional effort as the gears themselves have right shifting tendency. Brakes are good though we find them a bit fumbling; may be due to the rough driving this car has been subjected to. Foot well is placed well with considerable room in between the pedals to give much needed comfort to foot on the long journeys. Provision of dead pedal completes the perfectly spaced foot well package.
Eco Sport comes with McPherson strut with antiroll bar up front and semi-independent twist beam at rear to suspend its wheels. While lower trims come with 15” steel wheels with 195 mm wide rubber, top versions use 16” alloy wheels with wider 205 mm rubber for enhanced grip on the road.
Ford and Fiat are two masters who have excelled in understanding Indian road conditions and then making their products well suited for these situations. Eco Sport has all the finesse of Ford’s excellent dynamics abilities and except the slow speed ride which is a bit jittery in nature, Eco Sport means all smile irrespective of the road condition. Because of certain stiffness in the spring dampening, there are some direct intrusions of bumps at the low speed but that is all about it.
After gaining momentum, Eco Sport achieves nearly perfect road manner with all the accuracy and stability of a dynamic car. Steering is well weighted but not as accurate as of Fiat’s Punto or Linea. Eco Sport goes through the corners with aplomb and though it has not the same craving as of Fiesta or Figo, still it does the job satisfactorily. In fact high ground clearance of 200 mm has actually spoilt some of the dynamic capability of this SUV; still in its category there is no one that can challenge the dominance of this new Ford.
Initially we were wary of the Ford to make the same pricing blunder with Eco Sport as it did with the new Fiesta. But fortunately that didn’t happen and in fact we were pleasantly surprised to see the base version starting from as low as Rs 5.59 lakh though for enjoying this new Eco Boost technology you have to shell out 2 lakh extra over the base petrol version. Although Eco Boost variant is not an excellent proposition on value for money; it is not a very bad one either. Ford’s order list of registered 30,000 bookings is testimony that Ford has got the finger on this VFM pulse of buyers’.In fact this time Ford has got the crucial aspect of timing very right as this compact SUV has come at a time when Indian market is becoming more receptive to new segments. As a product Eco Sport has lot of things going for it. It’s modern, contemporary, compact, practical and comes with a staggering choice of models and engines to suit everybody’s need. As always diesel will be choice of masses though this time the Eco Boost engine could prove a game changer. With low net displacement of this new Eco Boost engine’ Ford has successfully curbed the menace of weight and frictional losses and at the same time get the performance aspect spot on with the fusion of turbo charging and direct injection technologies. Results are pretty impressive as Eco Boost variant is capable of delivering 18.9 km/l and that too with more than sufficient power on the tap. Although there is some scope of improvement in terms of ergonomics and fit-finish, still Eco Sport is one of the Ford’s best practical buy now available for sale in Indian market.
Style& Substance 3.5/5 Ride & Handling 3.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment 3.5/5
Power & Transmission 4/5 Fuel Efficiency 3.5/5
Value for Money 3/5