The Ford EcoSport sees the Blue Oval brand join the booming compact SUV category, and it means serious business with a starting price of just $20,790.
That allows the model that’s based on the Fiesta city car to undercut rivals such as the Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke (both from $21,990) and the Holden Trax (from $23,490).
The Indian-built Ford EcoSport is offered in three trim levels – Ambiente, Trend and Titanium – although the two lower grades will not arrive in local showrooms until February, leaving the Titanium to fly the flag for the first two months. Two engine choices include a 1.5-litre four-cylinder familiar from the Fiesta, and a turbocharged 1.0-litre ‘EcoBoost’ three-cylinder that makes its debut in Australia in the little SUV.
The 1.0L turbo produces more power and torque than the 1.5L and uses less fuel. The three-cylinder has 92kW and 170Nm compared with the 1.5L’s 82kW and 140Nm, with its peak torque delivered between 1400-4500rpm to the 4400rpm of the 1.5L.
Its official fuel consumption of 5.7 litres per 100km also betters the 6.5L/100km achieved by the bigger engine whether manual shifter or self shifter are chosen.
Only a five-speed manual is available with the 1.0L, however, which will rule the superior engine out for many buyers. Ford Australia says an automatic option for the smaller engine is on the agenda but will not be available in the short term.
All-wheel-drive variants are offered in Brazil, though Ford Australia’s line-up includes only front-drive models.
The base model EcoSport Ambiente is available only with the 1.5L, priced from $20,790 in five-speed manual form or $22,790 with a six-speed auto.
Mid-spec Trend models are $22,290 (1.0L) or $24,290 (1.5L), while the range-topping Titanium costs $25,790 or $27,790 depending on whether it’s powered by the smaller, turbocharged engine or bigger engine that forgoes forced induction.
Standard features on the Ford EcoSport Ambiente include the company’s Microsoft-backed Sync voice-activated connectivity and music streaming system, seven airbags, sporty seats, trip computer, six-speaker audio and 15-inch steel wheels.
Trend adds cruise control, lumbar adjust for the driver’s seat, foglights, glovebox cooler and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Titanium steps up the equipment list with additions such as roof rails, leather seats, leather steering wheel and (manual) gearlever, auto-dimming rear view mirror, auto climate control, keyless engine start, rain-sensing wipers and auto headlights.
Ford says the EcoSport has 20 storage spaces, including a glovebox that’s able to fit six cans of drink.
The biggest storage space, the boot, is 346 litres in size, expandable to 705 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats fold and tumble.
All EcoSport models feature a full-size spare wheel that sits on the back of the tailgate – and extending the Ford’s length from 4010mm to 4254mm.
Ground clearance is 200mm and Ford says the EcoSport can wade through water up to 550mm deep.
The Ford Fiesta is the most dynamic model in the city-car class and engineers have aimed to pass on similar handling characteristics to the EcoSport, aiming to reduce body roll with the higher ride height.
The electric steering includes a couple of features designed to aid driving comfort. Pull-Drift Compensation aims to counter the effects of poorly surfaced roads (the pulling) or crosswinds (the drifting), while Active Nibble Control aims to reduce unwanted high-speed vibrations through the steering wheel.
EcoSport models with the 1.5-litre auto combination include Launch Assist that prevents rolling back during hill starts.
Ford Australia will offer four SUVs by 2015, with the EcoSport the smallest of a group also comprising the Kuga, Territory and upcoming Everest that’s based on the Ranger ute.
The Territory is expected to be replaced by the Ford Edge when the company ceases local production in October 2016.