Ford Ecosport 1.0 Ecoboost

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BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

February 22

A 1.26 ton car with a tiny 1.0litre, 3 cylinder petrol engine. You can’t be serious, said my mate. I asked him, to take a wild guess at how much horsepower it might be producing and he reckoned 60-70bhp, because that is close to what an A star with similar engine capacity and three cylinders produce. You should have seen the look on his face when I said 123bhp. Better still, you should have seen it in his eyes, later when were doing 140kmph on the Goan roads and still accelerating. In my defense, we had a plane to catch. And if we had missed it, I would have been happier to drive it all the way back.

Welcome to the Ford Ecosport 1.0litre Ecoboost. That last bit is where we will focus first. This remarkable engine is Ford’s contribution to the global downsizing trend. I have waited a whole year to try out this engine. Here is a tiny 1.0L engine made to perform like a large 1.6 but without the fuel consumption. It is a bit like the new VW 1.2TSI and employs direct injection and a turbocharger for better combustion. Making a 3cyl vibration free is not easy, but Ford has done a good job. They haven’t gone for the usual counter rotating balancer shaft to save weight. Instead what they have done is include an unbalanced crank with weights on strategic points to iron out the 3 cyl vibrations. The result is an engine that is barely perceptible at idle and revs like a 4 cylinder motor. The power and torque outputs stand at 123bhp and 170N-m. It revs upto 6500rpm and when you are not doing that, it returns an ARAI certified mileage of 18.9kmpl. Not surprisingly, it was the winner of the ‘Engine of the Year Award in 2012’ – title that is usually the preserves of the best V8s and V10s.

What is it like to drive then? Moving off gradually you feel like a normal naturally aspirated car albeit with a small engine. But floor it and immediately the lack of cubes is apparent. It takes a while, say about 1800rpm, for the turbo to spool up. And this is particularly noticeable when going up inclines. Worse still, the 3cyl imbalance becomes immediately apparent as the engine starts to struggle. But once the turbo wakes up, the whole story goes for a change. The Ecosport picks up speed rather quickly. It has got plenty of passing power than the small engine capacity would have you believe. Part throttle responses are particularly good and you can upshift quite early at about 4500 rpm and still have the turbo on boost for the next gear. This makes for good progress on our highways. It needs a few extra shifts, but the nicely loaded five speed manual is a joy to use.

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And having a good engine is part of the whole driving experience, because the Ecosport has the best steering and chassis balance of all mini SUVs. The steering is light enough for city use and gets progressively weighted as speeds increase. The high seating position is a cause for concern, initially, but the whole car is so well poised, you can carry ludricrous amounts of speed into each corner. There balance is quite neutral and it is easy to get the tail step out ever so slightly with a hint of trail braking, before the ESP intervenes and brings it back in line. Brakes are fade free and offer good feedback and the only fly in the ointment were MRF ZVTV tyres. These despite being generous 205/60R16 didn’t seem to have enough lateral grip and were almost no good on the wet patches. It rides quite fell on 16 inch rims, though sometimes, it can be bit harsh at slow speeds.

The Ecosport is perfect for anyone looking for a compact car with a high seating position. The front seat offer s good view for all but reversing. The rear seats are quite comfortable but legroom could have been better. The boot is big enough for most needs and with the rear row seats down, can take up to a washing machine. The dashboard seems to be an evolution of the one in the new Fiesta, with new angular vents and an even better centre console design. The interiors do not exude quality, but is satisfactory nevertheless. The Titanium trim, we were driving comes very well loaded with leather seats, reversing sensors, Microsoft SYNC voice command system, ESP, six airbags, automatic climate control and many more. The SYNC can also make emergency phone calls from the user’s paired telephone and share the vehicle’s co-ordinates when it detects an airbag opening or fuel system cut off.

Styling wise, the Ecosport is a love or hate affair. Half of the people we asked liked it and the other half thinks of it as too tall and quirky for an SUV. It is a radical new car with strong design influences from other Fords in the global range. The elongated headlmaps and front grille give it an unmistakable identity along with the larger lower front grille. The lower part of the car is given a matte grey treatment to reduce the visual mass. The 200mm ground clearance is very good for an mini SUV as is the 550mm water wading capability. This should sail through the water logged roads, no problem at all. The rear tail gate houses the spare wheel and only time will tell if the hinges can hold the weight without any rattles. Ford has gone lengths to make the Ecosport aerodynamic, settling for a Cd of 0.371, which is good considering the tall front profile of the car. There is a wind deflector on the D pillar to channel the air away from the rear of the car while the design of the rear spoiler was optimized in a wind tunnel multiple times to avoid drag inducing turbulence.

The Ecosport will go on sale in June and the 1.0litre Ecoboost will remain the top of the range. It will only be offered in the Titanium trim as the engine is currently imported from Europe. The other engines on offer are the 1.5litre petrol and 1.5litre diesel from the new Fiesta with 110bhp and 90bhp respectively. We think the 1.5litre petrol with good bottom end should make for a very good drive and should be the pick of the range.

Bottom line, the Ecosport has everything it needs to succeed in the Indian market. Think of it as a hatchback with loads of attitude, ground clearance and tons of practicality. Ford has done its homework and localized most of the car, and ensured low cost maintenance with lots of child parts like the Figo. Now it all comes down to how well they can price it.

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BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL

ASSISTANT FASHION EDITOR

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