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Taking back the crown

2018 Ford EcoSport

Published

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To some extent, the Ford EcoSport deserves some credit for kickstarting the subcompact (b-segment) SUV’s popularity in the country. It may not have invented it, but the EcoSport’s combination of compact size, high ground clearance, and tempting price point made it an easy pick for a wide variety of car buyers.

Several years and a couple of tens of thousands of units sold after, Ford has finally brought in the all-new EcoSport. The class it is in is very different now, with the likes of the Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, Toyota Rush, and Chevrolet Trax all vying for attention. Yet Ford believes it can win back the crown with this latest iteration.

The EcoSport was a pioneer in many ways, offering great ground clearance, a smart infotainment system, and satisfactory fuel economy. Yet with few updates over the years, it quickly fell behind the competition. Some owners also complained of persistent transmission problems that plagued their cars.

Thankfully, Ford has learned from all of that and has made improvements where it matters most. Not surprisingly, the biggest is in the powertrain. The satisfactory fuel economy should be greatly improved with the addition of two new engines, the 1.0-liter three-cylnder turbo EcoBoost found in the Titanium trim and the 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine found in all the over trim levels. These are now paired with a new six-speed automatic that hopes to dispel any fears of transmission problems in the future. We only wish there was a manual mode available for those few times you may want to downshift to overtake.

The EcoSport also carries a fresh new look up front, characterized by larger headlights, a grille that looks more like its big SUV brother, the Everest, and larger 17-inch wheels in most of the trims.

The last and most welcome addition is the SYNC 3 system. This large touch-enabled floating screen replaces the tiny SYNC system of the past. It now integrates better with more modern phones thanks to built-in Apple Carplay and Android Auto; and even allowing for cross-platform apps like Waze, Google Maps, and Spotify. And of course, that screen also serves as the monitor for the new backup camera.

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To fully experience all that the EcoSport can do, Ford took us on an energetic escapade to the Laiya Adventure Park in Batangas. This involved a short drive through the city, the highways of SLEX and Star Tollway, and some navigating around the city of Lipa.

Despite being fitted in a heavier SUV body, the little 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine still proved to be a potent powerplant. It was eager to accelerate and made short work of overtaking or uphill climbs. The new 17-inch wheels contributed greatly to the EcoSport handling, returning more feedback and grip from the road. Not to worry as this was also paired with improved sound deadening in the interior that allowed us to further enjoy songs streamed from our cellular phones. Charging wasn’t an issue either as two USB ports in the dash, and two power outlets in the car made sure there was enough power to go around.

Over in the 1.5-liter EcoSport, you could feel the power deficit, however it still proved capable of keeping highway speeds even with three passengers and their luggage. The handling was still sharp, thanks to the aforementioned 17-inch wheels. The infotainment may not have been the full featured SYNC3, but it was more than enough to play tunes from our iPod.

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At the Laiya Adventure Park, some high adrenaline challenges awaited the participants, ranging from rappelling, ziplining, high wire walking, and even a little freefall experience. It certainly got our hearts pumping and eager to kick back at a nearby resort after a day full of driving and activities.

The same couldn’t be said for the EcoSport, with a larger 52-liter fuel tank, was still eager for more adventures. Add to that the vehicle’s impressive average of 8-9 km/L in the city and 14-15 km/L on the highway.

The drive proved that Ford has certainly done its homework, making much needed improvements on the EcoSport where they’re needed most.

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We highly recommend going for the top-of-the-line Titanium which comes with the fast but efficient 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine and the full-featured SYNC3. Nonetheless, the 1.5-liter will handle the daily commute just fine.

The EcoSport has a tough fight ahead of it with more competitors in its segment now, but with these features, it just might have the edge to take back the crown.

By Iñigo S. Roces

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