With fuel prices soaring, traffic congestion going on almost 24/7, and flash floods becoming more common, it seemed like Ford found the right ingredients to cook up the perfect vehicle for the SUV-loving Filipino. Launched in 2014, the compact EcoSport with its small engine and tall ride height seemed to be the answer to all of the above.
After four years, it also went under a ‘modernization’ program, getting a new engine, exterior niceties and additional tech goodies. While the overall shape and structure hasn’t changed one bit, new aesthetics now make it look like a proper subcompact SUV and less like a Fiesta on stilts.
The front sports larger headlamps, which use HID projectors and now have an auto function (turns on when it’s dark), and a new grille and hood that give it a bit more personality, a more handsome face, so to speak. It has new 17-inch alloy wheels that are lighter, making easier to handle and a tad more fuel efficient.
What needs to change is the position of the spare tire because it’s still mounted on the tailgate, which makes it appear cumbersome and physically heavy to open up. Because of the weight, there’s no opening it halfway if you just want to sneak a small bag in. If you take long enough, three seconds or more, it will slowly swing all the way open so be careful if there’s a wall or obstruction on the left rear side of the vehicle.
Getting in is much easier now. Just reach for the automatic door handles (with the key in your pocket) and it unlocks. To lock, just lay a finger on the three horizontal lines on the handle.
First thing I noticed in the cabin was the nice looking eight-inch touchscreen (and its large and friendly fonts) standing in the middle of the dashboard that also makes for a gorgeous display for the wide-angle reverse camera. Because of its position, there was minimal-to-no glare at all and there was something about the fonts that made it affable and inviting to look at and touch. As good as SYNC 3 is (Ford’s proprietary comms and entertainment system), not a lot of people are well-versed with it so it was a great idea to incorporate Apple CarPlay to make it all the more tech-friendlier.
The cabin looks easy on the eyes, not intimidating with so many switches and buttons like the Explorer and Expedition, but without appearing being bereft. Plastics in the cabin give away the vehicle’s status as Ford’s entry-level SUV but it does come with leather seats. Just like every Ford, this comes with a 4.2-inch screen in the instrument panel, which displays various detailed vehicle information at the touch of a button located on the left side of the steering wheel. It also now comes with a power sunroof for when you want some fresh air during drives up to Tagaytay or Baguio. I love how much roomier it feels in the front row with the redesigned dashboard and center console but the second-row space, especially the leg room, is still limited.
Speaking of the drive, the powertrain is brand-spanking new. Under the hood is Ford’s acclaimed 1.0L EcoBoost engine that’s mated to a six-speed transmission, and together it felt like the perfect match. 123 brake horsepower and 125.3 ft-lb of torque don’t sound like much, but it’s more than enough for city driving. This gearbox feels much better than the dual-clutch transmission in the old EcoSport. Sans any shift shock, it provides much smoother acceleration that makes it a notch quicker from a standstill.
The downsized engine doesn’t bring substantial fuel savings, some 8 kilometers per liter in pure city driving (at par with the old 1.5L engine), but to its credit, it does have more power and torque. In small bursts under 60 km/h, you won’t notice the diminutive engine. But beyond 80 km/h and beyond, you’ll hear it straining to keep up with the demands of high-speed driving.
Its compact size makes it a joy to maneuver because you can squeeze in and out of so many tight situations in traffic, you’ll end up forgetting how to do three-point turns. Handling is pretty stable and balance (even at speed) is very good but because of its small footprint relative to height, roll resistance isn’t pretty high.
NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels are decent considering the rather large alloy wheels and the suspension feels more robust and resistant to the punishing surface of EDSA (on occasions when you can actually go fast).
It may not be an ‘all-new’ model, but the updates are significant enough to justify why it continues to be a favorite among the local Ford models.
The 2018 Ford EcoSport 1.0L EcoBoost Titanium is the model’s highest trim and is priced at P1.168 million. It may be a shade above the threshold of many but with increased on-road performance, better tech features and more driver-assist systems, I believe this pint-sized performer will continue to maintain its position as a Filipino favorite.
Text and photos by Eric Tipan