Ford’s New Baby Crossover Gets a Special Task
As sport utility vehicles (SUVs) become the dominant configuration in the American auto industry, they are also proliferating into smaller sizes. Ford, which jump-started the segment with the 1990 Explorer and offers five other models in a range of sizes, now debuts the pint-sized 2018 Ford EcoSport in its lineup.
Ford is not content to let GM market the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore, Honda the HR-V, and Mazda the CX-3 without competition. The EcoSport jumps in, significantly smaller than its Escape sibling. It’s new to the U.S. market, but was originally targeted at developing countries and is built in India.
Compared to the Escape, the EcoSport is nearly 17 inches shorter nose-to-tail on a 6.7-inch shorter wheelbase. It’s about three inches narrower, 450 pounds lighter and carries a maximum of 50 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats folded, versus 68 for the Escape. However, rear legroom is just 0.6 inches less—credit smart packaging.
A Special Task
I recruited a Lightning Blue 2018 Ford EcoSport for a special task—to drive a 600-mile round trip to the week-long Humboldt Chamber Music Workshop. My ride had to be able to carry a bass and a suitcase and miscellaneous other stuff. And, it had to be comfortable and quiet enough for the five-to-six-hour trip.
When I went to load up, I was momentarily perplexed when I couldn’t figure out how to open the rear hatch. Turns out it’s a sideways opening door, not a tailgate or a liftback. With a quick flip down of the rear seats, I had a level floor with easy loading from the back or side.
The 2018 Ford EcoSport turned out to be well up to the task. The leather-wrapped bucket seats in my Titanium model were comfortable and supportive for the extended ride and, although there was a bit of tire noise on rough pavement, the little SUV performed just fine. One drawback of having a 2.0-liter engine with 166 horsepower (hp) and 149 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque pulling 3,300 pounds was on long uphill grades, where the six-speed automatic downshifted, and ran at 3,000-4,000 rpm until it crested the hill. The 2.0-liter engine comes with all-wheel drive standard, surely helpful when the road gets slippery. The EcoSport isn’t intended for any serious off-roading, however.
The Options; the Numbers
My car featured the optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, but the base powerplant is a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder, which has seen duty in other small Ford models, such as the Fiesta. I didn’t sample that engine in the EcoSport, but it does boast better fuel economy (27 city/29 highway/28 combined). However, the Green numbers are worse for Smog (just a 3) and only slightly better for Greenhouse Gas (6). I can’t help but wonder if, with just 123 hp and 125 lb.-ft. of torque on tap, it would be up to climbing those hills on California Highway 101 north of San Francisco.
Over 601.3 miles of all freeway driving, my little 2018 Ford EcoSport achieved 26.3 miles per gallon, which bests the 25 mpg EPA combined score and probably means I beat the EPA’s highway number (23 city/29 highway). The EPA Green scores are 5 for both Smog and Greenhouse Gas—dead average. Fuel economy is helped with auto start-stop, which shuts the engine off to conserve fuel when you’re stopped at a light.
As the entry point to Ford’s crossover lineup, the EcoSport starts at a very affordable $20,990 for the base S model, including shipping. Then, you can step up to the SE, Titanium and sporty SES. My Titanium model base priced at $24,775, but with the upgrade to the 2.0-liter engine ($1,450) came to $25,485. My test car listed the optional (and desirable) Preferred Equipment Group 400A, which includes upgraded B&O Play premium audio by Harman, voice-activated touchscreen navigation, leather seats and fancier 17-inch alloy wheels (apparently included this package at no charge as an incentive). Consult www.ford.com for the latest deals. It looks like the base car, with $2,000 down, can be leased for a mere $135 a month.
I tested the 2018 Ford EcoSport because it offers a competitor in a growing market segment and is an economical and practical car. It also was replacing my personal electric vehicle, which didn’t have enough range to make it from one end to the other without a stop for a charge (and the map showed little opportunity to do that). I made two gasoline stops, where I found Ford’s capless fuel system handy (pop open the door and insert the filler).
The EcoSport fits its role in Ford’s family in the U.S. but has plenty of new and older competitors. There are cars that have greater fuel economy, but they are mostly hybrids or plug-in hybrids, and many don’t offer the same utility.
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