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Ford EcoSport facelift – Road Test Review

The Ford EcoSport has been an important product for the American automaker in India. It started the compact SUV segment, which has now become the most popular and competitive marketplace in the country. The EcoSport was first launched in India in 2013 and led the compact SUV segment for quite some time. However, it was dethroned from the segment leader spot with the arrival of the Maruti Vitara Brezza.

Hence, Ford India decided to spruce up the EcoSport’s package to pose a capable threat to the new segment leader. Enters the new 2018 Ford EcoSport facelift! With a significantly changed exterior and interior design and a new petrol engine option, Ford wants to make sure that it doesn’t lose any more customers to other competitors.

But is the new compact SUV capable of accomplishing the task at hand? We drove the 2018 Ford EcoSport to answer just that!

What’s good?

  • Not just a cosmetic facelift, the new EcoSport gets some serious and useful changes
  • More powerful and responsive new 1.5-litre petrol engine
  • Continues to be offered with manual as well as automatic transmission options (with the petrol engine)
  • Welcome addition of a touchscreen infotainment system, a feature that’s gaining popularity rapidly
  • Ford Sync3 offers the best User Interface of any infotainment system on offer in this price range

What’s not so good?

  • Rear seat space is still limited, especially in comparison to new rivals
  • The updated face might not appeal to all buyers. Some of our team members preferred the older model’s sleeker looks
  • No dual clutch automatic gearbox anymore. The facelift comes with a slower torque converter
  • Fun to drive 1.0L EcoBoost petrol has now been discontinued

Exteriors – Design and road presence

The 2018 Ford EcoSport is a facelift in its true sense, i.e., it has got its face lifted up! The biggest change on the exteriors is at the front, where a new upright nose has been designed to scream ‘MACHO!’ in your face. The wide hexagonal grille is in-line with Ford’s new design language and gets the Blue Oval logo in the centre.

On either side of the grille are the large headlamps, which now get projectors and freshly design LED DRLs. Interestingly, the headlight assemblies don’t house the turn indicators, which are actually paired with the fog lamps and located just a nudge below the main headlights. To be honest, I am not quite a fan of this higher fog lamp housing placement as it makes the face look a bit too bloated. Lower parts of the front fascia house the black plastic cladding and a faux silver skid plate.

Once you leave the front side of the car, not much has changed in the exterior department. The side profile continues to have the same smart silhouette, though a new set of alloy wheels are now on offer. Similarly, the rear end gets slight alterations to the taillights, bumper and a new spare wheel cover.

Overall, the EcoSport continues to be a proportionally designed smart-looking vehicle. Whether or not the new face has managed to enhance its looks is a thing of perspective. I personally quite liked it, but others in our team preferred the earlier model’s sleeker and laid back looks.

Interiors – Comfort & Features

Step inside the Ford EcoSport facelift and you will instantly start appreciating the changes that Ford has made to the cabin. The entire dashboard layout is completely new. Materials used are mostly of satisfactory quality, with the upper half of the dashboard even getting some nice-to-touch plastics. All knobs and buttons too feel firmly placed and will most likely last the distance. The steering wheel is a new 3-spoke unit that is good to hold, gets a soft-leather wrap, and comes with all required integrated buttons.

The biggest downside of the entire cabin is the instrument cluster. The new unit is a bit too bland and doesn’t offer the same visual dynamism that the older model’s twin-pod cluster did. The entire unit is a plain black slab with the speedometer and tachometer dials merely printed on them. No chrome bezels or telescopic pods here. The small MID screen too looks basic, although it gets some sufficient features like a digital speedometer and tyre pressure monitoring. Moreover, the MID screen can now be controlled through the steering mounted buttons. The cluster is easy to read and offers all required information as well, but it lacks the oomph factor!

But the biggest talking point of the new EcoSport’s interiors is the free-standing touchscreen infotainment system. While Ford had added a touchscreen to the Platinum Edition of the pre-facelift EcoSport, it was essentially a Jugaad job and didn’t really look that appealing. However, the company has now completely redesigned the dashboard in a way that the touchscreen unit feels at home.

The screen is ergonomically located, is easily visible under broad daylight, and offers nice fluidity and feedback. Moreover, the new Sync 3 interface is certainly the best in its segment. Sadly though, there is no navigation system on offer. However, users can take advantage of the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity to mirror their smartphone’s map onto the infotainment screen.

Interestingly, Ford has equipped the 2018 EcoSport facelift with all-new front seats. This has been done after the company received multiple complaints from previous EcoSport’s owners about the seats being too narrow. Hence, the new units are a bit wider and a lot more comfortable for varied sized individuals.

At the rear, space is still not at par with competitors like the Vitara Brezza and Tata Nexon. However, Ford has now raised the rear seat bench, which results in the rear occupants getting a much better view of the front. This improves the feeling of airiness in the cabin.

Engine, drivability and performance

The 2018 Ford EcoSport facelift is available with two engine options – a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel that has been carried forward from the pre-facelift model without any change, and a new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder Dragon petrol engine. Sadly, the lovely 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo petrol powerplant has been discontinued with the facelifted model.

Let’s talk about the diesel first! There’s no change in specifications and tuning of the engine. Hence, the new EcoSport diesel offers similar driveability and performance, as compared to the earlier model. The engine returns 98 bhp and 205 Nm of peak torque. The power delivery is extremely linear in nature and there is no surge of power, even after the turbo kicks in. This translates to a setup that is extremely easy to drive, on the highways as well as in the city. It’s mated to a 5-speed gearbox, which isn’t really the smoothest of the lot available in the market but does get the job done.

The biggest highlight under the hood is the new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder Dragon petrol engine. It develops 121 bhp and 150 Nm of peak torque. The numbers look satisfactory on paper, and thankfully, they deliver on the road as well. The engine is responsive from the word go. If you drive the old EcoSport petrol and the new model back to back, just like we did, you just won’t stop appreciating the brilliance of this new engine. It is extremely responsive and easy to drive.

The engine has clearly been tuned towards driveability and efficiency. Hence, it doesn’t require too much gear shifts in the city. So you can come down to speeds of up to 10 km/h in third gear and go up to 90 km/h in the same gear as well. This provides a superb driving experience in bumper to bumper traffic. On the highways, it performs satisfactorily but needs to be downshifted in order to get a sudden move on and perform a quick overtaking manoeuvre.

This being a naturally-aspirated engine, I was ready for a slightly flatter mid-range. However, the Dragon engine stood true to its name and managed to surprise me in this department. There is enough torque spread over the rev range to get you going without any shuddering or a couple of seconds delay in power. Though the mid-range is nowhere close to the brilliant 1.5-litre i-VTEC from Honda, it is certainly meaty enough to get a move on without any frustration.

Moreover, despite being a 3-cylinder block, it manages to score big on refinement as well. There are a few vibrations that filter into the cabin when you start the engine, but they aren’t extremely noticeable. Moreover, once you are on the move, the new petrol engine doesn’t feel unrefined at all. The NVH levels are controlled perfectly and you won’t feel the absence of a cylinder from the engine.

The EcoSport petrol can be opted with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic gearbox. The manual gearbox is slightly old-school and does feel rubbery at times. Meanwhile, the 6-speed AT isn’t the sophisticated dual-clutch unit that was seen in the previous model. Instead, Ford has gone for a traditional torque converter, for the sake of lower costs. This new automatic gearbox is nowhere close to the DCT of the earlier model, but thanks to the presence of paddle shifters, one can modulate it as per the requirements and thus extract the most out of the engine.

New Ford EcoSport – Review Image Gallery

  • Exterior Design
  • Interior Design & Comfort
  • Features
  • Engine

Review Verdict – 2018 Ford EcoSport facelift

The new Ford EcoSport 2018 is a well-packaged product that offers everything that a regular Indian buyer would want from a compact SUV. It’s smart to look at, is nicely loaded with features, comes with two potent engine options and is available at a justified price point. Thanks to various changes made to eliminate the weaknesses of the pre-facelift model, the new EcoSport serves as a tough contention to anyone looking to buy a new car in the Rs 8-10 lakh rupees price band.

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