Review: 2018 Ford EcoSport brings a global-centric Ford to the US
The 2018 Ford EcoSport has come to North America, making it the latest in a series of truly global vehicles in the Ford lineup. The EcoSport features a tiny footprint, a surprisingly large interior, and a frugality that Americans may or may not embrace. The EcoSport is likeable, but has its limitations.
Ford is an interesting conundrum, being both a global automaker and a not-always-global thinker. Witness the EcoSport, which started as a South American model, then spread to Asia and Europe, and has now become fully global with its introduction to the US this year. The EcoSport embodies what we might think of as a truly international car. Yet the EcoSport has come to North America as a replacement for already-global vehicles like the Focus and the Fiesta, which are being dropped as Ford ends sales of non-utilities in the US.
As a replacement for those cars, especially in their hatchback formats, the 2018 EcoSport has some upsides. It's taller with more visibility, and the confidence that brings. It's also more tech-centric, with lots of infotainment for even its lower-end models. The EcoSport is also more expensive and less interesting to drive than the Focus or Fiesta. We expect that the latter issue will be modified in the next couple of years, along with the glaring lack of advanced safety equipment in this new model.
To start with, the 2018 Ford EcoSport is a five-passenger subcompact crossover that fits below the already-small Escape in Ford's lineup. Size-wise, it's roughly on par with the outgoing Focus hatchback model, sporting slightly more legroom in the rear seats and about 21 cubic feet (595 liters) of cargo space behind those rear seats. That cargo space is accessible from a side-swinging tailgate/hatch.
There are two engines available for the EcoSport, each mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder base engine powers all EcoSport models with front-wheel drive. This little 123-horsepower (92 kW) engine is a great choice for a tiny car like the Fiesta, but it's sluggish at best for a larger subcompact like the EcoSport. Some global markets might be fine with that kind of lacklustre go-juice, but most Americans with their longer driving distances aren't going to be impressed.
Enter the 2.0-liter four-cylinder upgrade. This comes with all-wheel drive and produces a more respectable 166 horsepower (124 kW) in a more honest powerband. That's still only just enough for the EcoSport, but it is close to a good balance for the crossover's needs in most driving situations. The EcoSport being largely an urban vehicle, the around-town acceleration and feel of the 2.0L is a good fit. It's only on the highway and under load (passengers or cargo) that the little engine begins to struggle. We'd also suspect it struggles to tow a trailer at the rated 2,000-lb (908-kg) capacity, but we also note that most in this class offer no towing at all.
The payoff for these tiny engines is fuel economy, which is middling for the subcompact classes. The EcoSport is EPA-rated at 27 mpg (8.7 l/100km) in the city and 29 mpg (8.1 l/100km) on the highway with the 1.0L powertrain, and at 23 mpg (10.2 l/100km) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway with the 2.0. In the real world, our 2.0L test drive model easily held a 26 mpg average during a week's worth of driving as a family hauler and general runabout.
Where the 2018 Ford EcoSport really struts its stuff is when driving around town. Its tiny size, wheels pushed to the corners, and high ride height translate to easy maneuverability and agile handling. It's not as sporty or fun to drive as some rivals, perhaps, but it's definitely easy to get around in. The little Ford does a respectable job of absorbing road bumps and imperfections at in-town speeds as well, but is somewhat loud and choppy on the highway.
Another high point in the EcoSport is its tech-focused interior. The front seats are comfortable and well-done, offering more headroom and legroom than might be expected. The rear seats are typical of subcompacts, having just enough room to let adults squeeze in but not enough that anyone will feel joyous about their loss of dibs on riding shotgun. The back seats do offer a bit more knee room than many rivals (including the outgoing Focus), at the cost of a couple of cubic feet of cargo space by comparison.
Technology in the 2018 EcoSport is based on Ford's Sync 3 system, which is very well done. Even the base model has a rearview camera, Ford's MyKey smart key fob system, two USB ports, and a 4.2-inch infotainment screen. A 6.5-inch or 8-inch touchscreen are available as upgrades, depending on trim point, and both add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. We like Sync 3 and its intuitive, useful interface and fast responses.
The infotainment in the Ford EcoSport almost makes up for its general lack of refinement otherwise. The interior is made with quality materials, sure, but they lack much in the way of interesting contrasts or an upscale feel, even at the highest trim level. Driver assistance features and active safety systems are also near to non-existent in the EcoSport. This hasn't stopped the EcoSport from achieving good ratings from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, though.
Our overall impression of the 2018 Ford EcoSport is that it's a good start for a global vehicle's introduction to the US, but there are other options in the segment that are likely a better fit for most buyers. For those who need an urban get-around vehicle with good utility options and a relatively low price point, the EcoSport is a good option. It's a likeable little crossover in that light.
Product Page: 2018 Ford EcoSport