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2019 Ford EcoSport
New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The Ford EcoSport is the smallest of six crossover SUVs sold with the blue oval badge. Assembled in India, it ran millions of miles around the world for many years before it came to the U.S.

The EcoSport comes with either front-wheel drive and a 1.6-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine making 123 horsepower, or all-wheel drive and an inline-4 making 166 hp. Both draw power through a 6-speed automatic. Thanks to a hefty curb weight of more than 3,000 pounds and more than 3,300 pounds, respectively, neither engine delivers very strong acceleration. The EcoSport rides fairly well, especially in the city, but its steering is somewhat light.

It has a 99.2-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 161.3 inches. That’s smaller than the Honda HR-V. It manages to be roomy enough inside, especially in the rear. Cargo space is 20.9 cubic feet.

Fuel mileage with the front-wheel-drive turbo-3 is 27 mpg city, 29 highway, 28 combined. The heavier all-wheel-drive model with the normally-aspirated four-cylinder engine gets 23/29/25 mpg, which isn’t much better than a good turbo-4 offered by many other manufacturers, including the Ford Escape, its next-size-up crossover.

The EcoSport earned a four-star overall crash rating from the NHTSA, with five stars for side impact protection, four stars for rollover resistance with all-wheel drive, and three stars for the same test (calculated) with front-wheel drive. The IIHS hasn’t tested the EcoSport. The EcoSport offers blind-spot monitors, but not adaptive cruise control or forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.

Model Lineup

The EcoSport comes in S, SE, SES, and Titanium models.

At more than $21,000, the EcoSport S isn’t a great value, with standard equipment including cruise control, power windows and door locks, 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, and an AM/FM stereo with Bluetooth streaming and two USB ports. The S also has a spare tire carrier for the side-hinged tailgate.

For about $24,000, the EcoSport SE gains rear parking sensors, automatic climate control, steering-wheel audio and phone controls, satellite radio, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a small sunroof that opens mostly behind the driver’s head, and keyless ignition. It’s offered with option packages such as navigation, blind-spot monitors, and a lovely high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen. Remote start and 17-inch wheels are stand-alone options.

The EcoSport SES skips the navigation, while adding sport seats and generous copper-toned trim on its dash, doors, and seats.

At more than $26,000, the EcoSport Titanium adds the SE options, plus leather upholstery, and Bang & Olufsen audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The Titanium costs nearly $30,000 with all the options.

Walkaround

The EcoSport marries subcompact hatchback size with SUV cues. The headlights and grille tone down the tall nose, but the body is short and tall.

Interior

The cabin is composed of lots of trim pieces, though it’s neatly organized. Base cars get 4.2-inch LCD screens that come from the bottom of Ford’s bargain bin, while the Titanium gets a lush 8.0-inch touchscreen. The switchgear feels dated but it’s functional, but fit and finish are better on Ford’s other crossovers. The EcoSport isolates road noise better than expected, however.

Base EcoSports have cloth seats with thin bolstering. The leather in the Titanium model has more padding and more lumbar support. The front seats aren’t wide, and the driver makes contact with the center console.

A high driving position gives a good view ahead, over the tall hood, but the small windows and upturned rear pillars obstruct the rearward view.

In the rear, also high, there’s more room than many cramped rivals. Six-foot-tall passengers will find enough headroom and legroom, and the rear seatbacks recline while their headrests retract (as do the fronts) for long-distance comfort or fold to increase cargo space. Entry and exit for passengers is easy, through large doors.

Driving Impressions

On paper, the powertrain might be sweet and the handling spry, but the EcoSport is just average.

The base 2019 EcoSport comes with the 1.6-liter turbo-3 engine, teamed with a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. With 123 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque, the turbo-3 tackles a higher curb weight than most vehicles this size. The 6-speed automatic snicks off unruffled, quiet shifts.

The larger but non-turbo 4-cylinder engine makes better power, with 166 hp and 149 lb-ft of torque, but it offsets the gain with about 300 pounds of additional weight.

The available all-wheel drive is a simple system, moving power between the front and rear wheels depending on traction. Front-drive models can tow 1,400 pounds while AWD models can pull 2,000 pounds. A dirt bike, snowmobile, jet ski, or garden utility trailer are possible.

The EcoSport might not be nimble, but overall, it doesn’t handle badly. However during our seat time in a front-wheel-drive model with 17-inch wheels and all-season tires, we found the steering wandered a bit with grooved pavement. But the ride is tuned to absorb even bigger bumps, and the independent front and torsion-beam rear suspension keeps it from leaning in corners.

Summary

The EcoSport suits those who want a small new car, one with a bigger than expected back seat. Ford sells the larger Escape for anyone interested in smart handling and zippy turbocharged power.


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J.D. Power Rating Legend
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