Here’s Why The EcoSport “S” Is The Best Version Of The EcoSport.

You may have seen a lot of EcoSports on the road, or their reviews. You may have either sat in one, or even driven one yourself. Why would you need to read this review of a five year old crossover? What’s so special about this particular crossover? Today, I am going to take you on a tour of the “EcoSport S”. We know there’s an “EcoSport”, but exactly is the “EcoSport S”?

The EcoSport S is all new for the model year 2018 and is based on the facelift version of the EcoSport that went on sale during the third quarter of 2017. While the older car came with a choice of two petrol engines, a 1.5 liter, 4 cylinder, naturally aspirated engine and a 1.0 liter 3 cylinder, turbocharged engine, the 2017 model year saw a new 1.5 liter, 3 cylinder naturally aspirated engine replace both the engines.

That year also witnessed a switch from a 6 speed dual clutch to a 6 speed torque converter. Enthusiasts were obviously displeased upon hearing about these changes and as a result, Ford decided to bring back the more enthusiastic EcoBoost engine, this time, with a six speed manual transmission and a stiffened suspension for improved cornering, in order to satisfy the enthusiast’s needs. This version is available with the 1.5 diesel workhorse as well.

These are just a few of many changes that were brought to the “S” trim level, but there are quite a number of cosmetic changes that are specific to this trim.

Look up front, and other than the disturbing L-shaped DRLs, you may have noticed that the humongous grille, which probably makes the face look like it’s ready to eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner, has been finished in matte grey instead of the usual black and chrome inserts you would otherwise see in the lesser versions.

The headlamps have been given a “smoky” treatment to emphasise it’s sportiness. Have you ever wondered why the fog lights are so big? That’s because on the outer side of the fog lamps, are the turn signals. It is a very unusual turn signal/fog light situation. That is common across the entire range of the newer cars. What’s more specific to this particular version is the matte grey housing around the fog lights, to emphasise it’s sportiness.

Other than the wheels, the most prominent change made to the side profile are the roof rails. They have been given some black treatment instead of the usual silver.

Spare wheel aside, The rear, sadly does not see any changes made specific to this version…

….Except for the red “S” badge, which looks like its about to fall off because a seven year old stuck it using gluestick. Although the “EcoBoost” badge makes a welcome return to the EcoSport family, we will unfortunately see most EcoSports with the TDCi badge (Since the diesel variants are the most popular)

This quirk is not specific to this particular version, but a side-hinged tailgate (as cool as it looks) makes it very impractical for Indian conditions where parking spaces are tight.

Remove the “Ford” emblem from these wheels and the layman will not be able to notice whether they actually came from the assembly line or the aftermarket stores. In a sea of boring alloys, these 5-hexagonal alloy rims, finished in gun metal would easily take the title for the best looking alloy wheels at this price point. Of course, many might argue that the rims on the “signature” version look better. For the “S” version, the rims have been given an upsize to 17 inches. While this may aesthetically look great, they provide a very rocky ride quality. Unfortunately, the rear wheels do not get discs even on this version. Signs of blatant cost cutting?

The seats have been covered in a mixture of fabric and leather, with the fabric portion situated right where you’d place your body on. The fabric was not of the quality you’d expect at this price point. The orange stripe on the pattern makes up for an otherwise boring looking seat fabric. The seat itself is well bolsetered, something we do not see often in this price point, however, the seat can at best accomodate a medium sized adult. Bodybuilders will definitely feel uncomfortable on the front seat, as their back would foul with the bolsters. Orange stitching is provided over the lether on the seats and the steering wheel. One thing you’ll definitely miss are those electrically adjustable controls, especially after paying 14 big ones for the nicest version of the EcoSport. I wonder how much did Ford save on this feature, a few hundred bucks probably?

The dashboard has been carried forward for this variant, with only one addition — The orange accents around certain panels on the dash board, next to the power window switches, below the infotainment, around the climate controls and across the front passenger’s side of the dash.

While orange accents across the dashboard and door panels add some character to an otherwise all black interior (which I’d prefer over beige), they seem to be a little too loud in design. For example, Instead of placing the accents across the left of the dashboard above the glovebox, they could have rather placed them around the air vents to make it look a little more subtle. The black housing around the air vents do not belong to an expensive trim level like this one.

All EcoSport models, except the base version come with this 8" floating touch screen, compatible for SYNC3. This infotainment system is extremely smooth, intuitive and user friendly. The software is lifted straight out of the more expensive models sold globally. Right on the home screen, there is a menu for everything, reducing the effort to go into one menu and then scroll through another menu just to look for something. This SYNC3 infotainment can easily put a lot of luxury cars and expensive smartphones to shame. The system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The backup camera (obviously) engages the moment you select reverse gear. The video clarity is pretty decent, in fact, it’s a lot better than what you would find in many luxury cars. Sadly, a 360 degree camera isn’t provided considering the spare tyre in back, but the adaptive lines have been marked keeping the spare tyre in mind since the camera is neatly integrated into the spare tyre. Interestingly, you can zoon in the camera when you are parking in tight spaces, by tapping on the “+” symbol on the top left. Parking sensors are integrated into the bumper and will not account for the spare tyre, so some judgement is a little important as well.

The speedometer dials finally get the much needed chrome treatment. Better late than never, but the regular versions of the EcoSport, including the titanium plus, did not have chrome inserts around the speedometer dials, which looked so hideous, it reminded me of a rental Honda City with wheel caps and black door handles and a basic speedometer and no MID. Sadly, you'll have to make do with those stone-age looking dials if you buy another variant. Leather wrapped steering wheel is nice to hold, however, the horn pads aren’t India friendly — The horn pad does not extend all the way, hence you have to move your hand off the wheel to press the horn, which isn’t very light to press.

I found the window switches to be a size smaller than what I have been accustomed to. The armrest is made of hard plastic with no padding what so ever, making it a bit painful for a human to rest his elbow on. Nontheless, the switches are of good quality and laid down exactly where you’d expect them to be. Take note, FIAT.

To make driving a little more comfortable for the Indian buyer, the indictor stalks have been moved to the right. “German engineered” models still have their turn signals at the left and wipers to the right because German manufacturers decided to save on some costs and not engineer the turn signals to cater to right hand drive markets. The stalks are of great quality and look like they will last throughout the ownership. Take note, Maserati.

Audi-style lock buttons are provided next to the door handle.

Notice the neatly done red-ish stitching around the steering wheel, to emphasise the vehicle’s sportiness. Buttons on the steering wheel are of excellent quality and responsive, however, I would have preferred the cruise control buttons to be on the spoke of the steering wheel instead, but thats a bit too much to ask for, isn’t it?

Ford now offers what they call, a “Funroof”. To be honest, the term “Funroof” is just a gimmick and has no special function. It is just a regular sunroof. Still, it is a welcome addition to the equipment list as it’s become a hot feature amongst Indian buyers in recent times.

The images below depict the amount of legroom (or rather, the lack of it) is available. As you can see, legroom is a bit tight for a 5'10" sitting behind another 5'10" human being. Understandable, as this is not some mid size C2 segment sedan so do not have high expectations about the space available. If you are anything above 5'11", your knees are definitely going to brush against the seatback of the front seats.

Thankfully, the front seats have been scooped in a little to provide that little bit of extra legroom. Seat pockets are available on this version, thankfully. Some luxury cars offer this as an expensive option.

The EcoSport is one of the rare cars up to 15 lakhs to offer a split seat in a 60:40 configuration. Many manufacturers skip this to save costs and offer only a single piece of backrest. 352 liters of cargo volume is mediocre, but shaped well enough to accomodate a large suitcase and a medium suitcase before folding down the rear seats. the two plastic pieces on each side are presumably for holding the parcel tray, if the owner wants to load taller items in back.

Here’s the heart of the entire package, the place where it all matters! The engine on this vehicle is the 1 liter, 3 cylinder, turbocharged engine, which Ford refers to as the “EcoBoost”. Yes, the size of the engine is exactly the same as what you’d get in a Maruti Alto, but do not be fooled by the engine size. This engine churns out about 124 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 170 nm of torque from 1500 rpm onwards. This engine is mated to a six speed manual. A six speed manual has been offered on an EcoSport for the first time since its inception.

The engine bay has been designed to accommodate the 1.5 liter petrol and diesel engines, which is the reason behind a gap between the engine and the bumper so large, I could fit my arm through it if my 10mm spanner fell through. Whats worse? The engine does not even get a cover, leaving everything exposed. It certainly looks messy but there will be those few people who would argue that they would enjoy viewing the exposed bits of the engine rather than have an engine cover on top.

At standstill, when the engine is running at idle, NVH levels are extremely well controlled for a small three cylinder engine. In fact, I had to be reminded several times that I was driving a three cylinder and not a four cylinder engine. It’s definitely not as refined as Honda’s and Hyundai’s petrols but its a lot better than VW’s smaller petrols.

The EcoBoost pleasantly surprised me in city traffic. I was under the misconception that since it’s a turbocharged engine, there would be a little bit of lag at lower rpms before hitting the turbo zone. In the EcoBoost, the lag is almost inexistent, something which I do not really like if I want to accelerate hard. Power delivery is linear and due to the addition of the sixth cog, the first two gears have been shortened, making city traffic on a sloppy peddar road, a boon to drive at.

However, there are two major annoyances. First, the gearbox isn’t the smoothest to operate. VW’s and Maruti’s gearboxes, in comparison are a boon to operate. Second, the clutch was vague, extremely heavy and provided no feedback, especially on a brand new vehicle that has done just over a thousand kilometers, ruining the driving experience in city traffic.

Driving in traffic came with a fair share of likes and dislikes, but the open road was where I could unleash at least some potential of the EcoBoost on Mumbai streets. Although acceleration was strong, shifting between the first and second cogs were a little troublesome as it did not slot into second gear at one shot. The engine redlines at a relatively high (for a small turbocharged unit) 6600–6700 rpm, and produces a very sporty note at the same time. It doesn't scream like Honda’s, Maruti’s or Hyundai’s but it does not strain out like Tata’s and VW’s petrol engines.

In terms of a city slicker, the ecoboost does a fantastic job. In normal traffic conditions, the only gears you would need to use is the third and fourth gears. Due to its peak torque coming in right from 15oo rpm, it is possible to slot into a higher gear at a low RPM without the car juddering and begging you to downshift. It even cleared the second gear speedbreaker test with flying colours, whereas in some petrol cars, you would have to slip the clutch to go over a poorly built speedbump on second gear. There’s a reason why the EcoBoost is an award winning engine! This little ecoboost manages to offer a lot of performance while being even more efficient than its naturally aspirated counterpart. Well done ford for building a world class engine and offering it for India. I only wish the clutch was a lot lighter and offered some feadback.

Braking, despite the lack of brake discs on the rear axle, is excellent, although there was a minimal amount of nosedive. A slight tap on the brakes was all that was needed to shed off some serious speed. In many cars, the brakes would require you to apply a little more pressure for the brakes to bite.

Handling has been improved over the regular version. Although the steering is slightly heavier than the regular car, which could mostly be due to the lower profile, it weighs up a little faster as the car gains speed, which is a big relief as the steering on the older versions and the lower variants provided almost no feedback and was almost lifeless at high speeds. High speed stability is excellent and around high speed turns, the body roll is better controlled. Folks, this is not just some special version of the EcoSport. This version genuinely brings in a lot of mechanical changes. Maruti and Honda need to learn a lesson or two from Ford in making special versions.

Of course, improved handling has definitely seen a compromise on ride quality. Stiffened suspensions and larger alloy rims have ensured that the ride quality goes from harsh, to punishing, especially at low speeds where all bumps can be felt in the cabin. Time to head to the massage center after every ride?

Here’s the overall verdict —

The EcoSport S is the most expensive version of the EcoSport, but if you want the best out of this compact SUV, then paying this kind of money for an EcoSport is totally worth it. For those who crave for something that is fun to drive along with afFORDable maintenance, and a long equipment list and solid build, instead of the normal, boring, sliced out compact sedans you see everyday on the road, the EcoSport S is the one to go for as it offers the best package in less than 14 lakhs.