Ford has just unveiled the latest rendition of the internationally beloved EcoSport compact SUV in sunny Hollywood, California, and we were fortunate enough to gain early access to the vehicle in order to get a better feel for why it has been such a success for The Blue Oval. While it may not be available to us until 2018, we were able to glean a little bit of inside info and a quick photo or two to pass on to you, our dear readers.
By calling it a fun, capable, connected compact SUV, Ford looks to lower the boon on cars like the Chevy Trax and Honda HR-V, and ups the ante by making it the first vehicle to ever be revealed live on Snapchat — in turn launching a Hollywood “pop-up event” that coincides with the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show. Building an entire interactive event around how the EcoSport is “a perfect companion for those who believe in going small and living big” is a smart move for the Detroit automaker, as it leans toward corralling millennial car buyers with a package that offers a lot of versatility in a very small space.
Ford isn’t just targeting educated urban professionals with its smallest SUV, but empty-nest Baby Boomers as well who suddenly don’t feel the need for a full-size Expedition but would like to retain its practical attributes. And practical it is; we were quick to note on closer inspection during the media pre-briefing that we feel it will go over extremely well with new car buyers here in the States. But before we get into all of the nitty-gritty specs and secretive features that the rest of the world has been taking for granted all these years, let’s talk appearance, performance, and audio power — because this puppy has that in spades.
Audio experiences are important to millennials, and Ford gets that. It’s offering buyers an exclusive B&O (Bang & Olufsen) PLAY audio system as standard fare on EcoSport Titanium models. Sporting 10 speakers, complete with B&O PLAY-branded tweeters and woofers in the front doors, as well as a subwoofer in back, the 675-watt system brings high grade audio out in a big way. But sound isn’t all the EcoSport offers buyers; with 10 paint choices, seven ambient lighting options, and four trim level offerings (S, SE, SES, and Titanium), there’s plenty of tweaking to be had with this machine. Out of the bunch, it’s the sleek SES series that garnered our attention. Featuring Ford’s own Intelligent 4WD, a sport-tuned suspension and steering setup, and one-off accent marks both inside and out, the sport seat wearing, copper encrusted, blackened trim of a CUV is both eye-catching and sharply engineered in order to stand out from the crowd.
It’s worth noting that base S models will come with front-wheel drive and a 1.0-liter EcoBoost motor, while upper trim models will become available with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter alternative and all-wheel drive. Both variants come with a six-speed automatic gearbox, with SES models receiving a set of paddle shifters. While we were not allowed to snap photos of the engine, we were given full entry to the EcoSport’s interior which quickly turned our frown upside down as it proved to be packed full of practical touches and desirable materials.
Outfitted with the latest version of SYNC 3, Ford’s newest infotainment system is faster, easier to use, and more loaded than what many of you will recall from generations past. Updates include more conversational voice recognition capabilities, as well as enhanced response times to driver commands. This has all been tethered to a crisply detailed 8-inch touchscreen that has been engineered to reduce glare and give the front row an easy-to-reach option for when it’s time to get Apple CarPlay or Android up and running. The system also responds to auto commands for B&O PLAY audio settings, and while it was not stressed much during our press briefing, we liked the larger digital driver display quite a lot as well. Ford has also given drivers on-board Wi-Fi options, and the ability to start, lock, unlock, and locate their EcoSport via SYNC Connect and FordPass, a mobile app that doubles as a vehicle information guide and troubleshooting application.
In all, it’s the practical considerations of the EcoSport that win our vote, starting with its duo of rapid-charging USB ports up front, 12-volt power outlet in the back, available 110-volt outlet behind the center console, and yet another 12-volt plug for rear seat passengers. The EcoSport also features some 30 stow spaces, with various bins, hooks, water bottle holders, cell phone pockets, trays, and more, making the most of the “go small and live big” mantra. Seating is also comfortable and sharply styled with a space age-like horizontal pattern, and with the front row adjusted to accommodate larger Americans like yours truly, we were delighted to discover that rear legroom was more than adequate. On top of that, there’s a clever cargo management setup that rocks a floor board that can be raised and lowered, a hidden stow space beneath it, and fold-flat 60/40 split seats. All models also feature a swing-gate-style rear hatch.
It looks sharp, comes with many amenities that millennials and empty nesters will want, and it doesn’t appear to have any major interior design flaws or drivetrain woes, given its tried-and-true approach. With a launch date of early 2018 still well over a year away, we feel that this will give Ford plenty of time to hammer out any last minute details and maybe even shoehorn in an EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbo out of the Escape in order to make the SES something truly spectacular, both overseas, and back here in the States. We can only hope.