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We drive Ford's baby SUV in SA

2013-08-02 08:03

MACHO BABY: Ford has launched its baby SUV EcoSport in SA and its ready to win over many hearts. Image: Ford SA


DURBAN, South Africa - Ford has launched its EcoSport in South Africa – the new compact SUV ready to take on the urban life and make many new buyers fall in love with its new entry.

And, they're hoping Cupid aims straight for the ladies since its winning factor is its seating position - but more about that later.

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Wheels24’s SERGIO DAVIDS first drove the EcoSport at its international launch in India just three months ago in the epitome of chaos.

Ford SA’s VP of marketing, sales and service Mark Kaufman says the EcoSport gets its name from being economical and a sporty choice for lifestyle-living customers and it takes on Nissan’s Juke head-on as its closest competitor in the market.


He also said that when the car was launched in Brazil in 2012 Ford realised the EcoSport could be a global vehicle and while it was still in its design phase the automaker wanted something that was “bigger and better, but not too big”.

Now Ford’s baby SUV is here for customers to swoon over, especially those looking for something a little bigger than the Figo or Fiesta, yet not as large as the Kuga.

The local line-up includes three engine choices: a one-litre EcoBoost model and a 1.5-litre engine in petrol or diesel guise in three trim levels.

Ford SA probably wanted to emulate the international setting of Goa’s white beaches and winding roads, where Davids drove the car, so Durban was the spot of choice with scenic coastal views of Ballito and the winding roads through sugar-cane fields and Tongaat. But, there was no matching the driving styles and utter madness that is India. Even Durban's taxi drivers were a mellow bunch by comparison.

We slicked through the city to scenic views with some easy driving and got to put foot on the quieter and longer roads.


It looks like a SUV yet it still drives like an ordinary sedan. So what makes this a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle?

For starters, its looks tickle my fancy. It has assertive styling and it gets two thumbs up from me - much more than the looks of the Focus and even its ST derivative. The EcoSport has robust styling and looks ready to tackle anything you put in front of it - or try loading inside of it. Be it a couple of dogs or a washing machine.

The gaping grille with the silly grin, macho wheel arches and slim headlights tick all the right boxes, along with the boot-mounted spare wheel. Inside you get good cloth seats on the Ambiente and Trend models while the range-topping Titanium models get leather.

It has a 200mm ground clearance, a 25 degree approach angle and a 35 degree departure angle. This means should you miss an offramp like I did and you need to drive through a ditch or climb over a grassy, high kerb you can easily do so.

It also has a 550mm water-wading capability which means should you get caught in SA’s flash floods in Jozi, Durban or even Cape Town, you could safely do so too considering the water level will not completely submerse your car.

My first drive was in the three-cylinder, turbo 1.0 EcoBoost and this little engine is just an all-round winner. It's gutsy in the Fiesta and the larger size of the baby SUV doesn’t hinder its performance at all. The 92kW/170Nm power figures deliver a claimed combined fuel consumption of 5.7 litres /100km and 131g/km of C02 emissions. Mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, driving is a pleasure and handling is a blast in the 1.0 EcoBoost model, it certainly is up for some tight corners and some spirited driving.

During conference we all roared with laughter when brand manager Dale Reid mentioned the ‘active nibble control’. Perhaps it was funny at the time since everyone was starving after a long day. In simple terms its a system which reduces vibration in the car when passing a bus or large truck.

Next up to drive was the 1.5-litre diesel derivative and what a disappointment because it felt underpowered and had quite a bit of turbo lag. Perhaps it’s because that EcoBoost engine is just so impressive that one would expect a bigger engine to feel and drive better in terms of performance. Thing is, it even made me lack confidence in overtaking. However, the four-cylinder engine might be bigger but it only makes 66kW but also 205Nm. Fuel consumption in this model is claimed at 4.6 litres/100km and 120g/km. Trying to make it go though is like beating a donkey with a stick.

Safety features include ABS, electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, hill descent and hill launch assist - with a three-second window to pull away and six airbags.


As Davids mentioned, the EcoSport has a boot release in the right, rear light. It’s different and very neatly done. It made me want to constantly put something in the boot.

I also like the oodles of storage compartments inside the car – all 20 of them. There are numerous cup/bottle-holders – including two in the centre console next to the handbrake lever. The cooled glovebox can keep six cans cool. And my favourite is the storage drawer under the front passenger seat because I really don't like having to carry a handbag all the time. The interior is generally uncluttered and that gets another little tick.

Then there's the seating position - which Ford says is one of its key selling points and a winning point when it comes to ladies. Once you're behind the wheel you feel like you could drive over anything. It certainly makes you feel like you're driving a car capable of bundu-bashing.

Even though we were driving the first batch of prototype models in the country, some people complained about too much wind and road noise. Surprisingly, this didn't bother me too much because there wasn't anything to fuss about unless you were driving at speeds closer to the end of the clock.


The boot – I think it’s too small. At first glance it doesn’t even look as though the rear spare wheel could fit in there comfortably.  Although Ford says boot space with the seats up is 362 litres -  bigger than the Juke -  and 705 litres when the rear seats are folded and tumbled forward. Still, if you’re going shopping with your family, that doesn’t seem to leave much space unless you’re going to squash all your bags on top of each other. There's no doubt you could perhaps try to fit a baby elephant in once the seats are down though, but then where will your kids sit?

As lovely as what the interior looks, something nags at me - it could be the silver plastic finishes on the facia that make it look a bit tacky. I also recall Davids telling me the bottom half of the interior looks very ‘Figo’. But, I can understand why Ford has done this – they want their cars to have a universal look-and-feel inside. Nothing wrong with that since everyone else does it too - think Volkswagen, Audi, BMW etc.

I also think the 16" alloys across the range (15" steelies on the entry-level Ambiente) should all be replaced by 17" wheels to fill out the wide wheel arches some more.

Pricing starts at R199 000 for the base model 1.5-litre petrol Trend. Now that isn't bad at all, although most people would argue if you want something bigger than a Fiesta why not just go for a Focus instead or save up a bit more for a Kuga (from R289 900).

The EcoSport is sold with a four-year or 120 000km warranty and four-year or 60 000km service plan. Service intervals are 20 000km intervals for the petrol derivatives and 15 000km for the diesel.

EcoSport 1.5 TiVCT petrol Ambiente - R199 000
EcoSport 1.0 GTDi Trend - R224 000
EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Trend - R229 000
EcoSport 1.5 GTDi Titanium - R244 000
EcoSport 1.5 TiVCT Titanium Powershift - R244 000
EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Titanium - R249 000

Read more on:    ford  |  south africa  |  new models  |  suv

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