What we're driving: 2018 Ford EcoSport
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What we're driving: 2018 Ford EcoSport

"What we're driving" is Automotive Engineering's series of quick-strike vehicle reviews

I’ll concede I might not have thought the EcoSport so irredeemably awful if our test vehicle had been fitted with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that comes standard with all-wheel-drive for any of EcoSport’s (more on that name in a sec) four trim levels. Instead, we got the front-drive setup with its turbocharged 3-cyl. that saddles-up 123 of the most reluctant horses I’ve met.

This engine that once felt so good in the Fiesta (on which the EcoSport is based) is a pathetic solution in this “crossover” package that feels every ounce of its 3300 lb (1497 kg). And to what purpose is a front-drive EcoSport over a Fiesta? Six cubic feet more total passenger volume and 6 cubes more cargo space. That’s it. Almost all of that wealth of extra interior volume is attributed to the fact, I reckon, that the roof is higher, because the EcoSport’s wheelbase (98 in) and overall length (159.7 in) are exact replicas of the Fiesta.

This Eeyore of crossovers isn’t going nowhere fast—it’s going everywhere slow. The turbocharged triple doesn’t summon its meager peak torque of 125 lb-ft (169 Nm) until 6000 grumbling rpm, so heaven knows what you’re getting at, say, 3500 rpm, but I can attest it isn’t nearly enough. Rated to tow 1400 lb? I can only pray Ford is kidding; the EcoSport accelerates like a tugboat all by itself, let alone with a trailer lashed to its rear. I tried to like the steering for a while, but most of its light responses are smothered by the frumpy chassis dynamics and downcast ride quality.

So the notion that there’s any “sport” in the 1.0-liter EcoSport is false. Surely there’s “eco,” then? Not even close, unless you think 27 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway for a Fiesta-sized vehicle is merit-worthy in this day and age. Just to be fair, almost every model in this dismal subcompact-crossover class is inexplicably inefficient.

We already mentioned that your head will have room; your shoulders and legs—not so much. Even in the top-rung Titanium trim, the EcoSport’s cabin materials are of rough-sawn quality, the rear seats don’t fold anything close to space-maximizing flat and many fittings betray the EcoSport’s Indian manufacturing base and its intended target of non-North American markets. Maybe the best thing I can say is that the dumb side-swinging hatch closed with a solidity and sense of purpose that exceeds the rest of this vehicle’s seemingly lowbrow objectives.

Ford may believe it spruced up the EcoSport enough to make it adequate for the comparatively lowbrow subcompact-crossover segment, but the EcoSport does Ford’s brand no service—from top to bottom, it feels like the Band-Aid for poor product planning that it is. If crossovers are destined to replace sedans as Ford is gambling, the next-generation EcoSport better get here in a hurry—and needs to be immeasurably better in every metric.

 

2018 Ford EcoSport Titanium FWD

Base price:       $25,879

As tested:         $25,879

Highs:               Gee whiz, it’s an SUV!

Lows:                The Internet doesn’t have enough space…

Takeaway:       Competing with crosstown rival Chevy Trax for nation’s most dismal crossover

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