Ford’s first Sub-Compact SUV for the US is turning heads, and for all the right reasons.
Ford’s EcoSport may be “brand-new” to the US, but it’s not a new model for the American car maker. The EcoSport is based on the 2011 Ford Fiesta and has been sold internationally since 2012. It’s a compact SUV that sells for under $20,000. The 2018 EcoSport is the first to be sold in the US, and it’s already making waves. We spent a week driving the 2018 EcoSport and found it to be a pretty decent car, especially when you factor in the price.
Ford decided to bring the EcoSport to the US in 2018 because it turns out, Americans love SUVs. In fact, Ford said as much in its earnings call after announcing its Q1 2018 financials. Ford has said it will discontinue sedans in the US, and go all-in with trucks and SUVs. Which means the EcoSport is likely going to become the company’s new Taurus or Focus – meaning the vehicle for everyone. But is it? Let’s find out.
The EcoSport is sold in four different trims, ranging from the EcoSport S which starts at $19,995, up to the SES, which comes in at about $26,880. Our review model here is the EcoSport Titanium, which is priced at $25,880. The big difference with the Titanium from the other models is the fact that it has a 10-speaker B&O Play Premium audio system, along with full leather seats. There’s not a whole lot that’s different between the four trims, so if you’re tight on money, the EcoSport SE is going to be a good option, unless you really want a larger infotainment display, as the SE only sports a 4.2-inch display.
Ford loaned us a “Lightning Blue” EcoSport Titanium, and it was definitely a beauty. It looked great, especially with the chrome beltline along the mirrors, as well as on the grille. The EcoSport has that traditional Ford look, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does scream that it’s a Ford vehicle and not another make. The front has a pretty flat grille, which looks okay, it’s not as nice-looking as what Lexus has on its newer models. There’s nothing too crazy about the design here, it’s more of a functional design than a flashy one. And for the price, that’s what you’d expect anyways.
As is the case with most newer cars, there are turn signals on the side-view mirrors, which makes it easier for everyone to see that you are going to make a turn (as long as you actually use the turn signals). Speaking of the mirrors, they are heated. That’s a pretty small feature, but if you live in a colder climate, it’s definitely a great one to have. As scraping off those side mirrors can sometimes be a bit of a hassle, but with them being heated, you can stay in the warm car while the mirrors heat up and clean themselves. Now since its May, we didn’t get a chance to see how well the heated mirrors work, as it’s almost summer time around these parts.
Ford has 17-inch wheels on the Titanium trim (16-inch on the other trims), which actually look somewhat small on the Titanium. Many would likely like some larger tires on the EcoSport, but it does its job and does it well, which is what matters here anyway. The car itself actually looks pretty small. There’s not a ton of room in the EcoSport, which is to be expected in a compact SUV, but there’s even less room than in the Buick Encore, which is Buick’s competitor to the EcoSport. The Ford EcoSport is not the best looking car out there, but in this Lightning Blue color, it definitely looks really nice.
The inside of the car is mostly full of darker colors, which actually looks pretty nice. So it’s mostly black, gray and some silver highlights. The steering wheel is not leather, and it is not heated either. Apparently, Ford is saving that for its higher-priced SUVs right now. From the driver’s seat here, everything is in reach, so you don’t need to lean forward to far to reach things like the infotainment display there (which, by the way, looks really cool floating there like that). You’ll notice that there aren’t as many buttons available, and that’s because Ford has paired back everything on the EcoSport, likely to keep the price down. For instance, there’s no Park Assist, or Lane Assist, two features that have become very popular and common on newer vehicles in the past two years.
Sitting in the front is pretty comfortable for the driver and passenger, but when you are in the second row, that’s where things get crammed. The driver would need to pull the seat pretty far forward to give those in the back seat plenty of space. And when it comes to cargo space, there’s even less. Fortunately, you are able to fold down the backseats for more cargo space, but you can’t move those seats further back for more legroom back there. It’s unfortunate, but that is part of the reason why the EcoSport is the smallest SUV in the compact SUV market right now.
Speaking of cargo space, while it is at a premium in the EcoSport, Ford has opted for a door that swings open instead of a liftgate on the back. It’s also pretty tough to figure out how to open it (in fact, I had to read the manual to figure it out, since there’s no button on the keyfob, or near the driver’s side of the car). It’s an interesting choice, and it’s going to make some drivers think twice about where they park when going to the grocery store, or elsewhere.
Like the exterior, the interior of the Ford EcoSport is nothing fancy. It’s more on the functional side. But the bright side here is that Ford has placed plenty of areas for you to store things like sunglasses, and other things. There are also two USB ports at the front that work with the SYNC3 platform for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (there are more in the backseat). If you’re looking to buy the EcoSport as something that has some impressive materials being used on the interior, you’ll be disappointed. But if you are looking for something that will get the job done, Ford has you covered.
The 2018 EcoSport is running on the SYNC3 platform (the cheapest trim – the SE – is running on the regular SYNC platform with fewer features). So you’re getting all of the good stuff here, like AM/FM radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, AT&T 4G LTE WiFi Hotspot, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. Starting with the actual software here, SYNC3 is probably the least good looking infotainment system out there. And it’s not because of how it works, but how it looks. With bright blues and grays throughout the UI, it really looks dated. The AM/FM radio works just as you would expect, there’s really nothing special there, and the same goes for satellite radio which is, of course, Sirius. Basically, there are plenty of options here for music and media when you’re out driving.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both here, they are pretty easy to setup, just plug in your phone and follow the on-screen instructions. We’ll talk a bit more about Android Auto in a bit. Ford also has AT&T’s 4G LTE built into the vehicle. Now, this isn’t the first vehicle we’ve used with AT&T’s service built-in, but it has gotten the fastest speeds in our testing. This is actually more likely due to AT&T improving their network in this area than the car itself. But it is a pretty cool feature to have, especially with cars getting smarter, you’ll be able to update the maps on the EcoSport here without needing to hotspot your phone to the car.
There are maps included here, like most car makers, it’s not Google Maps. But instead a proprietary mapping solution from Ford. Its maps on SYNC3 actually work pretty well. It’s not as detailed as Google Maps or Waze, and doesn’t show when there’s a traffic jam or construction. Many other vehicles will alert you when you are coming up on an accident or a construction site, like Buick for example, will bring it up on the heads-up display so you can avoid that area. But the maps are at least accurate on the Ford EcoSport, which is a good thing – especially with how much these things change.
Android Auto is here, as we’ve already stated, and it’s basically the same experience as on any other vehicle. And that is because Google does not allow its partners to change anything with Android Auto. Here you will plug your phone into one of the USB ports in the front and you’re all set. If you’ve already set it up, it’ll automatically open up the Android Auto system and take you to the screen you see above (also known as the “Overview” screen). This screen will show music that’s playing, upcoming events on your calendar (if there is a location on them), weather, missed messages/calls, voicemails and recently searched for locations on Google Maps. You can tap them to jump into them, or swipe them away.
Google Maps navigation here worked just as expected. It was pretty accurate, but there’s still some work that needs to be done here. For instance, Google Maps still doesn’t show the speed limit for where you are at that time. This is something that maps on every car has done for ages now, so it’s a bit strange that Google doesn’t have this added yet (even though it talked about it over a year ago). Now if you prefer to avoid accidents, construction, or just slow traffic, Waze is also available. And while we didn’t use it extensively, it does also work really well on Android Auto.
There’s no support for Wireless Android Auto here, but that might change in the future. For now, you do need to plug in your phone to use Android Auto on the Ford EcoSport however. Google did tell us that head units and vehicles with Android Auto need to have a WiFi chip to be able to use Wireless Android Auto, and since this one does have AT&T 4G LTE available here, it should get support in the future. It just needs to go through a certification process with Google, which is it currently unclear whether Ford is working on that right now or not.
Android Auto works as it should here on the Ford EcoSport, which is no surprise. It doesn’t lag behind like some of the after-market head units might do here and there, and with that 8-inch touchscreen (not a capacitive screen), it is a treat to use Android Auto.
The EcoSport is a sub-compact SUV, which means it is a pretty small one, and at this price, there’s not a whole lot of bells and whistles available. Including Park Assist, Lane Keep Assist and more. There is, however, a rear camera to help you with backing in and out of parking spaces, which has become pretty much the standard on vehicles in the past few years. The camera on the EcoSport is not as wide as the ones on other vehicles, but it does still get the job done. It’s mounted just above the license plate, so it is centered on the back of the vehicle and shows you behind the vehicle with no issues. Ford does have Cross-Traffic Alerts here though, so when you are in reverse and it detects traffic or people near the vehicle, it’ll alert you so you don’t back out and get hit or hit someone. And you also have blind spot detection, which shows on the side-view mirrors, which is another popular feature on newer cars these days, as it helps you see all the way around your car, even in those blind spots.
Driving around in the EcoSport is pretty smooth, as you’d expect from a brand new car. Its gas and brakes are actually a bit more sensitive than other vehicles – even other vehicles from Ford. Where when you press the gas pedal to go, it only needs to be pressed lightly compared to other vehicles. Definitely not a deal breaker, but it is something that you’ll get used to after driving the EcoSport for a day or two. The EcoSport is a six-speed automatic transmission vehicle, with a 1.0L EcoBoost engine. So it’s not the most powerful out there, but it will get you from point A to point B safely. Just don’t expect to take this out for a drag race like you’re in Fast and the Furious.
While actually driving the EcoSport is important, it’s not the entire experience. Listening to music is another big part of that experience. And Ford knows that, so it has outfitted the EcoSport with a B&O PLAY Premium Audio System by HARMAN. This audio system consists of a center speaker, front tweeters, front woofers, rear coaxial speakers with tweeters, as well as a subwoofer and a 675W amplifier in the very back of the car. Simply put, you’re going to get some rich sounding audio from every angle in this car. Whether you’re the driver or sitting in the second row, you’re going to enjoy the audio from this system. And that was definitely the case while we were driving the EcoSport. The sound had great bass, with very clear mids and highs. While the audio could get pretty loud, it didn’t really affect the quality of the audio, the more you turned it up. Which is definitely a good thing. There is an equalizer built into the SYNC3 platform, so you can adjust the sound you get out of these speakers, whether that’s more bass or more treble. Also a nice touch here.
For those that live up north and actually experience cold weather, Ford does offer a cold weather package with the EcoSport, which includes Windshield Wiper De-Icer, Heated Mirrors, Heated Front Seats and a Heated Steering Wheel. That was not available on the model that we test drove, but it’s also worth pointing out that it wasn’t that cold while we were test driving the EcoSport, so it wasn’t needed anyway.
Driving the Ford EcoSport was a great experience. While it wasn’t as fancy as some of the other cars out there, with all kinds of extra features and such. But it will get you to where you are going safely, and that’s what matters here. And where this is a sub-compact SUV that is starting at under $20,000, it’s not too surprising that this isn’t jampacked with tech.
While the Ford EcoSport is a new vehicle to the US market, it is not a new vehicle from Ford – even though the company would like you to believe that. And the reason why Ford has brought it to the US is because, well, Americans prefer bigger cars like SUVs. In fact, Ford has decided to stop selling sedans in the US precisely for that reason. If you are someone that prefers to drive a sedan or a smaller SUV, the EcoSport is definitely a good one to check out. At this price point, it’s going to be tough to find something better out there.