The Ford Ecosport has been without doubt the most awaited car launch in India in the recent times. The radical design and looks of the car, the curiosity generated by revolutionary Ecoboost engine, the promise of a middle-class "urban Mini-SUV" and a tantalizing price tag of Rs.5 Lakh (rumored, but not true) resulted in Bollywood-level hype generated around the car. But Ford India have been playing spoilsport by refusing to confirm a launch date or even the specs about the car. I happened to have a glance of the car which was recently on display at the Mantri Square Mall, Malleshwaram, Bangalore. Here is a general description about the air around the new Ford Ecosport as I saw it.
The Ford Ecosport - What it is Being Projected As
The Ford Ecosport is a sub-4 meter car from Ford India, marketed as a Mini Urban Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). With its high ground clearance, big tyres and "solid stance", it is said to be able to overcome challenges posed by Indian city roads (broken, dug up, potholed roads, waterlogging, construction, speedbreakers etc) with ease. The 1-liter 3-cylinder Ecoboost "Wonder Engine" will supposedly pump put 120 hp while being amazingly fuel-efficient as well! The car is directly, squarely aimed at the urban middle class Indian who wants to own a fuel-efficient, solid-looking, manageable and practical car with just enough power and ease to drive on broken city roads, and which also satisfies their urge to own a SUV. But this has also led to the hype of it as being a full-blown SUV inthe range of the Renault (Dacia) Duster or even a 7-seater MPV like the Toyota Innova! The hype around the car is the result of the wrong perception generated that this car is a 6-lakh, 7-seater SUV/MPV! Sorry to shatter dreams, but unfortunately, it is just a four-seater hatchback.
The Ford Ecosport Review as Seen and Felt
The car on display was a bright orange Titanium variant, the highest up in the chain. Let us talk about some points about the Ford Ecosport India. The engine and performance factors can be ascertained only after a full test drive, which Ford does not offer as of now.
LOOKS: Mind blowing. Stunning. Head turning and all those superlatives. The high-set, squinting, stretched and narrow headlights, the huge, intimidating, in-your-face grille cum air dam which looks like a mouth set to devour everything in its path, the overall apparent high stance and bigger-than-it-seems looks, all are simply killing. The hood seamlessly sweeping up into the roof through big A-Pillars gives the car a graceful stance and further enhances the sold looks. The sides are bland and the only gripe I found was the spare tyre mounted on the tailgate.
BUILD: The car looks and seems to be quite solidly built. There are no panel or joint gaps, no loose parts, no blemishes, edges or discontinuities anywhere in the car, be it in the inside or the outside. The paint job reeks of quality and chrome finishes on the grille and around the fog lamps add a classy touch to the design. The body panels are quite thick are the car seems to be heftily built. Knock on the car and there will be no hollow sounds, close a door and the solid thump! is what you would expect from a German car and not from a Ford.
SIZE: This is where the Ford Ecosport really surprised and disappointed. Though everyone thought it to be an SUV, the Ecosport is in reality quite a small car and not an SUV by any stretch of imagination, though the 4.25 m version released internationally would qualify as a mini-SUV. I would call it a five-door hatch which looks bigger than it is thanks to the design of the front end. It is should be 3.9 meters long and 1.67 meters tall, as much as the Swift Dzire and Maruti Ritz respectively.
INTERIORS: As expected, the quality of the exterior does not reflect in that of the interior. The dashboard, door panels, seat covers and everything inside looks and feels plasticky and cheap as it is with all Indian cars. There are numerous cubbyholes, drawers, hooks, and other convenient places to store knick-knacks which is a good thing. The center console comes straight from the new Ford Fiesta, contemporary and nicely designed with a small LCD screen also, though it does not do much. The instrument panel is basic.
SPACE, COMFORT: There is plenty of space up front for the passenger and driver, but the back seat is good for only two medium sized people. Sitting in the back, 6-footers will have trouble with both leg and head space, though the seats seemed to be good and comfortable. There is no third row of seats. The boot is spacious enough to store two 20-kg bags and a medium sized backpack. Short people might have a problem with the view from the driving position thanks to the high-set bonnet (hood).
Public Opinion Overheard about the Ford Ecosport
- "But, this is not an SUV! This car is so small!!" << Most often repeated comment
- "I expected it to be bigger"
- Ecosport vs Renault Duster comparisons>
- "Best for nuclear families"
- "Three people in the rear? Forget it!"
- "Wow. What design!"
- "Average kya hai?" "What is the price?" "When will it be released?"
- "This looks like a good birthday present for my son"
- "Best for software people only!"
Some Odds and Ends About the Ford Ecosport
- Keyless entry and Engine Start/Stop Button
- Only one reversing light!
- Big 205/80/R16 tyres
- Odometer and Tachometer
- Some controls on the small, nice to grip and adjustable steering wheel
- 20 nooks and crannies inside to store stuff including cooled glovebox
- Nice rear glass which looks wraparound but is not.
- Foldable rear seats and inwards curved rear door panel will release lots of space
- Thick A-Pillar and high hood will give visibility problems to short people
- No chrome on the inside, door handles seem flimsy, suspect aircon vent build
- Rear window wiper and tall-mounted brake light.
The Ford Ecosport Facts
I repeat, the Ford Ecosport is not an SUV, but a big hatch. There is no comparison of the Ecosport vs the Duster. Both cars are in different segments like the Hyundai i20 and the Maruti Swift. The Duster is bigger, longer and also costs more. And comparing it with the likes of the XVU 500, Toyota Fortuner or even the Innova is just ridiculous. It would be better to compare the Ecosport with the Mahindra Quanto or even the Hyundai i20. The Ecosport is expected to come with three engine choices: a 1 liter turbo Petrol Ecoboost engine, a 1.6 Turbo Diesel engine and a 1.5 Liter naturally aspirated petrol engine. The mileage has to be seen to believe. As is the power capacity of the engines. It should cost from 6.5 Lakhs to 9 Lakhs on road.
The Ford Ecosport - Verdict
Nothing can be quantified about the car without a proper test drive to know how it really behaves on the road. But going by only the looks of the car, here is somewhat of a verdict:
The Ford Ecosport is a sub-mini SUV, a good looking no-nonsense big family hatch with more ground clearance and bigger tyres than the average car, best suited for bad Indian driving conditions. Looks big though it is small.
Buy the Ford Ecosport if you want a sensible upgrade from mid-level hatches like the Santro, Ritz, Figo, Indica, i10, Alto K10 or even the Swift or Indica. It is perfect for a family of four who usually do city roundabouts. It will give you that "pseudo-SUV" feel though it is not suited for frequent long-trips. A city-car best suited if you drive around broken roads (rural or urban) a lot. For: Looks, Big Tyres, Practicality.
The Ecosport is not for you if you want a real SUV, a good, real offroader, a large family car or do a lot of highway driving. It is also not for you if you would want a lot of boot space, feel-good and classy interiors and creature comforts. Also, you would want to do a test drive first if you have a lot of expectations about power, handling and performance. Against: Rear Seats, Interiors.
A note has to be added here about the unfriendly people from Ford who were managing the Mantri Mall display. I was rudely asked not to slam the door, not to pop the hood. All questions about the car were rudely met with brusque "NO!" or "We are not authorized to tell you that!" replies. I don't understand why Ford is so tight lipped about the car. It already has killed the hype around it and quite many users have moved on to other choices. Ford's marketing is confusing as most people think that Ecosport is a full-blown cheap SUV, which it is not. Ford before once tried to confuse the market with its "sort-of-SUV" branding with the Ford Fusion, which ended up with the very capable car bombing badly. Why all the drama, @fordIndia? Just launch the car and get it over with!
Edit June 26: The Ford Ecosport was launched today with 2 petrol models and 1 diesel in 10 variants and deliveries will start immediately. Here are the Ford Ecosport Prices Ex-Showroom Bangalore:
Click here for the prices of Ford Ecosport in all cities in India (PDF)
More details coming up after a full test drive! Click here for some more pictures of the Ecosport.