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First Drive 2015 Ford EcoSport By Dutch FIA Champ Henny Hemmes

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands - June 5, 2014: The arrival in Europe of the Ford EcoSport has been seriously delayed because of its huge success in the country where it is built: India. But now the Fiesta based crossover is ready to roll and this time, I could drive it for the first time in my own country.

To generate interest in Europe, Ford opened a dedicated web site last year to sell the first 500 units to customers who wanted to get hold of the car before it arrived at the dealerships, as was promised. They were sold in 48 hours.

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Ford is rather late with offering a small SUV in Europe and now will have to compete with Opel, Peugeot and Renault, who are offering their Mokka, 2008 and Captur already for some time. The EcoSport stands out from the competitors, as its design with the spare wheel mounted at the rear door, hints more at all-road capacities than that of its peers.

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The EcoSport originates from Brazil, where it was introduced in 2003. Ford produces the second generation, that is now a One Ford – world – car in its plants in Brazil, India, China and Thailand. Europe gets the India built EcoSport, while Thailand will export it from mid 2015 to the North-American market.

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The European model is available with engines typically dedicated to the European market. There is a 90 hp strong 1.5-liter diesel and a 1.5-liter petrol engine with 112 hp, as well as the award winning 1.0-liter 3-cilinder EcoBoost motor with 125 hp. The latter variant was the one available for my fist drive..

This engine performs really well and runs quietly. However, both my co-driver and me wanted to shift in 6th gear several times, but Ford only offers a 5-speed stick shift. Why? “ Because of costs, the extra weight of a 6-speed gearbox and engines running really quiet, also at higher revs.”

It is a bit curious. Since this model has ‘Eco’ in its name, you would expect Ford has focused more on fuel efficiency. In that respect we also miss a start-stop system.

As expected from any Ford, damping is well-balanced and steering is absolutely accurate

But the body tilts under short steering movements and in short turns. That is why you do not tend to drive in a sporty way, which is also controversial, as there is also ‘Sport’ in the name…

I caught myself driving the EcoSport, like I was driving a mainstream Fiesta, which is perfectly all right for many people. Especially those who love the robust looks of the Ford EcoSport, that hint all-road capacities.

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Unfortunately, it is only available with front wheel drive, which is a disadvantage, as its competitors offer and do sell AWD models. With a ground clearance of 20 cm/7.8 inches, fair wading depth (55 cm/21.6 in.) and soft suspension the EcoSport will have no problem with snow or mud.

Its length of 4,27 m/ 168 inches the EcoSport is well suited for use in the city. But its wide opening rear door is not very practical when you have to park along the curb into a Regular spot and have to load your stuff in the back.

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The quality of the cabin is somewhat disappointing with hard plastic panels. But there is good head and leg room, both at the front and in the rear. There are 20 storage compartments including a cooled glove box that takes 6 cans of pop, while the capacity of the boot can be ‘stretched from 333 to 1238 liter (11.8 to 43.7 cu.ft).

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The EcoSport is offered with Ford Sync connectivity with AppLink, that allows drivers to use voice activation for the apps on their smart phone. This is also the reason Ford does not offer navigation, as “everybody has a smart phone nowadays”.

Safety systems such as traction control, ESP, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist are part of the standard equipment. Optional are 17-inch wheels, leather seats, metallic paint and a Technology Pack that, apart from Sync with AppLink also offers cruise control, a rain sensor, dimming rearview mirror and parking sensors at the rear.

Being a new model offered on 2 continents or more, the Ford EcoSport will be among the nominees for the 2015 World Car of the Year Awards.