At home in the city where its compact dimensions and little engine make much more sense.
As Ford begins their shift into the crossover and light truck markets they’re going to have to be careful not to lose their entry level buyers. These might not be high-margin pickup truck or luxury SUV buyers yet, but putting a product into the hands of young buyers is a great opportunity to earn brand loyalty. That’s where the new EcoSport comes in; it’s Ford newest subcompact SUV aimed right at younger urban couples that the segment is gunning for.
You can almost think of the EcoSport as a grown-up Fiesta with a bit more ground clearance, available all-wheel-drive, and a little more room for cargo. I actually enjoy the Fiesta, so I was eager to spend some time with this 2019 Ford EcoSport Titanium. While I might have just compared the EcoSport to the Fiesta, its design ques actually more closely resemble the current Ford Escape (reviewed here).
The EcoSport does look a lot like a dwarfed Escape, and for that reason the proportions look a bit off. Like most subcompact CUVs, the headlights and taillights seem large against the tall and narrow body. That said, its lines do flow well, it wears the handsome Ford corporate fascia, and exterior fit and finish is best in class based on what I’ve seen. The 17” alloys on our Titanium tester also look good, and are not oversized for the vehicle. Our EcoSport came finished in Candy Blue (a $390 paint option), which is a deep pearly soft blue.
One little quirk with the exterior design of the EcoSport is the rear hatch; you open it using a latch well hidden in the reflector of the right taillight, and it’s side-hinged. Plenty of vehicles have used this setup before, but it’s really not that practical. Too much space is needed behind the vehicle to open it, and given that this is a CUV designed primarily for urban use, space is always at a premium. I’m not entirely sure there is any advantage to having the hatch open like this versus a traditional upward-opening hatch.
The interior of the EcoSport is well thought out and functional, but fit and finish is more reflective of the subcompact economy crossover that it is. The dashboard is wide extending from the windshield, which is something Ford has been doing in their smaller vehicles for a while, but it makes the front seating area feel cramped. The dash itself is fairly plain, but our Titanium tester did get a nice 8” touchscreen running the latest version of Ford’s SYNC 3 system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The system runs smoothly, the menus are easy to navigate and you still get simple volume and tuner knobs for the audio controls, generally speaking it’s one of the better infotainment systems out there. The center stack contains some basic climate controls and two USB ports, and the heated leather wrapped steering wheel not only has audio controls, but also manages the LCD screen within the instrument cluster.
Being a well-equipped Titanium trim model, our EcoSport came with heated leather seats, which I did find comfortable even for my long rush hour commutes. Functionality is key in these small CUVs and the EcoSport’s interior does deliver in that respect. There is convenient storage up-front in the deep door pockets, center console cubby, armrest and glovebox. The split rear bench is large enough for two adults comfortably, three in a pinch, and folding the bench reveals a nice flat loading area, versatile enough for just about any load the typical urbanite might throw in it.
In fact, the EcoSport even managed to haul a six-foot truck bed rail system for me, even if it had to invade the front passenger’s space a little bit. As noted, the swing-out style ear hatch is awkward to manage, especially when parked tightly in the city. The only other interior based gripe I have is the overall fit and finish; I expect hard plastics in a vehicle at this price point, but some gaps between interior panels and roughly finished edges do distract from an otherwise well planned interior.
The standard setup is front-wheel drive utilizing Ford’s 1.0L three-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic. If you opt for the Intelligent AWD system you also get the more powerful 2.0L four cylinder. The 2.0L is good for 167 hp and 149 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm; while the smaller 1.0L three-cylinder delivers 123 hp and 125 lb-ft. of torque.
Now, what I like is that you can choose to have either powertrain on any trim level from the base model S up to the loaded Titanium, and it’s only $2,275 to make the upgrade from the FWD three-cylinder to the AWD with the more powerful engine. The only exception is the sporty top-line SES model which comes only with the AWD powertrain. You’ll soon learn why this is good news.
Our tester, despite being a loaded Titanium, came with the FWD powertrain, and regardless of my usual distaste for front-drive crossovers, I have to admit I was curious about the 1.0L three cylinder so I was glad to find it under the hood in this tester. Paying close attention to the engine I started my driving in the city and found it more than adequate for moving about in an urban environment. It’s peppy off the line and with enough low-end torque to provide some needed agility in city traffic. The loss of one cylinder doesn’t seem to make the engine any rougher sounding or feeling, either.
Where it starts to unravel is out on the highway; this powertrain is not well set up for highway commuting. While peppy at low speeds, the engine runs out of steam very quickly at higher RPMs which can make merging or passing a bit more of an experience than it needs to be. Not only does the EcoSport’s performance struggle on the highway, but the higher speeds seem to make the otherwise complacent ride rather choppy. The steering feels vague on-center and the road and wind noise entering the cabin don’t help the highway driving experience.
The fact that it’s a three-cylinder might give one the illusion that it’s going to be super thrifty at the pumps. The truth is, because the motor needs to keep the turbo spooled it works pretty hard, particularly on the highway, which ultimately burns more fuel. After a week worth of rush hour commuting, with liberal use of the air conditioning, I ended my week with an average of 7.8L/100km. That’s significantly better than the rated 8.6 city and 8.1L/100km highway rating, but it’s also right in-line with the Hyundai Kona (reviewed here) with a turbo-four and AWD.
The EcoSport does have a slight price advantage over its competitors. Its $20,985 starting price is right in-line, but as you move up the trim level tiers the EcoSport does start to compare favorably against similarly equipped competitors. The ability to add AWD and the 2.0L for the low cost of $2,275 seems like a no-brainer as well. Our Titanium tester comes at a starting price of $26,328 and at that money you get the big 8” infotainment screen with navigation, power moonroof, 17” wheels, heated leather seats and steering wheel, B&O stereo, automatic climate control, rain sensing wipers and BLIS blind spot and cross traffic monitoring.
The Titanium comes with just about everything available, save for a few dealer installed accessories, so our as tested price only includes the extra $390 for the Candy Blue paint bringing the total to $26,718. Opting to add the bigger engine with AWD for $2,275 would put you in one of the best equipped AWD vehicles available under $30,000, so there is definitely value here.
The 2019 Ford EcoSport Titanium is really at home in the city where its compact dimensions, and little engine make much more sense. On city roads it rides quite well, and thanks to its cushy seats and the Bang & Olufsen stereo is a decent place to battle the city’s gridlock. If your lifestyle means that you’ll be spending a lot of time on the highway you’ll either want to consider the more powerful 2.0L AWD version, or a comparable like the Hyundai Kona.