Ford hops aboard the subcompact crossover craze with an all-new product for Canada: the 2018 EcoSport. Already sold in European markets for quite a while, the timing is right for the small SUV to arrive on our shores, setting itself apart with class-leading options including a premium B&O Play stereo and four-wheel drive.
“Fun, capable, and connected are three fantastic words to describe our entry into the mini utility segment,” said Shannon White, Ford Canada product marketing manager.
You can’t have fun without some kickin’ tunes, and the EcoSport delivers via a 675-watt, nine-speaker plus subwoofer B&O (Bang & Olufsen) Play audio system (standard on the top-of-the-line Titanium trim). On a media drive in beautiful Newfoundland, Canada, we rocked out to crystal-clear tracks playing via the available SiriusXM satellite radio.
As with the rest of Ford’s portfolio, infotainment is handled by the responsive and easy-to-use SYNC 3 hardware and software (SE and above). Flick through the menus just like on a smartphone or use voice to input commands. Users can also download a companion FordPass mobile app to control certain on-board functions remotely.
On the exterior, a total of 10 paint colours are offered, from timeless White Platinum and Shadow Black to more vibrant hues such as Race Red and the gorgeous Blue Candy that my driving partner and I piloted for most of the trip.
Although the vehicle has a relatively small footprint, the practical form factor and flexible seating configurations allowa ton of stuff to be carried. Behind the second row, 592 litres of storage space is ready and waiting. Flip the 60/40 rear seats down flat and suddenly 1,416 litres of space appears—that’s enough to fit a family’s worth of luggage or a bicycle with the front wheel removed. And at the back of the vehicle, there’s a load shelf mountable in three positions to adjust the levels of storage, one of which creates a hidden compartment perfect for stashing personal electronics or other small valuables.
One of the biggest talking pieces on the EcoSport is the different way of accessing the cargo area: using a swing-gate door, rather than the ubiquitous tailgate. People who have driven a typical crossover know opening and closing the latter can be cumbersome on taller SUVs when manually operated, or slow if powered.
“I think it’s a really unique and fun add for the vehicle. It’s got two hydraulically assisted swing points, so just opening it up to grab a gym bag or something quick is faster than a traditional liftgate,” said White, adding that a built-in stop point prevents the door from just flying open.
Two engines are packaged: Thebase S and mid-level SE grades get the same 123-horsepower, three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost that is found in the Ford Fiesta, which may sound surprising until you learn it’s built on the same platform as the zippy hatchback.
If you’re looking for more power, move up to SES or Titanium and a more powerful 167-horsepower 2.0-litre naturally aspirated mill is found under the hood, paired with an intelligent 4WD system that behaves like front-wheel drive until additional traction is needed, and both are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions. On paper, the models can tow a maximum of 1,400 and 2,000 pounds respectively, but really an Escape, Edge, or Explorer would be better suited for this activity.
“We see this as our volume piece among the big six [SUVs in our lineup],” said White.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price starts at $22,099.
Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C. and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/b_yong