Ford’s EcoSport model line might have only arrived in the UK in 2014, but it has existed in other parts of the world since 2003. In that sense, this car is actually one of the forerunners of the compact crossover class, where conventional supermini underpinnings marry with SUV-style bodies to give vehicles that combine tough styling and a raised driving position with car-like dynamics and low running costs.
The decision to bring the second generation of EcoSport to the UK can’t have been difficult for Ford, which in the last four years has seen global SUV sales increase by 280 per cent. By 2020 it predicts that one in every three new cars leaving a Ford dealership will be an SUV.
The car you see here is a heavily revised (as in 2300 new parts) version of the second-generation EcoSport. It sits on a modified chassis that can now accept a four-wheel-drive system (due in the middle of 2018 along with a new EcoBlue diesel engine) and borrows a fair bit of technology from the impressive new Fiesta, including its much-improved dial layout and Sync 3 infotainment system for the interior.
The changes are equally dramatic on the outside, where the wider grille, contrasting roof and 18-inch alloy wheels of our ST-Line spec car give it much more road presence. Admittedly the side-hinged boot is still more of a hindrance than a help, but in terms of the way it looks the EcoBoost is one of the more striking compact SUVs on sale.
We’ve driven the EcoSport with Ford’s tried and tested 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine. This three-cylinder turbo unit has been doing good business for Ford since its introduction in the Focus in 2012, and in the EcoSport is available with either 123bhp or 138bhp. It’s the latter under the bonnet of our Lightning Blue test car, mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox and sending its power through the front wheels.
This perky engine really is a delight, always feeling that bit more eager than the 11.8 second 0-62mph time might suggest, and pulling well from low revs all the way to the redline. True, the EcoSport could never be described as a fast car, but that’s not to say its engine can’t entertain.
Ford has traditionally built some of the finest handling cars in their respective classes. This revised EcoSport doesn’t have the ride and handling balance to do the same, but there is still enjoyment to be found in the steering, which is accurate and weights up nicely as you guide the car through a corner.
What’s more, it’s hard to fault the way Ford has been so thorough with its revisions, with the updated interior, in particular, making a huge difference. With Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a good sat-nav all featuring on the new 8-inch touchscreen this is a compact SUV that feels much more geared towards its intended – and rapidly growing – customer base.