“Fur coat and no knickers” was the considered verdict of my travelling companion as we explored the picturesque Vale of Belvoir (not a euphemism). What she – and it was a she, so I think it’s OK to use the Carry On era expression – meant was that the Ford EcoSport looks all very nice and smart on the outside, but the cabin and pretty much the rest of the car doesn’t really live up to initial impressions. When I asked her to look at the Ford Motor Company’s spec sheet for the car, and tell me the list price, her answer was damning: “£24,150 including premium colour, driver assistance pack, heated seats and heated wheel, and B&O Premium sound system”. That meant that I could no longer mansplain to her why she was wrong. She was right. As the old Ford advertising slogan didn’t quite go, in this case, Ford gives you less.
If you want a super-compact Ford based on a Fiesta then the current, rather more modern and desirable Ford Puma is on sale, and for about the same money. Strange. First the positives, though. The EcoSport Active goes quite well and hardly uses any petrol (no diesel option), with its three-cylinder engine and six-speed gearbox. It’s a bit trashy and unruly if you try and push it along a country road, which is fun, but the steering could really have a bit more “feel” to it. The EcoSport is a smart-looking thing, from most angles. It actually dates all the way back to 2012, with a few facelifts since then, but it actually manages to look quite contemporary, with its trendy high-up stance.
In “Active” form Ford has jacked the suspension up a bit and added some black plastic cladding around the wheel arches and sides, in the way people used to slap “go-faster stripes” on any old car in the old days. The main fail are the wheels, which, even at 17 inches, look too small for the bodywork, especially when viewed from the side. This is probably to give the car the clearance and suspension travel it needs to deal with poor quality roads in places where governments can’t afford to invest in the road network (such as, well, Britain). I actually liked the eccentric side-hinged rear door, very different to the usual hatch, but opens nice and wide and of course you don’t bang your head inadvertently.
Ford EcoSport Active 1.0
Price: £24,150 (as tested; range starts at £21,350
Engine capacity: 1.0-litre petrol 3-cyl, 6-so manual
Power output (PS): 125
Top speed (mph): 111
0 to 60 (seconds): 11
Fuel economy (mpg): 47.1
CO2 emissions (WLTP, g/km): 137
Although it seems all modern and radical it’s actually just like the tailgate you’d find on a van or estate car from the 1950s, such as the Austin A35 or Hillman Husky, except that the EcoSport’s wide, heavy unit probably won’t last that long. Because it swings back so far it’s also a bit tricky to load it up if anyone parks behind you. I can only assume that the rear door design was chosen on the grounds of cost, because everything about the insides of the EcoSport Active point to it being built down to a cost. The leather seats look inviting but feel a bit too thin and unyielding, and the bland dash and interior are functional (especially the commendably simple to use sat nav) but they don’t really have much showroom appeal. A few highlights around the door cards or seats wouldn’t cost much, say.
In fact the EcoSport is one of those vehicles built in, and aimed at, emerging markets that are sometimes brought to Europe to plug some hole in the product line-up. Another was the short-lived and obscure five-door Ford Ka+, which lacked a button to open the tailgate and was quietly dropped last year. Thus the EcoSport is or has been built in places such as Brazil, India and Romania, which is all fine, but not if sold at the sort of prices befitting more sophisticated cars. Most manufacturers most of the time don’t embarrass themselves in this way, but sometimes the prospect of a fat profit margin is simply irresistible; which, I’m sorry to say, is more than I can say about the EcoSport Active, which is about £10,000 too expensive. These days, Dacia gives you more, you know.