Tuesday, 5 August 2014

No small slow coach

Thirteen seconds to reach 60 sounds slow. A Fiat 1500 was “lively” when the likes of a Ford Classic took 25sec. Half a minute was by no means uncommon, so I was worried that the 1 litre Ford EcoSport might feel like back to the 1970s. Really it didn’t. It will do 112mph, 20mph faster than the Fiat and 30mph more than the Classic. It also does 40 to 60mpg, two or three times what they could, and with 125PS has more than twice their power.

The EcoSport is a mini-sports utility, or a compact crossover depending on what jargon you prefer. It is chunky, looks the part, high off the ground like a grown-up SUV. There was no chance to try it off-road but it will be fine on the grass at school sports days. It has a 10.6m (34.8ft) turning circle, real front and rear skid plates, 18cm (7in) ground clearance, a 22.1deg approach angle and 35deg departure and it can wade up to 55cm (21.6in). Ford says the full-size spare wheel is hung out the back to give more luggage room although it looks more ornamental for school run street cred. There’s a neat cover yet it does make the back door heavy.

It may be built in India on a Fiesta platform but EcoSport was developed in South America. A global Ford introduced in 2003, it is credited with creating the mini-SUV segment in Brazil, has sold more than 770,000 and will now satisfy the same trend in Europe. Ford expects all SUVs to go up nearly a quarter this year, and small ones like this to increase by 90 per cent by 2018.
It is well proportioned and looks cheerful although at £16,000 scarcely cheap. Good value rather than bargain basement, our EK14 XNM had the Kinetic Blue metallic paint at £495, rear parking sensors at £210 and something called SYNC with APPLINK giving voice control of smartphone apps. Useful built-in extras include ABS, electronic stability and traction controls, tyre pressure monitoring and smart roof rails for an all-in £16,500.

There is an alternative 112PS 1.5 litre petrol engine of 44.8mpg and 149g/km CO2, or a 90PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel that does 61.4mpg and 120g/km. But with the clever little turbocharged 1.0’s 53.3mpg and 125g/km CO2 there seems little point in bypassing it unless you want an automatic. I wonder if they’ll do a 4x4 to challenge the established Orientals?
Stylish and practical with a short bonnet, raked front pillars, and five-piece chrome grille it has angular headlamps and LED light strips. The driver sits tall, on a seat height adjustable with a steering column adjustable for reach and rake. There is good headroom and legroom and befitting an SUV with outdoor overtones it has 20 stowage places, including door pockets with space for large drinks bottles, a drawer under the front passenger seat, and a cooled glove box that can take six 350ml cans.

Occasion for driving the EcoSport was the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers’ annual presentation of the Jim Clark Memorial Trophy. There was a certain poignancy this year following the fatal accident to bystanders on the Jim Clark Rally for its presentation to Dr John Harrington in recognition of his 30 years’ work, raising medical standards and improving safety at rallies in Scotland. Alisdair Suttie (right of picture), Association President, said: “At a time when rally safety is in the spotlight, we were pleased to present this year’s Award to a medically qualified winner. Dr Harrington demonstrates the planning and preparation in motorsport events, the high levels of expertise available to competitors and the professionalism that swings into action when required.”

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