Shapur Kotwal drives the Ford EcoSport to tell you how good it is

The first-generation EcoSport was a car designed and engineered in Brazil for Brazil. This new car, however, will be exported all over the world as part of the ‘One Ford’ global strategy, with India being one of the first markets to get the car. It’s no surprise — the appeal of the car is just massive. Attractive to look at, good to drive, comfortable, sufficiently spacious on the inside, well-equipped and just the right size for city streets, the EcoSport is the kind of car Indian customers want.

Based on the Fiesta platform, the dramatic styling of the EcoSport remains faithful to the concept car shown at Asian motor shows earlier this year. It’s a loud, extrovert design that looks stunning in the metal. A massive, open-mouthed grille gives it a different feel from the Fiesta, and the high bonnet line, machine gun-like foglights and heavily raked windscreen enhance the radical image. Narrow headlights add further aggression, while the flared wheel arches and rising beltline give the car a well-planted look.

Ford has done a good job with the rear, too. The C-pillars and wraparound rear screen mesh together well, and the rear door-mounted spare wheel is well-integrated, keeping the EcoSport under four metres in length.

Stepping into the high cabin is quite easy and there’s plenty of legroom for tall drivers due to the higher seating position. Much of the car’s interior is familiar from the latest Fiesta, although it does feel slightly more airy in the front.

The rear doors are a little on the small side, so ingress isn’t quite as easy as it is into the front, but rear-seat passengers have sufficient legroom to be comfortable. There’s plenty of space for your feet under the front seats and while the seating position is a bit upright, comfort is pretty good. But this is still a compact SUV, so don’t expect acres of legroom or a particularly airy cabin. You sit higher than in the front seat, so visibility isn’t too bad, and you can adjust the backrestr.

Boot space is just 346 litres with the rear seats in position (they fold to offer 560 litres), which isn’t much more than some large hatches.

Our Brazilian-spec car was a petrol-powered 1.6-litre variant producing 113bhp and 115lb ft of torque. On motorways, there’s enough twist in the mid-range to get the 1243kg EcoSport moving quite effortlessly, and the motor pulls hard if you keep your foot down. Wind noise is well-contained, tyre roar is pretty subdued and the miles just fly by.

On the dips and rises of flowing country roads, the EcoSport just doesn’t roll like something with its belly floating 200mm above the asphalt should. As with the Fiesta, the steering is both light and feelsome and this, together with good body control and well-weighted brakes, makes this car a joy to drive, even at a slightly relaxed pace. The light but accurate gearbox is super-slick, and it doesn’t mind being hurried too much, either.

Push the EcoSport much harder and there’s no loss of composure, not much body roll and not too much dive from the suspension. The steering wheel communicates the fact that there’s plenty of grip to spare and encourages you to push on. It just feels a bit special.

On the way back to Sao Paulo, we get to experience the EcoSport in less extreme traffic over some bad roads with plenty of potholes and ridges, and the EcoSport’s sporty set-up felt too stiff here. While smaller bumps are absorbed with just a shimmy, larger craters register as thuds and upset the composure of the car.

Ford needs to find a compromise between comfort and grip to suit local conditions; the company usually does a stellar job so we assume it will get it right on the EcoSport, too.

The EcoSport has a lot going for it in these terms and if priced right in the Rs.6 lakh to Rs.8 lakh bracket, it won’t be a surprise if this can go on to become the most successful Ford to be sold in India.