Ford EcoSport Titanium Ecoboost

IN the mountains above Barcelona on the recent launch of the Ford EcoSport SUV the weather did its best to mimic the conditions we might normally expect to find in the UK.

Ford EcoSport Titanium Ecoboost

Engine: 999cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged

Power: 125bhp and 125lb.ft. of torque

Performance: 0-62mph in 12.7 seconds and 112mph

Economy: 53.3mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Price: £15,995

As we rounded another hairpin bend to climb higher into the craggy, alien-looking landscape that is the Montserrat National Park we were engulfed by an icy mist that completed a journey from 15 deg C to -1 deg C.

Windows misted up with the dramatic change in temperature outside and I was put on my guard as patches of ice threatened to take us closer to plummeting drops beyond the road’s edge.

What brings me here? The launch of Ford’s new EcoSport small SUV which is due to hit UK showrooms in the spring.

It is a car that might feel a little out of place. Not because, despite boasting some butch-looking bodywork and a lofty ride height, it comes without any 4x4 option, but because it was never really meant to land on European tarmac at all.

Designed and built in Brazil the EcoSport has been available elsewhere in the world for a decade and is the blue oval’s biggest selling model in a handful of South American countries.

Now Indian-built EcoSport’s are being brought to Europe as Ford move to exploit the small SUV market exploding with the likes of the Nissan Juke, the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.

Improved interior quality is one of the main distinguishable changes made to satisfy the European market.

The interiors of the cars on the Catalonian launch were not in their final specification, so it was a case of casting an eye over a UK-spec car in our hotel lobby to determine how things might eventually feel.

Fiesta drivers will themselves in familiar surroundings, that angular array of air vents and buttons that look like a Klingon’s forehead... Maybe that’s just me, though.

A dot-matrix display for Sync, Ford’s voice activated entertainment system, looks cruder than the TFT colour displays in other Fords but will boast AppLink when the EcoSport goes on sale.

AppLink will allow a driver to access various on-line facilities available on their smart phone, such as Spotify, via spoken commands, but is still under final development.

EcoSports will only be available in well-specced Titanium and Titanium X guise initially, with prices starting from £14,995. Standard kit includes silver roof rails, 16 inch alloys and keyless entry and starting.

Titanium X adds 17 inch alloys, full leather trim and cruise control for an extra £1,000.

Generally the EcoSport's interior quality felt a little lower than the rest of Ford’s current crop but proved free from squeaks and rattles.

Interior space is class-leading, with a 333-litre boot, ample rear leg room for two large adults and headroom for passengers well over 6ft tall.

Three powerplants will be available from launch, a 123bhp version of Ford’s award-winning one-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, an 89bhp 1.5-litre TDCi turbodiesel and a 110bhp 1.5-litre Duratec petrol engine which was not available to drive at the launch event but is the only engine available in conjunction with an automatic gearbox.

On the billiard table-smooth Catalonian roads it was hard to properly assess how the EcoSport will handle the broken tarmac of UK roads.

As things got very twisty on the mountain roads there was somebody roll but the EcoSport tucked into corners neatly in response to confident steering inputs.

The little diesel engine was refined at low revs but ran out of puff at motorway speeds where its soundtrack rose to a more rattly peak.

Rather disappointing 51mph fuel economy figure and 120g/km CO2 emissions score will do little to broaden its appeal.

Setting aside some reservations about the even smaller EcoBoost petrol engine’s ability to return its 53mpg claimed fuel economy the perky turbocharged petrol engine feels like the engine of choice.

Keen to rev, it is also great fun and provides a decent turn of pace in the compact EcoSport, despite Ford’s claims of a tardy 12.7 second sprint to 62mph and 112mph top speed.

With CO2 emissions of 125g/km it just slips into the road tax band above the TDCi unit, meaning a £105 annual bill as opposed to £30.

Style is key in the small SUV sector — which targets aspirational young families, apparently — and the EcoSport is the most conventionally rugged-looking of the new breed, a full-sized spare wheel strapped to the side-opening rear tailgate, like a mid-nineties Suzuki Vitara.

A gaping grille dominates the front end of a shape which, overall, evoques appealing Tonka truck references.

Initially Ford intends to bring 4,000 EcoSports to the UK per year. The rate of growth in the small SUV market ensures that that is a conservative figure.

The Peugeot 2008’s interior quality, the attractive styling of Renault’s Captur and the burgeoning pace of sales set by the big-selling Nissan Juke all leave Ford with some ground to make up.

For now, it looks like a product for those searching for the most commodious vehicle among motoring’s newest battle ground.