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Slot This Small SUV: Ford EcoSport

Few manufacturers have embraced SUVs to the extent that Ford has, with this brand offering six models ranging from the compact Escape to the burly Expedition. What Ford doesn’t have is a subcompact SUV to slot beneath the Escape, though the Ford EcoSport could fill that niche within the U.S. market.

Honda, Jeep, Mazda, Chevrolet and Fiat have added new subcompact SUVs recently that joined the already present Nissan Juke and Subaru Crosstrek. Soon, new subcompact crossovers from Toyota, Hyundai and Kia will also join the segment. Clearly, Ford is missing out on a segment where base models start around $20,000 and reach $25,000 for fully loaded, all-wheel drive versions.

Ford EcoSport History

The Ford EcoSport isn’t a new model, at least not the one currently on the market and serving customers primarily in Brazil and India. Like other models in this segment, front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available.

Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)
Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)

Now in its second generation, the original EcoSport was built from 2004 to 2012 and sold in emerging markets, such as Mexico and Brazil. The second-generation model has been out since 2013 and is based on the platform that underpins the Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback. Ford now offers the EcoSport in more markets, including Europe.

The Camouflaged Ford EcoSport

Spy photos of a camouflaged SUV undergoing testing near Ford’s headquarters in Michigan suggest an all-new model, perhaps one representing the third-generation EcoSport for some markets, while serving as the initial model for the U.S. and Canada. Its silhouette  shows a full-size spare resting on the SUV’s liftgate, but that feature is likely to change when a production version is unveiled in the U.S.

So, what might the new model look like when it debuts? That answer may come by peering immediately south of our border to Mexico, where the EcoSport is currently part of the product line. The first two EcoSport generations are based on similar footprints (166.5 v. 167.1 inches bumper to bumper) and competitors like the Jeep Renegade are comparably sized. If a U.S. model maintains those dimensions, it would be roughly a foot shorter than the Ford Escape.

The current version of the EcoSport seats five, though like other models in the segment (including the Honda HR-V, Fiat 500X and Mazda CX-3) space for four individuals is the ideal.

Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)
Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)

Under the hood, the Mexican market model is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. In India, both 1.5-liter diesel and gasoline engines are available and come paired with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The Indian market also supports a 1.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, but don’t count on seeing that one in North America as long as fuel prices remain low.

2018 Model Year Arrival Date

There are a few features of note in the current EcoSport we’d love to see applied to the new model. To begin, keyless entry and push-button start are almost universally used these days, although base trim levels of most mainstream models typically maintain keyed ignition. Offering this feature across the entire model line would be great. A standout component we’d love to see carried over is the SUV’s nifty glove box, which has been designed to keep up to six drinks cold. Why lug a cooler with you when you can access your favorite sport drinks straight from the glove box?

Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)
Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)

The automotive research group Autodata Corp. pins a late 2017 arrival date for the Ford EcoSport, which would likely be introduced as a 2018 model. That means the new model will offer SYNC 3, the latest and best iteration of Ford’s infotainment system. SYNC 3 with MyFord Touch has been receiving positive reviews for its updated features, hardware and software, which include improved maps, tablet-like icons, seamless Siri integration and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Wish List Favorites

One wish list feature would be a seating system design that matches the utility of the Honda HR-V. The little Honda’s “Magic Seat” is a segment favorite as it maximizes utility to carry large items within the cabin. Given that the segment’s target demographic includes first-time new car shoppers and young families, manufacturers supplying the best blend of technology with utility will likely come out on top.

Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)
Ford EcoSport (The Ford Motor Company)

Ford might also do well to consider an all-terrain version that’s suited to take on the Jeep Renegade. Although those features may be planned for the upcoming Ford Bronco, we can’t see Ford surrendering customers to Jeep without a fight. Besides, with the glowing reception of Kia’s all-terrain Trail’ster concept, other manufacturers would do well to follow.

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