Nothing better suggests the very concept and build of the newest Ford in India than the spanking EcoSport which is ready for a mid-June launch, more than a year and a half after we first saw a full size mock-up at the last Auto Expo. It hasn't always been to Ford's great strength in using its SUV-experience in the US to try and develop an SUV-ish vehicle for emerging markets and even though it did try once to come close with the Fusion, the smallish alter-hatch flattered only to be deceived on the pricing front. Mind you the Fusion was delightful but priced out of reach and this impacted and/or signified most moves Ford has made in India so far. But then this is not about Fusion or the past but about a new move forward and thus EcoSport.
First off the very basic aspect of the visual is the strong retention to the original concept and here Ford certainly has broken new ground for a car that has much riding on it. Never before did Ford ever launch an all-new car in India (well we could be forgiven for saying this but then this car is also made in Brazil) but this time round the timing and the basic proposition are spot-on, even though we do not as yet know the pricing. Additionally, the onus on the technology applied plus the all-new thought on downsized engines should pay off big (on operational costs) as well without skimping on the pleasure-to-drive aspect which is so fundamental whether it be an entry-level hatch or a big bore sports car!
It is a proven fact the world over that everyone and his or her grandmother aspires to drive and own an SUV. If that weren't so why would Chidambaram and his cabinet buddies impose a blatantly arrogant tax on cars which are ideal to traverse broken down roads which the very same bunch have apparently not mended? But this is not the time to digress and yes there did always exist a sweet spot for small compact automobiles which could have that high and wide go-anywhere stance with the exterior package being clothed in SUV-style sheet metal and yet drive like a front wheel drive hatchback.
If anything Premier Automobiles found this spot but the Rio hasn't exactly found the sweet bit as yet! And therein lies the gap between it on one hand and the Renault Duster on the other and one has to see how Ford positions the EcoSport in this band or beyond it (yes they can do it as they have demonstrated so ably to their chagrin in the past!). Price positioning on value will be key because that may make or break this model which has been hyped for so long.
While Ford can rest easy till it makes the big move on pricing, let us concentrate on the hardware at hand and what it feels like in its real world deliverance. Sub-4 metre is the small car holy grail, especially given the tax-inducement in India and Ford's designers have worked to this paradigm measurement with great success and also very well disguised excess. It is all about having the right proportions without being overly muscular in some places and looking awry and ungainly in others but credit the Ford designers for doing a fabulous job on the visual aspect.
Employing Ford's kinetic design philosophy, if ever a car screams go-anywhere so stylishly then it has to be the EcoSport. From its large Aston-clone grille dominating the front end to the excessively raked windscreen and sculpted sides plus that obviously wedgey glazed area culminating in a wrapped up rear windscreen, this is surely a finely turned out offering, stylish without being an overt dandy and looking substantial the way an SUV is perceived to be.
Add the short overhangs and plus the all-black wrapped around the car for the rest of the painted sheet metal to be based upon, the entire package looks appealingly strong. The wheel arches are finely pencilled as are the two character lines on the sides, with the headlamps and the tail lights being the front to end links for the crease at the waist line. To be true to the concept in so many ways when translated into series production is a commendable thing and Ford has done just that with the EcoSport.
Even with its high squat stance riding on ample 205/60 R16 tyres, the EcoSport means business but without sacrificing its aerodynamic efficiency. If anything the EcoSport shows the value of time spent doing ample CFD work and in the wind tunnel tweaking the exterior and also the underfloor area has resulted in it having one of the most finely tuned exteriors able to cut its way through the wind. An aerodynamic co-efficient of drag of just 0.371 marks the EcoSport as a most slippery performer, even though it might not appear overtly to be so!
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