Preview: 2018 Ford EcoSport

The Ford EcoSport has been unveiled two days before the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show under the pulsing stage lights and booming beats of DJ Khaled at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. The festive mood and focus on all things small reflects Ford’s ambitious plan to have its newest, and smallest crossover SUV appeal to both the youngest buyers in the showroom as well as a fair portion of the oldest.

This “leave the middle out” approach reflects one of the surprising truths about subcompact ’utes: while they are often priced affordably enough to tempt those seeking out their first car, they also offer the kind of practicality and form-factor that appeals to empty-nesters or the recently retired. It also shows that Ford understands it was missing a pair of key demographics with its current list of offerings, as the next-size-up Escape was simply too large to realistically snatch eyes away from smaller fare such as the Jeep Renegade, the Mazda CX-4, and the Honda HR-V.

The Ford EcoSport is actually a fairly venerable platform, having been in the Blue Oval family for well over a decade. A hit overseas, where the brand claims it is the world’s bestselling small SUV, the EcoSport is built in India, and it will continue to be constructed there for import to Canada and the United States. Of course, a number of details have been updated for North American audiences, including distinctive styling and a host of equipment changes. Four trims will be offered: S, SE, SES, and Titanium, in line with Ford’s current features strategy.

Inside, the EcoSport boasts four passenger seats, a reasonable amount of cargo space with the second row folded forward, and a level of connectivity and tech (including SYNC 3, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto) that should reflect what is currently available in smaller Ford vehicles like the Fiesta. Ford is also proud about the Bang & Olufsen audio system – or should we say Samsung, after the recent acquisition? – that the SUV will boast.

Drivetrains have also been tuned to a different standard. Although no details have been provided in terms of power or fuel efficiency, we do know that the EcoSport will be offered in both turbocharged 1.0L three-cylinder as well as naturally aspirated 2.0L four-cylinder versions, with the latter featuring available all-wheel drive. Both are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. The smaller of those two engines currently makes 123 horses and 148 lb-ft of twist in the Ford Focus sedan, while the 2.0L is good for 160 ponies.

Why all the secrecy on power and frugality? We’re still quite a ways away from the Ford EcoSport actually going on sale – in fact, the subcompact SUV won’t make it to market until the first quarter of 2018. That leaves plenty of time for Ford to get the EcoSport through all of the requisite regulatory hoops before signing off on final specs.

Ford targets a 2018 launch for its first subcompact SUV 11/15/2016 6:28:00 AM