Test Drive: 2019 Ford EcoSport SE

The subcompact Ford EcoSport hit the market last year as the smallest of Ford’s extensive crossover and SUV lineup, but it has been available in small car-friendly markets around the world for years now.

...there is a sprightliness to its personality that likes to peek over the edge every once in a while.

This gives the EcoSport a bit of a dated feel in some areas (mainly drivetrain and switchgear) than some truly newer competitors, but Ford has piled on some welcome features to help inject a modern feel inside. 

Styling 7.5

Clean and functional without the brute squarishness of more traditional crossover styling, the EcoSport blends its cheeky smallness with some outdoor-ready visual cues to make for an overall cleanly styled exterior. Our SE tester featured the smaller 16-inch wheels and tires that don’t fill the wheel wells as nicely as the 17-inch ones that come standard on the higher trim SES or top Titanium models, while the numbered entry pad under the driver’s door handle looks like it was stuck on after the fact – basically because it was, as it’s a dealer-installed accessory. It’s still useful, but not nicely integrated into the black B-pillar that’s available on the Escape or Edge, which disappears when not in use.

Safety 7.5

Ford goes heavy on the safety equipment with most of its larger SUVs, but at the opposite end of the price and size spectrum here, the EcoSport provides a healthy amount of safety equipment, but is missing some notable features compared to some of its small crossover rivals. Its standard anti-roll control goes over and above the stability control offered by rivals like the Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR, but not the emergency brake mitigation offered by all three of these competitors.

On the plus side for the EcoSport, there are rear parking sensors to help warn of objects behind you, plus convex spot mirrors to help do the same on the road, both of which are rare or unavailable at these mid-trim level price range. But it also doesn’t have the modern adaptive cruise control that the Toyota C-HR and HR-V both offer as well.

Practicality 7.5

There’s no getting around that the EcoSport is one of if not the shortest vehicle in this class, so that’ll limit both overall cargo room and – especially – rear legroom. But it’s relatively tall height means there’s plenty of headroom for taller drivers and passengers, and it offers all-wheel drive in SES and Titanium trim, which some entrants in this entry-level crossover class don’t offer (hello Kicks).

One of the most unique aspects of the EcoSport is that it’s rear hatch folds outward from the passenger side, away from the sidewalk in North America (typically), and not upwards. This avoids the head-banging danger on the rear hatch, but it can be confusing for new owners and passengers alike, as Ford has hidden away the latch for this rear swinging door just above the right rear taillight, with the most subtle of arrows pointing out its location under a chrome strip. That cargo area’s 591 L worth of room is larger than the sleekly styled Toyota C-HR, but smaller than most others.

User Friendliness 8

Once owners and significant others become accustomed to where that unusual rear hatch latch resides, there are still some issues from a user-friendliness perspective. The large outward swing of that rear cargo door is not ideal if you regularly load large items when parking on the street: someone who parks too close behind can mean items end up in the back seat.

From the driver’s seat, it’s easy to navigate the Sync 3 infotainment system’s stereo, phone and navigation functions, with better voice understanding capability than many vehicles on the market.

Features 7.5

The SE is the one up trim from the base S, adding automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, and a power moonroof. Our front-wheel drive tester came with the $1,750 Convenience package, which adds an ambient light feature that not only looks cool at night, but also allows you to choose from seven colours, a blind spot  warning system, a handy rear three-prong 110-volt outlet in the rear seat, and a 4G WiFi modem.

Outside of that keypad door lock, another dealer installed accessory that’s available is a remote start system. Strangely, one was listed on the price sheet of our car, for $520, but the key fob had a big blank space where a rear hatch release and/or a remote start function usually reside. I couldn’t get the remote function to work, but there was a continuous ‘Check Engine’ light that was on when we picked up the EcoSport that may or may not have been related, though it seems likely. After a quick light reset and check by a Ford dealer, the light came back on, but the car ran fine throughout my week with it.

Power 6

This is clearly not the Ford you buy for power, with the smallest displacement and cylinder count in the entire Ford lineup, and segment. That said, its 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque figures are lower than most rivals but still competitive, beating out older tech but notably larger engines such as the one in the Nissan Kicks. But it does have a rated towing capacity of 635 kg, allowing for some small trailers, unlike most small crossovers in the segment.

Comfort 7.5

The EcoSport doesn’t have the super-comfy minivan-like foldable armrests of the Nissan Kicks, but overall it’s a fairly comfortable daily commuter. It provides the driver a rather high-riding seat height for this class of crossover, but is still easy to climb in and out of – at least in front. The rear seat will be tight for most adults, and their comfort will depend much on the generosity of the person in front.

The fabric seats of this tester were not the widest or most plush in the business, but they did offer heat for both front occupants, with six-way power operation for the driver. Those seats transmitted a fair amount of rumbling and bumps, thanks to its short wheelbase, but overall noise isolation inside was actually quite good for this class.

Driving Feel 7

While power is not the EcoSport’s forte, there is a sprightliness to its personality that likes to peek over the edge every once in a while. It has a bounciness to the driving feel and ride that somehow makes it a touch more responsive than some rivals, if a bit less comfortable.

It’s certainly not quick in a straight line, no matter which engine you choose, and sadly there are no shift paddles or even a manual mode to the shift lever, which could help drivers call up whatever ponies are available to the barn door quicker than with a mere foot stomp. That’s unfortunate, as this trucklet has a 6-speed automatic transmission, unlike the continuously variable transmissions of most of its rivals.

Fuel Economy 7.5

With only three cylinders and a 1.0-litre engine, you’d think that fuel efficiency would be a slam dunk in the EcoSport. And while its official overall fuel consumption average of 8.4L/100 km is certainly admirable, in the real world of chilly early spring temperatures and in this case mostly urban driving, its observed average of 10.8L/100 km was on par with many larger and more powerful vehicles I’ve tested in similar conditions.

We’ve seen in other tests that the EcoSport can meet and sometimes even exceed its official fuel consumption averages, and not just when hypermiling along, so it’s worth noting its previous performances here in better weather.

Value 7.5

The EcoSport’s starting price of $20,849 for the bare bones S model seems very competitive in this large and growing market. But when looking at the $30,149 as tested price for this comfortably but not lavishly equipped model, and comparing similarly equipped rivals from Toyota, Honda and Nissan noted above, the EcoSport comes out roughly $2k-$4k pricier than the C-HR, HR-V and Kicks, respectively, at least when comparing official suggested retail prices.

It’s true that neither the C-HR nor the Kicks offer all-wheel drive, but that’s another $2,500 option on top of that already elevated price tag. At that point, a good set of winter or even all-weather tires seem worthy of consideration as a better safety investment than all-wheel drive.

Conclusion

Overall, the Ford EcoSport is a reasonably fuel efficient and roomy small crossover, but doesn’t shine brightly in this class of modern but often larger tall hatchbacks. Its ability to offer all-wheel drive is going to be a major plus for many crossover consumers, and if its cheeky style inside (especially at night) and out appeals, it’s certainly worth a test drive for further exploration.

2019 Ford EcoSport SE FWD
Engine Displacement: 1.0L
Engine Cylinders: I3 turbo
Peak Horsepower: 123 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 125 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 8.6/8.1/8.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 592/1,415 L seats down
articles_PricingType 2019 Ford EcoSport SE FWD
Base Price $25,349
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,790
Price as Tested $30,149
Optional Equipment $3,010 – Ruby Red paint - $390, SE Convenience package - $1,750 (Ambient light, Blind Spot Information System, Sync 3 w/Voice Activated Touchscreen Navi, SiriusXM Traffic, 4G WiFi Modem), Keypad door lock - $250, Remote start - $520
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.6
8 Styling
6 Powertrain
7 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
7 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value