Ford EcoSport: Another look at how it stands up against competitors [Retake]

    2018 Ford EcoSport (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

    I first drove the 2018 Ford EcoSport back in the spring, and I liked it. But then I had the opportunity to drive the Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR, and I started to think that maybe the EcoSport wasn’t as nice as I had remembered.

    My recent second take of the EcoSport, with the upgraded engine, reminded me that there’s a lot to like here, but the Kicks still wins the day with more up-level amenities and a more polished look for a lot less money.

    What the EcoSport has going for it over the Kicks, though, is the available four-wheel drive and up-level engine.

    Curiously, you can’t get the up-level engine without 4WD. The nice thing, however, is this engine/4WD combo is available starting at the base trim. It’s standard at the top-tier SES trim.

    The base engine is a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine that has a surprising amount of pep for 123 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. As I mentioned in my previous review, I’d have no problem recommending this engine.

    That being said, I liked the up-level 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine better. It delivers 166 horsepower and 149 pound-feet of torque, and it manages to be quick off-the-line for aggressive left turns into traffic. While highway passing or merges are still a bit slow, I found using the paddle shifters helps the vehicle make more aggressive maneuvers swiftly.

    The EcoSport is also excellent in urban situations whether you have to wend your way through tight parking garages or parallel park on crowded streets. Visibility out all windows is excellent, and with the height adjustable driver’s seat, even petite drivers can get a primo driving position.

    I’m still not a fan of the rear door that swings out instead of up. If you’ve backed into a garage or are parallel parked on a street, you won’t be able to open the door wide enough to make it usable.

    However, after spending a week in a suburban location with my parents, who have alternately needed to load a wheelchair or a walker in the back of a vehicle, this actually makes a lot of sense with a nice wide opening. There are no worries about hitting your head on the door and no need to stretch on tippy toes to shut the door.

    I like the petite size of the EcoSport, but the overall design is a bit blah. It looks like an Escape (which also has lackluster styling) squished into the frame of a compact SUV. The interior is fine, but it’s more in the functional than attractive category.

    And this is where a vehicle such as the Kicks (or Kona or C-HR) wins. With attractive interior and exterior styling and a price that tops out around $22K.

    The EcoSport trims and pricing are as follows:

    S ($20,990): This trim comes standard with remote keyless access, 16-inch alloy wheels, Sync with a 4.2-inch display, rear-view camera and 2 smart-charging USB ports. This is the only trim that offers an available full-size spare that will be mounted to the rear tailgate.

    SE ($23,991): While omitting a full-size spare, this trim adds features such as a moonroof, heated front seats, 6-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, reverse sensing system, Sync3 with a 6.5-inch touch screen, SiriusXM radio, passive entry and push-buttons start.

    Titanium ($26,874): This trim has all the features of the SE model and adds the 8-inch touch screen, navigation, 17-inch wheels, Sync Connect, a 10-speaker Harmon B&O Play audio system, leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, HD radio and heated side mirrors.

    SES ($27,874): This highest-priced trim comes standard with the 2.0-liter engine and AWD. It has all the features included with the SE trim and it adds a sport-tuned suspension, distinctive grille, blind-spot monitoring, a 7-speaker audio system.

    The tester this time around was an SES model, and with the added cold weather package and up-level wheels, had a price of $28,845.

    The Bottom Line:

    I like the EcoSport for its petite size and peppy off-the-line starts, which make it an excellent urban vehicle. Living in a Northern clime, I also appreciate the fact that it has available 4WD.

    But I am not a fan of the styling or the fact this entry-level SUV tops out around $30K.

    I do still think it’s a viable option in the compact SUV segment, and if you are looking at Kicks, Kona or C-HR, it’s worth a look-see – especially if you want 4WD. Of this bunch, the only other one that makes this available is the Kona.

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