The big news in SUVs these days is actually pretty small. After years of wondering when Ford would join the subcompact SUV fray in the U.S. with its EcoSport global subcompact utility vehicle, we now have our answer courtesy the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show: early 2018. That’s when this newly refreshed cute SUV arrives on our shores.
And it really is cute. It’s got the Ford family front end, but it’s on a scale not normally seen from the automaker. Standing next to the EcoSport, you realize just how tiny it is on the outside, with its low beltline and big windows helping to create some interesting proportions. You can see why it’s been one of Ford’s best sellers globally, especially in developing countries with tight urban environments. It’s not going to be difficult to park this thing anywhere in a big city.
It’s fitting that the model on display is painted a kind of Tardis blue — just like Dr. Who’s mode of transportation, it certainly feels bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. The front seats have plenty of room, with ample legroom and headroom, and excellent outward visibility. Width is a little on the narrow side, but this is a subcompact SUV made primarily for foreign markets where lane widths aren’t as ample as they are here. The backseat is comfortable as well, but the Titanium trim’s moonroof eats into headroom a tad. Legroom is tight in back unless front seat occupants sacrifice a little of theirs to allow the backseaters some comfort.
Material quality in the EcoSport is typically Ford, with soft-touch materials, slick switchgear and bright LEDs to give a surprisingly upscale appearance to the Titanium; we’ll see how well the base S trim stacks up when it’s launched, however. The 8-inch touchscreen has Ford’s excellent Sync 3 system, which continues to impress with its ease of use and clarity of information. It’s a nice interior for sure, certainly a step up from a Chevrolet Trax or Honda HR-V and even nicer in some ways than the Buick Encore.
The cargo area is versatile as well, with a decent amount of space behind the rear seats for a few parcels. Drop the rear seats and you can fit some larger items in the cargo area enough for most people’s daily use but stuffing a 60-inch flatscreen TV in there might stretch the EcoSport’s utility. The side-opening swing gate isn’t really much of a benefit, especially if you’re in a congested urban environment, where people will park inches from your rear bumper. A more conventional hatchback tailgate might have been a better idea.
Overall, the new EcoSport should find some willing buyers when it hits showrooms more than a year from now. The turbocharged 1.0-liter engine is a fantastic little motor in the Fiesta and Focus, and if the so-equipped EcoSport is as much fun to drive as those models, it should be a winner for Ford in the U.S.