If you haven't heard the news, Ford's pretty much done with cars. Besides the Mustang, everything Ford produces will be a high-riding SUV or truck. Say your goodbyes to the Focus and Fiesta, because the EcoSport is set to become the entry point of the Ford lineup.
With a starting price of $19,995 and an as-tested MSRP of $28,235, it'll raise the cost of entry to the Ford club significantly over the Fiesta's $14,205 fee. I spent a week with one, and while it's impressive in its driving dynamics and easy to live with, it's hard to make a case for spending nearly $30,000 on the EcoSport.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the EcoSport is the way it drives. Part of the reason that car enthusiasts rail against the onslaught of crossovers is that they tend to be less fun to drive than their sedan counterparts. Higher ride heights, heavier curb weights and softer suspension tends to spoil any driving pleasure.
Not so in the EcoSport, where the handling may even eclipse the non-performance trim Ford Focuses. Its tiny wheelbase makes it laughably chuckable, with surprisingly communicative steering that invites you to push it. Don't get any grand delusions about this being a performance car, but know that it's a more fun option in the mainstream space.
Plus, I didn't think the ride and refinement suffered much as a result of this fun focus. The EcoSport can certainly be bumpy at times — small wheelbases make that a near certainty for the class — but it keeps its body motions in check. Noise levels were about what you'd expect for the class. You can find more luxurious compact crossovers, but the EcoSport isn't far off the mark in terms of manners.
Interior wise, credit goes once again to Ford's fantastic Sync infotainment system. While there are a few multimedia options that I don't mind using, Sync may be the only one that I genuinely enjoy fiddling with. Bright, smooth animations and an easy layout makes this system far more enjoyable than just about any other option on the market.
Which ties in to the greater theme of the EcoSport's interior: usability. Everything is within easy reach, with real buttons for the essentials and an all-star infotainment system for the rest. The design of it is seriously modest, but attractive nonetheless.
Most of the materials are hard plastics, so any touching reveals the dated roots of the EcoSport, a car that's existed elsewhere since 2012. While other manufacturers go to tremendous efforts to cover up the cheap plastics necessary for this bargain segment, Ford's are in plain sight.
Plus, you're never far from having to touch something. The EcoSport is a small crossover, even for the fun-size class. To keep cargo space class-competitive, Ford seems to have cut into the passenger room of the second row. Don't plan any road trips with four adults. It's cramped.
The powertrain also feels like a compromise. There's a three-cylinder option that comes with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel-drive models like my tester get a 2.0-liter four cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. There's 166 horsepower on tap, which can't quite provide the motivation this crossover needs. Merges are a foot-to-the-floor affair and the engine will communicate its complaints rather loudly.
Finally, price. The $28,235 asking price of this tester is a non-starter. While it had a nice audio system and good infotainment, it lacked any active safety systems like automatic collision avoidance or lane-keeping assist. In fact, no EcoSport offers that technology. There's no head-up display, cooled seats, panoramic sunroof or anything else that would help justify 30 large for a subcompact crossover.
The subcompact crossover space is still growing and developing. I haven't tested any all-star in the class. In my Mazda CX-3 review, I recommended simply opting for the company's compact hatch that offered more value and technology without any real compromises.
And that's how I feel about the Ford, too. If you're completely sold on the benefits of the EcoSport, you can get a Focus before it goes away. If you're dead-set on an SUV, $28,235 will get you into a decently-optioned compact crossover like the Toyota Rav4 or Honda CR-V. You could opt for a cheaper EcoSport, but removing the tech and stepping down in power will only make it less desirable. As a result, I don't recommend it.
Interior: 3 stars
Exterior: 2.5 stars
Driving Experience: 3.5 stars
Value: 1.5 stars
Overall: 2.5 stars
Price as configured: $28,235