The Ford EcoSport was one of the first models that started the trend of subcompact SUVs in India. After over four years in the Indian market, the SUV finally received its mid-cycle facelift about six months ago and it was a much-needed one especially to compete with players like the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Tata Nexon. Ford had to make the car smarter and even better, which it did, by offering new styling, improved interior, smarter features, and an all-new 1.5-litre petrol engine as well. Sadly though, Ford gave its much-loved and awarded 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine a skip, which was a surprise! But Ford India did not take long to answer prayers of the enthusiasts out there and relaunched the EcoBoost engine with a new top-of-the-line package - the Ford EcoSport S variant, earlier in May 2018. We got to drive the SUV on the outskirts of the EcoSport's home city Chennai and here are our first impressions.
Also Read: New 2017 Ford EcoSport Facelift Review
Now, the facelifted Ford EcoSport itself looks much better than the pre-facelift model, both on the outside as well as the inside. From there the company has just upped the ante with the EcoSport Titanium S variant. Being the new top-end model, Ford has taken all the features that are offered with the Titanium+ variant and has simply made them better. For instance, the S trim comes with dark, smoked exterior styling accentuated by the new black grille along with smoked HID projector headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lamps, the blacked-out roof and roof-rails, among others. One of the biggest exterior updates include the brand new 17-inch smoked alloy wheels which truly give the SUV a striking road presence. The rest of the exterior design elements remain largely similar to the standard Titanium+ model, especially the rear, which only sees the addition of a black spoiler instead of a body-coloured one.
Also Read: Ford EcoSport S: All You Need To Know
The same goes for the cabin as well, which now comes with a burst of orange styling elements for the dashboard, the centre console and all four of the door panels, in line with the new trend for the orange shade among automakers. The SUV also comes with new leather and fabric upholstery with vertical orange stripes and contrast orange stitching, which offers good thigh and lumbar support. As the feature list is carried over from the standard Titanium+ variant, the S trim also gets the same 8.0 inch, highly intuitive dash top touchscreen infotainment system that comes with Ford's SYNC3 in-car connectivity system along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The leather-wrapped steering wheel also comes with contrast orange stitching and with mounted controls for audio, Bluetooth, voice command and more. However, one of the biggest highlights of the new S trim's cabin is the new electric sunroof, which the company likes to call the "fun-roof", and the EcoSport is the only SUV to offer one as part of standard features. While the Tata Nexon does come with a sunroof, it's a mechanical unit and the company only offers it as part of their optional accessory package and not as a standard fitment even in the top-end model.
Additionally, the S trim also comes with an updated instrument cluster with chrome surrounds and tyre pressure monitoring system. There are metal foot pedals to add to that sporty feel. The EcoSport S is big on safety too and the SUV gets all the top feature like - six airbags (including front, side and curtain airbags), ABS with EBD, Ford MyKey for keyless entry, and reverse parking camera, as standard. The SUV also features traction control, electronic stability control, brake assist, and hill assist as part of the package.
As already mentioned, the EcoBoost engine is not new to the EcoSport and unlike its other powertrains, this one continues to be imported from Europe and Ford hasn't changed it a lot either. In fact, the three-cylinder turbocharged engine is still as peppy as ever and eager now, and a big credit for that goes to the brand new six-speed manual gearbox which replaced the previous 5-speed unit and currently offered only with the EcoBoost engine. With that one additional ratio on offer, the power delivery is much smoother now and you start to feel the surge as early as 3,000 rpm, while all the 123 horses come into action once the needle crosses the 6,000 rpm mark. The torque output also remains unchanged at 170 Nm, although, it kicks in as early as 2,000 rpm, and there is ample of it till you reach 4,500 rpm and the SUV also has a strong mid-range. The new gearbox is also quite responsive and shifts are quick and precise, having said that, you still have to work the gearbox a tad bit in order to extract the best performance from the car.
As for the ride and handling, the suspension on the EcoSport S is set slightly on the stiffer side to give the SUV that sporty feel, although not so much that it breaks your back every time you encounter the slightest undulations on the road. In fact, during our search for a scenic spot to shoot the car we had to drive the EcoSport through some pretty rough patches and broken roads and though the ride was quite bumpy, the SUV went through those rough roads nice and easy without breaking a sweat. Having said that, it's on the highways or the concrete roads, where the EcoSport S truly feels more at home. In fact, even when you chuck the SUV into a corner, it feels quite planted with minimal body roll. Even the NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels are quite controlled, which makes the cabin quite a pleasant place to be in and one of the reasons for it is the EcoBoost engine itself, which is essentially a quiet engine. However, if you listen carefully, at times you can hear the distinctive humming of the three-cylinder engine once you cross 3,500 rpm, but after a while, it doesn't really bother you that much.
Priced at ₹ 11.37 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new Ford EcoSport Titanium S variant, is about ₹ 1 lakh more expensive than the pre-facelift EcoBoost-powered variant, which used to be offered with the Titanium+ trim. At this price, it's not just one of the most expensive trims in the EcoSport line-up, but also the most expensive petrol-powered subcompact SUV in the market right now. Having said that, the EcoSport S variant is also undoubtedly one the most feature-rich and well-equipped SUVs in its segment and with the addition of the EcoBoost engine, it's right now also the most powerful sub-4 metre SUV out there. So does that justify the premium price tag? Well, that depends, if you are looking for a compact, yet powerful SUV that offers you all the comfort and safety features of a premium SUV, at a much lesser price, you can't really go wrong with the new EcoSport S. Also, for those who are interested in a diesel SUV, Ford offers the EcoSport Titanium S trim with the tried and tested 99 bhp, 1.5-litre diesel motor that powers the standard EcoSport models and it's priced in India at ₹ 11.89 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
Photos: Pawan Dagia