Does Ford get it right at last with EcoSport?

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FORD deserve some credit. Not for getting cars right the first time, but for persevering.

Let me explain. The EcoSport, when it first appeared in mid-2014, didn’t exactly cover itself in glory.

But Ford aren’t market leaders for nothing. They improved the cabin, removed the ugly spare wheel from the rear door and improved the ride and handling.

Hey presto! Suddenly EcoSport is a legitimate rival for Nissan Juke, Vauxhall Mokka, Peugeot 2008 and the rest of these big-selling mini-SUVs.

EcoSport is up against some pretty impressive rivals but it now has enough quality and drive appeal to sell a respectable number.

This car is built in Argentina and India and is designed as an affordable model for emerging markets which might explain its off-key start in the UK.

It is based on the Fiesta - which should augur well. Fiesta, after all, is possibly the most under-rated car on the road.

EcoSport costs from £14,245 which puts it right in the frame for people considering Juke and Mokka. The Ford version is slightly smaller than the Juke but comes well-equipped.

It’s a neat looking car and though its ride and handling isn’t quite up to its rivals standards, it isn’t far off.

Ford have made two important improvements though. They have now launched a highly-equipped Titanium level model which is very well equipped and just what people seeking a premium mini-SUV are seeking. Standard kit includes climate control, alloy wheels, stability control and electric windows front and rear.

Extra cost options on this model include parking sensors (£210) and a winter pack (£230) which comprises heated seats, Quickclear windscreen and heated mirrors. It means the test model costs £16,445.

But the key to this model’s success will, I believe, be the engine. It’s Ford’s three-cylinder 999cc unit which has won the international engine of the year award for three years in succession. This is the first mini-SUV to be offered with such a compact engine.

It is a mighty little engine which delivers great economy and impressive performance. It manages 60mph in 12.7 seconds and returns more than 60mpg on a run.

Inside, the cabin is OK. Not as flash as Mokka or a Juke, but reasonably good. The car is pretty spacious and holds 333 litres in the boot rising to 1,238 litres with the seats down, which is decent.

It’s also a pretty hi-tech car, too. EcoSport is among the first Ford vehicles in Europe to be equipped with Ford SYNC with AppLink for voice control of smartphone apps including Spotify.

Clever and connected, say Ford.

EcoSport is the first Ford global model to be developed entirely in South America. First introduced in 2003 the EcoSport created the segment in Brazil and has since sold more than 770,000 in the region.

Ford engineers and designers from more than 16 countries worked together to develop the all-new EcoSport that was launched amid increasing demand for SUVs in Europe. Ford projects that between 2013 and 2018, sales of all SUVs in Europe will increase by 22 per cent, and sales of small SUVs – like EcoSport – will increase by 90 per cent.

The new Ford EcoSport has been awarded a four-star safety rating from independent vehicle safety organisation Euro NCAP, and is equipped with driver, passenger, curtain and side airbags – as well as a driver’s knee airbag – as standard.

Super-high-strength steel has been used in the door frames to provide a high strength safety cell; and further safety systems include: Traction Control, Electronic Stability Program, Anti-Lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist; and the EcoSport is also equipped with Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and Passenger Airbag Deactivation Indicator.

Ford EcoSport Titanium 1.0 EcoBoost five-speed manual

PRICE: £16,455. Range starts at £14,245

ENGINE: a 999cc three cylinder unit generating 125bhp

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 112mph and 0 to 60mph in 12.7 seconds

COSTS: Town 42.8mpg; country 60.1mpg; combined 53.3mpg

INSURANCE: Group 11E

EMISSIONS: 125g/km

WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles

Pub review: The Head of Steam, Mill Hill, Leeds