Arriving on location, with a blip of the key, I see the New Ford EcoSport unfold its automatic power fold mirrors as the HiD headlights flash to beckon me forwards towards this newly chiselled gunmetal exterior; full of lines and angles of a serious SUV like the Edge.
As I'm walking closer however, it's apparent I won't be needing a stepladder to climb into it, nor a wingman to navigate me out the parking lot. This newly rugged, adventurous exterior, remains on a manageable chassis with tight turning circles and a larger 52L fuel tank to ensure long-lasting adventures.
Admiring the ST-Line badge as I opened the surprisingly light driver's door, I was greeted with a plethora of new technology, buttons, lights and some red highlights in the stitching from what looked like a seat full of cushions.
Stepping in over the ST-Line boot guard plates (just in case I forgot the ST heritage) I felt comfortably held as I searched for the heated seat button to escape the outside cold as I pulled the door to a comforting click, close and could explore the expansive interior.
With the key placed in one of the many central compartments, a satisfying push to fire the 140PS EcoBoost into life and tap, tap, tap the heated seat was up to full power, a sudden blanket of warmth. With the interior lighting now highlighting my options I was easily spinning dials for temperature, noticing the Auto Start Stop, Traction Control and Parking Sensors with double USB slots above the standard 12v socket. With so much in one place it appeared this could be a problem trying to get to what you wanted, but quite instantly I could see the button I wanted from my seating position and could reach everything I needed with one finger.
Plugging in and placing my phone in the handy compartment in the central console (despite my rather large cabling), up popped the Android Auto notification to install and set-up everything from hands-free calling and SMS support to app sync finding my recent Spotify playlists and Google maps with Google's assistant ready to help.
Instantly the 8" touchscreen was captivating; bright, clear and colourful, I was ready for my adventure. In a surprisingly useful location I wouldn't be stretching across the car to adjust the radio or select the surround sound of the B&OPLAY and whack up the bass from 675w. Instead I was mesmerised by the sensor display warning me that the bush ahead was getting a bit too close for comfort.
With my playlist set, speakers tuned for optimum 360° low bass and heated steering wheel getting some feeling back in my hands; it was time to hit the road. A quick stop in a local Tesco, and the car really stood out here amongst the crowd. Pro Tip - A heated passenger seat can also keep your lunch warm. Or a Pizza collection.
Featuring the 140PS EcoBoost 1.0L engine, performance was surprisingly spritely. Generally you see 1.0L engines in the basic range with around 60 - 80hp, or at least you used to. Now with boost being fully utilised a turbo can fill the gaps of a small engine; with an energetic torquey response and spool of the turbo the car burst into life as it set on it's first few miles.
It's fair to mention at this point that the Intelligent All-Wheel Drive new 1.5 EcoBlue does offer faster acceleration and a stronger pull from 50 - 70mph, which is very exciting from an economical diesel achieving around 62mpg. Once we can test out the EcoBlue, we'll be eager to share our experiences of how a whole new drivetrain can shape the feeling of the New EcoSport, on and off road.
Driving around town, circling our many roundabouts and navigating the small city streets through traffic lights and around busses; this small SUV really came to life. Steering felt tight and although it is quite evident from the high driving position and supple suspension that you are in a larger car, the responsiveness of steering felt the classic directness of the small nimble fiesta. This provided a lovely cushioning to any pot holes or bumps and an impeccably comfortable journey - in fact I remember driving along these routes before where most roads have some form of tree root growing across them, and natural debris will litter the roads. But in this SUV I don't recall being disturbed from singing along to Wonderwall by a single harsh bump or road noise. If you're looking for comfort, look no further, this could be your new man-cave / woman-cave.
Escaping the busy town and eager eyes of locals on their morning walk, we found ourselves facing the sea. With a gorgeous view from the over-cliff of the sea and sun rippling across the windswept waves. This was what this car was meant for, it felt right to be here experiencing the sun beam through the overcast day as we pulled effortlessly over the curb to enjoy the view.
Fighting the urge to drive down to the seafront and tackle some sunny dunes, which really seemed what the New EcoSport wanted me to do - a real beach car. We stopped to take in the views and of course get some rare photos in (a clear sunny day in December).
A new one for me was a side opening tailgate; after fondling the reversing camera for an open button I quickly realised the hidden latch in the lighting array, a quite ingenious placement and stylishly hidden. Pulling the door as the wind swept up, I was impressed by the strength of the slow release door piston fighting the cross winds and holding half way where I left it.
No accidental sudden door swings into traffic or the trolley in a car park, I really appreciated this feature as I was gathering valuable photographic equipment and juggling lenses from the flat load boot. With 3 adjustable levels, you can add more space if needs be for taller items. But for ease of use having everything you need sitting flush in front of you, it was like having an outside desk. Safe from wind and a nice height for easy sitting and retrieving items - such a simple feature was ever so practical and useful. Surprisingly so, until you experience it for yourself.
As the light started to fade, and the sea breeze became ever more hostile, it was time to get back on the road before the traffic had us marooned on the motorways. However, as was the theme with the New EcoSport, every chance it got it was looking for something more than linear roads. As we passed through the territory of the New Forest, well-known for beautiful landscapes and woodland routes, I found myself automatically turning into a lay-by as I looked up at the crimson skies over the vast canvasing landscape and felt the pull of the New EcoSport to explore.
Now remember we are not in an AWD version of the EcoSport so in theory traversing gravelly and muddy terrain shouldn't be easy. However, this is a very capable car; with a 20cm ground clearance, central reinforcing bar and wide entrance and exit angles to obstacles, we hoped over the grassy knoll down the slope (the brakes worked well here to keep the car stable) and spun round to observe the hilly landscape we had just conquered. Looking back up at what we had just climbed, following the tracks up the hill, it was equally surprising and invigorating to experience what this car could do.
As we left nature, nature found us.
Pulling away from our off-roading adventure gave the New EcoSport a chance to put some power down along the quiet country road, until suddenly, a rogue horse! Just to the side of the road were a group of horses roaming the wilderness covering the entrance to a secret woodland walkway. Unable to pass up the opportunity to explore, again we were off road on dirt tracks and in the thick of nature.
Parking up I was suddenly in a conversation with a local farmer who was keen to learn about the New Ford EcoSport, surprised by its new styling and apparent versatility and informing me of the crowd gathering behind.
Turning around I found these two new friends inspecting the car, checking their reflection in the large side mirrors and giving it the occasional lick or two, hopefully it tastes as good as it looks.
And at this point it was apparent I wasn't going anywhere fast. As I tried to grab some final shots of the day, a large white horse I had at this point named Shadowfax (Gandalf's white steed) was now watching my every move and seemed keen to get in the boot and come back to SMC Fordstore Crayford. He still seemed to not understand how Ford had managed to get 138 horses under the bonnet, he couldn't see a-neigh...
Finally escaping our four legged friends, it was now essentially dusk as I clicked my final seat-belt of Ford's New EcoSport as the automatic HiD lights adjusted their beams to highlight the main road off our dirt path and on our way to SMC Ford Crayford.
Promptly turning on the heated seating and heated steering wheel, finding an optimum climate from the (now glowing) temperature dial display and swiping across the 8" touchscreen. I was ready, now basking in some red interior lighting to get back to my surround sound singalong for the journey home, courtesy of Bang and Olufsen and my phone's Spotify still paused and waiting.
Something the EcoSport really excelled at was proving a wide array of viewing angles. When approaching traffic I was able to see long distances ahead, the distance between cars around me and that space opening on my right to avoid the middle lane hogs. I felt high up enough to oversee everyone around me and predict any stupid moves. And when I couldn't, BLIS really stepped in here, proving real life use as cars darted on my inside or attempted an overtake. A little flash of the orange dot and peripherally I was aware of the cars in my blind spots. The substantially tall and wide wing mirrors allowed me to see, everything, that was happening around me, really creating a feeling of confidence on the road and of the car.
I won't bore you with the details of how much traffic decided to the flood the M25 and Dartford that day, but luckily with some intense following of the navigation system and SYNC 3, Google soon re-routed me to safety and ready for our filming.
One final thought went to the incredibly useful parking sensors, both front and rear. Whether parking into a car park bay or as previously mentioned, avoiding the rogue bushes and cars in tight country lanes and town streets; the touchscreen was immensely useful at displaying the quick radar of surrounding obstacles.
Instantly switching to the camera with excellent night vision when in reverse, the screen was clear and bright and allowed for easily reverse manoeuvres. And when navigating through wall to wall parked car roads and funnelling roads, the front sensors were quick to warn of my dimensions either side with an easy to see colour coded radar system - perfect for squeezing through otherwise seemingly risky gaps.
This reviewer spent 8 hours both on and off-road with the New Ford EcoSport driving the ST-Line 140PS from Poole to Crayford on motorways and through tight country roads mostly trying to avoid traffiic. A self-proclaimed audiofile and overall technology nerd the sound system was tested with high quality audio tracks and the central touchscreen with SYNC 3 was tested with a Google Pixel android phone using Android Auto and bluetooth functionality. Additional sat nav and traffic notification devices were used for comparison to SYNC 3. There were no additional passengers on board, (including horses) as they would've probably moaned about the volume of music anyway. As a daily driver of a highly torquey diesel and experienced with primarily small underpowered cars but also a variety of vehicles (not just on Forza); comparisons were positive to these experiences and other small engined cars. A direct comparison was noticed to a V6 Jeep Wrangler Unlmt. Feeling like a 1/3 size version with the same road handling stability and spritely acceleration, despite the smaller engine. The car was driven with a full tank of 52 litres of Shell Vpower.