The 2018 Ford EcoSport expands the Blue Oval’s crossover portfolio into the subcompact territory. The company is really playing catch-up, since other major manufacturers have already had their contenders on the market for years in some cases. This class of vehicle is gaining in popularity. Americans will buy small cars, it seems, as long as they look like SUVs.
The EcoSport is based on the Fiesta, so there are at least two things we can take for granted. The handling is better than it needs to be, and the engines are lackluster. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the EcoSport is just a placeholder, a toehold in the market, until Ford comes up with something more modern.
What’s New for 2018?
As far as the United States is concerned, the EcoSport is completely new. But this generation (the second) has been on sale in other parts of the world since 2012.
What We Like
Fiesta-derived handling; easy to park; availability of all-wheel drive
What We Don’t
An older vehicle masquerading as a new one; not particularly impressive fuel economy; some driver-assistance features like forward-collision mitigation are not available; underpowered engines
Front-wheel-drive versions of the EcoSport have a turbocharged 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine making 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. This pairs up with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts fuel consumption at 27 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving.
All-wheel-drive versions keep the same transmission, but use a naturally aspirated (nonturbo) 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine for 166 hp and 149 lb-ft. EPA estimates are 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.
Both engines have an automatic stop/start setting to help save a little fuel while waiting at the lights.
Standard Features and Options
The 2018 Ford EcoSport is available in S, SE, Titanium and SES trim levels.
The S ($20,990) sets out with 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, tilt-telescopic steering column adjustment, cloth upholstery, a 4.2-in infotainment screen, a rearview camera, an AM/FM radio, an MP3 player, two 12-volt outlets and two USB ports.
The SE ($23,995) adds keyless entry/ignition, roof rails, a powered sunroof with shade, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, rear parking sensors, Sync 3 infotainment system with a 6.5-in touchscreen, satellite radio, AppLink, 911Assist and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration.
The SE is eligible for a Convenience package that includes a voice-controlled navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, Wi-Fi, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, ambient cabin lighting and a 110-volt outlet. SE models can also come with 17-in alloy wheels.
The Titanium ($26,875) has those SE options as standard, then adds leather seating surfaces, rain-sensing wipers, a self-dimming rearview mirror and a 10-speaker 675-watt B&O Harman upgraded sound system.
The SES ($27,875) is the version with the 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel drive as standard (they’re available as options on the other trim levels for $1,595). It’s stocked similarly to the Titanium trim, but doesn’t have the leather or the upgraded stereo. However, it compensates with a sportier suspension setup and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the transmission.
A Cold Weather package (available for SE trim and up) brings heat to the steering wheel and side mirrors.
Conveniently, the tailgate is hinged on the left side, so there’s no stretching and pulling required to close it. When opened, it reveals a maximum cargo area of 50 cu ft.; with the rear seats in place, luggage space is 20.9 cu ft.
Safety equipment includes traction control, roll-stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and several airbags — including two for the front occupants’ knees.
The EcoSport hasn’t been crash-tested by any agencies within the United States, but a similar program in Europe (EuroNCAP) gave the 2013 model an overall score of four stars out of five.
Behind the Wheel
At least the EcoSport has a conventional automatic transmission instead of a commonly used continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has a tendency to drone. The driver won’t feel so reluctant to initiate kick-down to spur the engine on a bit more. And both engines will need spurring from time to time. Even so, the ride quality is more than acceptable.
Cabin space is tight, especially in the back row. But that may not be a problem, since someone considering a subcompact crossover probably isn’t planning on transporting a big family around.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Chevrolet Trax — Relatively spacious and with good levels of equipment. A bit of a yawn to drive, though.
2018 Fiat 500X — More modern than the EcoSport and offers some driver-assistance features.
2018 Honda HR-V — One of the smarter choices in this category. Versatile and roomy interior. Should hold resale values well.
2018 Jeep Renegade — An outdoorsy vibe and boxy shape give the Renegade character and practicality.
2018 Mazda CX-3 — Relatively good fun for the driver, totally pleasant for everyone else.
2018 Subaru Crosstrek — A second generation debuts for 2018. Quite refined, well equipped and roomy, but could use a gutsier engine.
2018 Toyota C-HR — It’s not often that a Toyota is more ambitious than a Ford in the design stakes, but it happens here. Doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, but still worth checking out.
Don’t even think about the entry-level S model. The minimum starting point has to be the SE with some options.