Story by Doug Stokes
Photographs by Doug Stokes

… Here’s the deal, we asked our friends at Ford for a small cross-over type vehicle to road test over a five-day family journey up to the cool blue beauty of Lake Tahoe.

The Blue Oval people kindly loaned us a “Lightning Blue” Ecosport with the new 1-liter EcoBoost engine … We then loaded it up with a load of personal survival gear which included nine or ten complete changes of wardrobe, eleven jackets and four vests of varying density, and a pair of shoes for just about every imaginable occasion (and some for just in case).  All in all there was enough gear aboard for close to a two month tour and that included our two dogs, and (very) heavy ice chest*.  The above all stowed aboard, we set out for the cool country.

So … here’s a word that you don’t hear very many cars called these days:  “Happy”.  You’ve heard cars called exciting, powerful, stunning but happy?  You’ll either have to drive one yourself (which I suggest) or take my word for it … this Ford Ecosport was just plain happy doing its job and we could sense that every time we jumped into the car.

Ford Ecosport Titanium in the Tahoe wilderness

The name of this small crossover, “Ecosport”, sounds pretty promising at first.  It is even better at keeping that promise than I had expected.  Up front and under the hood is Ford’s delightful little 61 cubic inch/1000cc (really only 999) EcoBoost engine.

This compact three (more on that later … under “see below” below) cylinder engine has horsepower and torque figures that are fraternal-twin close (123hp/125 lb-ft) on paper and even closer (and smartly useful) on the road.  This small, but very willing engine; pulls, powers, and responds like a far bigger mill with never a hesitation or a missed beat.

Well-controlled turbocharging (using the engine’s own exhaust to bring more air into the combustion process, thus increasing the horsepower) is something that the electronics age has gifted us with  … Old school hot rod turbocharging was a way to big horsepower numbers at one time.   But it also put great strains on engines that were not equipped to take the extra fuel and air in properly. In the “EcoBoosted” Ecosport the engine plays well above its weight, but still is super-stingy and happy with regular fuel.  The window sticker on this one says: 27/29 miles per gallon (city/highway), we clocked-in at a much better 31.7 overall on our 1,100-mile journey.

A rearward view of the Ford Ecosport

My wife just happens to be a fully-credentialed bellwether regarding what we industry insiders casually refer to as “NVH” (that’s noise, vibration, and harshness).  She only needed about 50 miles in the right seat to be enthusiastic about the ride (she actually called it “luxury”).  The ride in this small machine is better than typical for its class and the handling rates the same.  There were plenty of curves, switchbacks to challenge this one’s poise and the Ecosport won.

The styling here is “purposeful” … this chunky/handsome little machine looks like what it was designed to do and does so without any distracting flights of fancy in the sheetmetal.  One touch that seemed odd at first, proved to be quite a nice feature and that’s this one’s wide horizontally-swinging rear door which made loading a whole bunch of the aforementioned commotion a snap.

And … tell me true, what crowns a smart-looking cross over best?  An on point and v. cool roof rack of course … Strangely enough we didn’t use it but we enjoyed the admiring looks that we got on both the California and the Nevada sides of that stunning ice blue body of water.

Handling, brakes, ride all rang up a check mark in the “very satisfactory” box on the imaginary (but very important) ratings card that our test crew (wife and travel pups Pickle and Olive) tally every road trip.  There were (as the old Holiday Inn adverts used to promise: “no surprises”) and they meant of the negative kind.  Both my wife and I drive reasonably up-to-date automobiles and both of us would not complain if either of us were asked to swap for one of these.

OK, money … this one came into our hands with Monroney (window sticker) that had everything listed (and this Titanium “edition” had everything … see below) but did not have any prices as the specific car that we drove was not for sale.

The eyes of a Bengal Ecosport

There was, however, a sort of an invoice attached to the Monroney that had the basics such as: the MSRP ($25,740.00) the only option listed was a “cold weather package” priced at $340.00.  And below that there was a  line that showed: “available incentives” and that knocked $2,750 off the list price.  Still lower on the page, there’s our old friends destination and delivery charges of $995.00, which put this one under you and on the road for $24,325 even.

We got a good list of the goods for that price, and made good use of at least 20-25% of them on our trip north and back, the roll call reads like this.

Suffice it to say that this one was as good as the sales brochure claims and, for sure, should be on any compact crossover buyer’s short list.  -DS

All photographs by Doug Stokes, except for the featured image at the top and the interior shot, which are courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.

EXTERIOR

  • Beltline Molding – Chrome
  • Bumper – Body-Color with Molded-in-Color Metallic Accent, Front and Rear
  • Tires – 205/50R 17 All-Season (A/S) BSW
  • Wheels – 17″ Premium Dark Stainless-Painted Machined Aluminum

Ford EcoSport Titanium interior (FoMoCo photo)

INTERIOR/COMFORT

  • 110V/150W AC Power Outlet
  • Ambient Lighting
  • Center Floor Console with Sliding Armrest
  • Instrument Panel Appliqué – High Gloss Black-Painted
  • Seats – Leather-Trimmed with Perforation

SAFETY/SECURITY

  • Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror
  • Mirrors, Sideview – Power/Heated Glass, Manual-Folding with

Signal Indicators and Body-Color Caps

  • Perimeter Alarm

DRIVER ASSIST TECHNOLOGY

  • BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Rain-Sensing Wipers (Front Only)
  • SYNC® 3 with Voice-Activated Touchscreen Navigation System,

SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link®

— Enhanced Voice Recognition Communications andEntertainment System
— 8″ LCD Capacitive Touchscreen in Center Stack with Swipe and Pinch-to-Zoom Capability
— AppLink®  — 911 Assist®— Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ Compatibility
— Smart-Charging USB ports – two (2)

Note: SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link® includes a five (5)-year prepaid subscription.

  • SYNC® Connect

— Remotely start, lock and unlock vehicle
— Schedule specific times to remotely start vehicle
— Locate parked vehicle
— Check vehicle status
— Wi-Fi® hotspot that connects up to 10 devices

FUNCTIONAL

  • Audio

— B&O PLAY™ Premium Audio System by HARMAN, Nine (9) Speakers and Subwoofer
— HD Radio™

AND … Just in case you think that you just might fancy a fleet of these willing little machines working for your company there’s an optional Ford Telematics™ Prep Package available.  With it engaged SYNC® Connect provides data to support a number services including vehicle location, speed and idle time with optional vehicle diagnostics and maintenance reports. It requires Ford Telematics™ Powered by Telogis®.  Check that little tattletale out at: www.fleet.ford.com.

HARD SPECIFICATIONS:

VEHICLE TYPE: 2018 Ford Ecosport Titanium FWD (front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback)

Running on three cylinders in a Ford Ecosport

ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 12-valve inline-3, iron block and aluminum head, direct fuel injection

DISPLACEMENT: 61 cu in, 999cc
POWER: 123 hp @ 6000 rpm
TORQUE: 125 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
WHEELBASE: 99.2 in
LENGTH: 161.3 in
WIDTH: 69.5 in HEIGHT: 64.8 in
PASSENGER VOLUME: 93 cu ft
CARGO VOLUME: 21 cu ft
CURB WEIGHT: 3146 lb

SEE BELOW (from above): And now we will address the triangle in the room, the Ecosport’s three cylinder engine.  An odd number, right?, odd/uneven right?  No, as odd as it may seem, a three cylinder engine is inherently in perfect balance and effectively far “smoother” running than the more traditional four cylinder small car engine that rely on one (and in some cases two) heavy “balance shafts” that try to counter the two up – two down firing order in a “4”.

Not to get too very technical, but this very small (but oh so smartly-managed) engine, with a perfectly even 120, 120, 120 firing order really amazes with its willingness and lean muscle mass.

I’ll spot you that “three cylinders” SOUNDS strange, but I’ll bet you a virtual (you’re reading this on a website…remember?) ice cream sundae that, should you try one, you’d be at least (or more) as impressed with the sort of willing performance that this one comes up with.

EXTRA CREDIT: “TWO’S COMPANY…” (a partial list of “three” word groupings: containing names, groups, food, motorcycle models, and other assorted sayings for no good reason): “third time’s the charm”, three wise men, three on a match, Three Mules for Sister Sara, triple-decker/scoop, Three Rode West, The Third Man, triple threat, The Three Tops, “three sheets to the wind”, Manny, Moe, and Jack, Three-toed Sloth, “three cheers”, three wishes, the Big Three, “… three’s a crowd”, the Ford Tri-Motor, Triborough Bridge, “third and goal”, the Kawasaki Mach 3, Trois Rivieres, The Three Stooges, the Triumph Trident, triathalon, The Three Musketeers, Tri-Power, The Three Amigos, Three Coins in the Fountain, and finally: Three Silver Rings (… that’s the first three words from an old Ian and Sylvia song)

What do you got three of?

*luckily our kitchen sink was firmly fastened to the counter top or it might have found its way in there too! Had we’d traveled North by air, we figured that we would have been looking at right around two to three thousand dollars in excess baggage fees!  The eager Ecosport swallowed our whole kit and full caboodle whole and never even whimpered.