When this writer was young – a long, long time ago – I was fascinated with some car manufacturers’ ability to make small engines deliver high power outputs. top of the list was the British racing arm of Ford, who managed to squeeze 120 horsepower (90kW) out of the four-cylinder, 997cc, Anglia engine.
These units powered most of that era’s British Formula 3 single-seater racers, plus some seriously rapid Broadspeed Racing Anglias in the British Saloon Car Championship.
Engineers marvelled at the fact that those production-based Ford engines could be revved to nearly 7 000rpm.
Years later, when Ford sponsored the three-litre Cosworth F1 engine, they proudly pointed out that it produced 360 horsepower, or 120 horsepower per litre.
These days, getting 90kW/litre is no longer considered a huge engineering feat – and Ford is one of many manufacturers who do so in their road car products.
The new Ford EcoSport, for instance.
It is the true blue car maker’s smallest Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). It comes powered by a three-cylinder, 998cc, turbocharged petrol engine with direct fuel injection, that delivers 92kW of power at 6 000rpm and 170Nm of torque between 1 400rpm and 4 500rpm.
The grunt and twist goes to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
The EcoSport boasts a number of styling changes that set it apart from its predecessor, including a trapezoidal grille, distinctive angular headlights, LED daytime running lights, a sculpted bonnet with a central bulge, and a smoother rear bumper treatment.
The package sits on five-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels in 205/60R16 rubberware.
Inside, the EcoSport will seat four adults comfortably, with adequate head and leg space all round.
It features various smart stowage solutions, including a height adjustable boot floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres.
There are also power windows, electric air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, a communications and entertainment system incorporating Bluetooth and Voice Control, supported by a floating colour touch screen, that can be operated with pinch and swipe gestures.
Safety features include ABS assisted disc brakes front and drums rear, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control, Roll Stability Control, Hill Launch Assist and a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.
If all of the above still does not prevent you from ploughing into some scenery, you get six airbags, comprising dual front, side and curtain units, plus a driver’s knee airbag.
So much for the technical information – what is it like to drive?
Extremely good, we found – it is comfortable and, with a turning circle of just 5,3 metres, easy to manoeuvre and park.
We did notice the engine size though – weighing in at 1 760kg, the EcoSport’s acceleration suffers, especially if one wishes to overtake from around 40km/h in traffic.
Once up to speed though, it will cruise at 130km/h in sixth gear all day, with 2 400rpm on the clock.
We found that out when driving to the Phakisa Raceway between Welkom and Odendaalsrus.
The Ecosport made the journey a pleasure. But again, the vehicle mass versus engine size did crop up – our best efforts at driving frugally produced an average fuel consumption of 7.7 l/100 km.
That is not such a huge problem though.
We would wager the majority of EcoSports will spend their lives in town, used to pick up and drop kids, go grocery shopping and suchlike.
At an asking price of R339 900, it will fulfil those functions with style and in comfort.
What we like
- Pretty, chunky styling.
- Easy to park, manoeuvre.
- Well-appointed interior.
What we do not like
- Body feels heavy during acceleration.
- Fuel economy could be better.
A good, solid Ford, ideal for city trips.