Sporting touch to city driving

By Christopher Tan.

With all kinds of hands-free contraptions on board this latest sports utility vehicle, it is hardly surprising that the driver will have time to comb through the mini refrigerator on board.  

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0001When the enthusiastic Sime Darby Auto Connexion’s representative pointed out the car’s hands-free phone call facility and hands-free music player, I merely responded with a polite nod while quietly countering: “Ok, nothing new here.”

Next, he mentioned that the system also comes with the ability to read out your mobile phone’s incoming text messages; I found myself paying a tad closer attention to his ongoing demonstration of car’s key features. But it was the “cool” air-conditioned glove box that finally captured my full interest to the car’s content.

Ford’s latest EcoSport is all about delivering convenience to the driver and passengers on board. What else can get more useful than having a few cans of chilled drinks readily available to four sun-drenched treasure hunters on a 400 kilometre drive?

I figure that this compact SUV’s interior designer would likely have been an outdoor person based on the inclusion of 20 storage compartments located throughout the car, which proved handy for our team’s storage of endless titbits, chocolate bars and caffeine-filled beverages.

The EcoSport aims to boost the American carmaker’s presence in the fast-growing B-segment crossover market, particularly in this part of the region. Designed on the same platform as its hugely popular Fiesta and rolled off from its production facility in Thailand, it is available in two variants – Trend and Titanium.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0014Driven by a 1.5 litre Ti-VCT engine offering 142 Nm at 4,400 rpm, the Titanium proved to be an indispensable team member during a weekend treasure hunt adventure for this writer’s team of media personnel. As an automobile treasure hunt often requires plenty of stopping and restarting, the vehicle’s Powershift 6-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission was easily equal to the task, although I did find the gear ratio spread out slightly too far apart resulting in evident drag in between gear shifts.

Running on 16″ alloy wheels and a 52-litre fuel tank, it comes with the now common features in the likes of smart keyless entry, push-start ignition, rear parking sensors and hill launch assist, although it stands out somewhat from many of its peers with seven airbags (driver, passenger, sides, curtain and driver’s knee).

As the journey took us onto both fast four-lane expressway, curvaceous coastal roads and through congested small towns, the car’s traction control and an electronic stability program kept us firmly on the road, particularly when we were running late reaching our event’s final checkpoint.

Going through a downpour on the expressway and speeding gingerly right on the edge of the speed limit in order to meet our deadline, the car’s anti-lock braking system and electronic brake force distribution kept the ride stable and in constant control by reducing wheel spin and over or under-steering especially on the slippery stretches.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0003This variant also gets the leather seat treatment, automatic climate control system, auto lights, rain sensor wipers and a power sunroof. Packaged in five exterior colours – candy red, mars red, winning blue, midnight sky and frozen white – the Ford EcoSport Trend is priced (on-the-road with insurance) at RM92,888 while the EcoSport Titanium goes for RM103,888.

While offering a nice overall buffet spread, there are some trifling concerns and notable ingredients missing from this scrumptious ride. Boasting a helpful 200mm ground clearance between passengers and the flood-prone Malaysian roads is a definite plus point, but with the surprisingly missing hand rail above the door frame for all doors, older folks and shorter passengers may find it an adventure by itself getting into the vehicle.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0018Another aesthetic annoyance I had with this SUV was the old-styled spare wheel dreadfully placed at its tailgate door. In this age of smaller parking spots at shopping malls and narrow car porches in our homes, a bulky wheel protruding from the back of your car is the last thing you want to deal with.

Finally, where is the daytime running light? Possibly the most imperative feature of any automobile on today’s road, no car should be allowed to roll out of the factory without this gadget conceitedly beaming onto the rear mirror of the car in front.

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