2018 Ford EcoSport SES Group Review: A Tiny Crossover With Little Love for the Highway

Ford's smallest SUV may have the proportions to compete in the fast-growing mini-crossover class...but there's still room for improvement.

Two of The Drive’s staffers—Will Sabel Courtney and Cait Knollrecently spent time with the 2018 Ford EcoSport, which they quickly dubbed the "EcoBean." They discussed the finer merits and detractors of this hybrid crossover via Slack, an instant message program with a fun ability to summon random gifs based on what users type. The following is a partial transcript of that conversation.

willscourtney
So - the Ford EcoSport. You spent more time than I did in it, so I'll let ya start.

The Drive

She drove it a lot. 

caitknoll
Gotta love that fancy capital "S" in the middle of the name.

willscourtney
Right? To be fair, I guess "Ecosport" looks like a brand of gym bag.

caitknoll
Speaking of the name, I just saw a commercial for the car, and it's pronounced "Echo"-Sport

willscourtney
I call bullshit

caitknoll
It's not my dream, Will.

willscourtney
Nobody says they're "echo"-friendly when they recycle

Haha, I'm calling BS on Ford.

caitknoll
It's the Tournament/Ternament debate

ANYWAY

willscourtney
/giphy you say potato

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caitknoll
I did spend a full weekend in what I nicknamed The Jellybean. Took a roadtrip with (future) wife and dog up to Boston. And that meant driving The Jellybean on the highway a whole bunch...

willscourtney
Oof. How was that? I only drove it in town

Ford


caitknoll
I'll be honest -- it's not fantastic at high speeds. Or with multiple people/stuff in it. You felt the lack of power. And we, as a family (and we're not large), felt pretty cramped.

You, however, ARE large. How was that for you?

willscourtney
It was...let's be polite and say tight.

caitknoll
lololol

willscourtney
We had four people in the car en route to
the NY Auto Show. Admittedly, the other three folks were all small, but it was still cozy.

caitknoll
Oh god, yeah that's even more weight.

willscourtney
I actually think I had more room in the back row than in the driver's seat, with Erica driving.

caitknoll
Hahaha. I'ma show you the video I took of the backseat to prove that there was little to no legroom.

But there was an adorable little sunroof!

willscourtney
There's a lot about this car that's adorable. It's like a French Bulldog of a car.

caitknoll
Yes, it looks squishy and has interesting exterior proportions...

There was a surprising amount of cargo room in the back. Although it took me a hot minute to figure out how to open the rear gate

willscourtney
Sideways. Which is confusing AF.

Ford

caitknoll
YUP. But I think the fact that it's straight up camo'd into the rear is kind of hilarious

willscourtney
/giphy disguise

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caitknoll
DISLIKE.

willscourtney
/giphy ancient aliens guy

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willscourtney
There were a few things I did like about it. It's hard to argue with the basic proportions when it comes time to park, for one thing.

And it was tiny enough to wind through super-dense Manhattan traffic with ease.

caitknoll
Agreed. The fact that you can tuck it into little spaces is fantastic in a city setting. I enjoyed it way more when I was bopping around town/city settings.

Butttttt when you're on the highway a whole bunch, it quickly makes it known that it's probably not the car you'd get for a road trip.

willscourtney
Yeah. It's a car of last resort for a long trip. It'll do it, but it won't like it.

caitknoll
And honestly, even though it got decent gas mileage (23/29 according to Ford... I was getting around 24), I had to fill up more than I'd like because it's such a tiny little thing with a tiny little gas tank.

willscourtney
And let's face it, 24 mpg isn't THAT good. I got better than that in the 400-hp Caddy CT6 I had last weekend.

caitknoll
True! So because of things like that...I was really struggling with who I think this car is built for. Someone who ONLY drives short distances around a town/city environment? And never wants to put anyone else in the car?

willscourtney
I think it's for somebody who spends 99 percent of their time driving around towns and cities and suburbs. And probably has a second car in the household for longer trips

caitknoll
That's gotta be it.

willscourtney
Or, alternately, somebody who drank the Kool-Aid when it comes to the SUV craze and doesn't realize how much more they could get for the money if they didn't buy a crossover. Because this isn't THAT cheap.

caitknoll
NOPE. Was just going to say, speaking of $...I was shocked at what the EcoSport runs. We drove the SES right? That starts at a cool $26,880.

willscourtney
Crazy thing about that is, that's the sportiest version. And it's still not all that sporty.

caitknoll
/giphy not sporty

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caitknoll
I will say, it felt the sportiest when I was alone in the car. Lowest weight possible.

willscourtney
Haha, yup.

caitknoll
I just... I wanted to like it more. I enjoyed all the manual buttons -- everything was clear. And when I first got in the car, I was surprised that it had what it had in terms of comfort options -- heated seats up front for both, heated steering wheel, a solidly-sized infotainment screen.

Although it did the heated wheel thing where it only got warm in very specific areas

willscourtney
I mean, I'd rather have patches of heat than none at all.

caitknoll
True. IT COUNTS I GUESS.

willscourtney
But to your point about the manual buttons. You can tell that this isn't really all that new a car. it's new to us in the States, but it's been on sale in other markets since 2012. It's got old bones. Ford pretty much brought it here because they saw the exploding market for tiny crossovers, and realized, "Holy crap, we've got one of those just lying around!"

caitknoll
Right... and when you're driving it for a few days, you really notice just how many tiny SUV/crossovers are on the road. You also see how many gigantic SUVs are around too. But I've never really appreciated how many people drive tiny, tiny vehicles

So does this compete well with the Honda Fits of the world?

willscourtney
It's more competing against the
Hyundai Konas and Subie Crosstreks. And I'd say, honestly, it only competes on price.

caitknoll
I feel like those are just so much bigger haha

willscourtney
They're pretty similar in size. They're just a bit better in terms of how they use their interior volume

It's the old bones problem again. A car introduced in 2012 is based on a chassis they started developing in 2008-2010, which means we hopped into a brand-new car made with decade-old technology. I think the next version they make will be better. Kinda has to be.

Ford



caitknoll
Woof.

But will anyone care, other than car journalists?

willscourtney
I think some people will care. Interior volume is the sort of thing average folk pay attention to.Way more than "fun to drive quotient" or things like that.

caitknoll
BUT MILLENNIALS, WILL

willscourtney
ugh
/giphy you damn kids

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caitknoll
(We are technically Millenials)

(cough, in our 30s, cough)

Anyway. I think it absolutely needs a design refresh if it really wants to compete in the small crossover arena. "new to you" isn't enough, in my opinion

willscourtney
Well, for what it's worth—apparently 3,296 EcoSports were bought in the US last month alone

so clearly somebody's going for 'em.

caitknoll
Right, which you kind of predicted when we started talking (IRL) about this

So maybe no one will actually care aside from us!

willscourtney
Hooray for relevance!

Final Impressions
The Drive

willscourtney
Okay, conclusion time. Things we liked?

caitknoll
/giphy relevant

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caitknoll
I liked being able to park almost anywhere, especially in a place like NYC (or Boston) where finding parking is an aggressive and constant battle

willscourtney
Yup. And i'll add the manueverability to that.

caitknoll
I liked the manual buttons, regardless of their old design peg. (I drove a Wrangler for years, for god's sake!)
Want to blow hot air on your face? Hit the face button.

willscourtney
 /giphy faced

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willscourtney
And I will admit to liking the styling. I think it looks better than a lot of other little bean-mobiles.

caitknoll
...the styling. lol

willscourtney
you throwing shade?

caitknoll
/giphy agree to disagree

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willscourtney
Aight, dislikes.

caitknoll
Other than that... it just felt under-powered and cramped. Shook like a leaf over 65 MPH. And I really hated that I had to fill up so much. I was expecting fuel efficiency. Like actually efficient.

willscourtney
Yup That's what you get when you give a car a tiny engine in the name of "efficiency" a lot of times, Ford. People cane it to make up for that...and then they get bad gas mileage anyway.

I will also add that the sideways-opening rear door feels borderline-unsafe in certain situations. Like, if you have to stop on the left side of the street (which happens plenty in places like NYC, where there's a lot of busy one-way streets), you have to basically stand in traffic to open the hatch.

caitknoll
Oooh good point. I just found it useless if you were parallel parked in a "normal" NYC parking spot. As in, you literally couldn't open it without hitting the car behind you. Which made me re-think it being a "city car"...

willscourtney
/giphy new york problems

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caitknoll
The fact that that GIF stops before Babe swings through is incredibly dissatisfying.

willscourtney
Let me try again:
/giphy new york problems

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willscourtney
That's better.

caitknoll
It's better than great...

...it's good enough.

willscourtney
Just like the EcoSport. At least, that was probably Ford's motto when they brought it Stateside.


caitknoll
/giphy almost

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willscourtney
All right. On that note...
/giphy ecosport

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