2018 Ford EcoSport Platinum New Dad Review: How Did This Tiny Crossover End Up Here?
Writer-at-large Benjamin Preston just became a father. Now he needs to find the best car for the job.
I finally did it: I'm a dad. The funny thing is, I've always owned dad cars, even before I needed to. Owning anything with less than four doors never made much sense, which is how I ended up with a stable of souped-up grandpa cars from the Sixties and Seventies. Now that I'm a father, the '74 Oldsmobile sedan I brought my wife and son home from the hospital in seems a bit dated. And that, my friends, is how I found myself on this quest to find the perfect new dad car.
When I was a kid, in the Eighties, crappy cars were a way of life. To give you an idea how crappy, my parents owned both a Ford Pinto and a Pontiac Phoenix throughout the course of my childhood. We knew the mechanic better than we knew our neighbors. They got wise, started buying Japanese cars, and never looked back.
Fortunately, American cars have gotten better since then. Or have they?
The first time I saw a Ford EcoSport, it was parked right behind a Ford Expedition. "Aw, look," I thought, "The Expedition takes poops in public just like my infant son." When I realized that this half-car-sized poop was indeed some sort of minuscule crossover, I wondered how it had ended up in the United States of America. Turns out that back in the early Aughts, when the EcoSport was a new offering in Brazil and other developing countries, it sold briskly— but by the end of the decade, sales plummeted, as car shoppers around the world were offered better choices. To combat this, Ford revamped the Fiesta-based small crossover in 2012, then updated it again last year—when it also announced, puzzlingly, that the EcoBoost would be offered in the U.S.
Now, I'm a practical guy. The American infatuation with pickup trucks, cool as they are, makes little sense to me; they're thirstier, harder to park and need more expensive tires than smaller cars. The average person doesn't need that big of a vehicle But even I have to draw the line somewhere. Like its loathsome Chevrolet counterpart, the Trax, the EcoBoost is absurdly small. Front seat legroom is fine, but my wife and I had to shoehorn junior's car seat into a back row so small, any normal-sized human would have found it difficult to stuff his or her legs into the footwells.
Likewise, the cargo area is small on the EcoBoost, but only if you can find it. One day, when my wife and I were running late for something (wait, that's every day), I mounted the car seat and grabbed the stroller to throw it in the back with a few bags of other stuff...only I couldn't find the handle for the rear hatch. I stood there for five minutes—an eternity, when your spouse is urging you to get going—running my hands over every inch of the rear hatch before giving up and wedging all that stuff into the back seat with poor junior. When I finally did figure out where the handle was—it's hidden in one of the rear tail lights, where most people would never see it—I was shocked to learn that the tailgate swung sideways. The car was parallel-parked, so I couldn't open the door wide enough to get the stroller in. Into the back seat it went again.
But the best was yet to come. Even though the Platinum trim badge on the EcoBoost EcoSport I drove looked fancy, the car came with a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine. It may have been turbocharged, but it never had enough juice to get that 3,000-pound crossover out of its own way. The few times I felt brave enough to pass another car on the highway, I wondered if I could pull ahead of the car to my right in time to get out of the way of whatever car was bearing down on my six. Between my frustration, my stress, and the engine's irritating drone, I had a lot of sweat to mop off the back of the hard, uncomfortable seat at the end of my journey.
I honestly don't know why anyone would buy one of these. They're cramped, underpowered, and charmless (unless you're charmed by starkness). Junior can't talk yet, but he frowned a lot while he was in the EcoBoost. It could be that he just had to poop, but I'm going to project my attitude on him and say he thought the EcoBoost sucked as much as I did. This modern-day AMC Gremlin's single upside was that it reminded me of the sacrifices my own parents made for me when they suffered through a series of substandard cars when there was little else available for budget-oriented car buyers.
Some people say having a kid is emasculating. It's not. If anything, a child is living proof of masculinity. What's emasculating is handing a car company more than $20,000 for a vehicle like the Ford EcoSport. There are so many better, more economical, more entertaining options out there. While it may be true that a vast multitude of Americans often make choices that run counter to their best interests because "they can," buying cars is one area a populace as cozy with its consumerist side as ours might not screw up. I could be wrong, but I don't think the EcoSport will last long on these shores.
The 2018 Ford EcoSport Platinum, By the Numbers:
Price as Tested: $24,720
Powertrain: 1.0-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder, 123 horsepower, 125 pound-feet; six-speed automatic; front-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
0-60 MPH: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 104 mph
Random fact: The EcoSport is built in Brazil, Russia, India, China and Thailand.