Launch Pad: Ford EcoSport

Ford Ecosport 1

Today’s launch is for the Ford EcoSport – which, to the amusement of just about everybody in the press conference last night, is apparently pronounced EchoSport.

However you want to say it, the EcoSport is a small, Fiesta-based lifestyle SUV, very much in the mould of Nissan Juke. If somewhat less ugly.

We get the keys in about three-quarters of an hour (as I write this), but there are a number of observations already to be made.

The first point of interest is that although the EcoSport is now being sold as a ‘One Ford’ global car, it was never designed that way. This is a Brazilian-market follow-up to a first-generation EcoSport, and like that car the new one was designed and built in Brazil. One Ford has, however, allowed it to be ‘quickly’ (it’s taken two years) adopted by other markets, and it is now also built in China and India – the latter being where the UK and European cars will come from.

Second. It is not, by any means, a premium product. Although we’re only getting it in a single, highfalutin Titanium (with optional X Pack) specification initially, this reflects a low volume of supply for 2014. The UK will receive just 4,000 units next year, and since the vast majority don’t start arriving until May, you may want to get your order in quickly.

Before you do that, though, you should consider that this is a ‘modern’ Ford that has only received a four-star Euro NCAP rating. Hmmm.

Ford Ecosport 2

We’ve also already been told the cars we’re driving today have very much pre-production fixtures and fittings. But even the static car in the hotel lobby (pictured), which is supposedly closer to showroom in terms of its interior finishing, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s roomy, but the boot lid is a side-opening affair that’s quickly going to become a major PITA in car parks, is hinged on the wrong side to be safely opened by the roadside in the UK, and has a sharply-angled inside top edge that looks like it might decapitate you if the wind gets up a bit.

As for the boot-mounted spare wheel – when was the last time you saw anything like that on a new car? Ford’s spinning it as a strong SUV styling cue. Which is true, but only if you’re living in the 1990s.

Why the wheel isn’t under the boot floor, I haven’t asked yet. But the alarmingly exposed-looking fuel tank filler pipe appears to be in the way. And in countries such as Brazil, India, China where the road network can be cutting edge at one moment and barely there the next (I’ve been to two out of the three recently; I’m not just saying that), I guess having easy-access to a replacement wheel and tyre is no bad thing. And at least Which? / Daily Wail readers will have no reason to complain about the lack of a full-sized spare.

Further indications of this car’s budget origins include the rear drum brakes and that the only six-speed gearbox on offer is Ford’s Powershift automatic; it’s five-speed manual units otherwise. The engine of choice will almost certainly be the 125hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost triple; the alternatives are a less-powerful 1.5-litre non-turbo petrol and 1.5-litre turbodiesel – both downsized derivatives of existing 1.6-litre Ford engines (1.5-litres is a vital cut-off point for taxation in many countries globally).

Cleverly Ford is offering two no-cost colours, a white and a Bright Yellow – so the EcoSport should be easy to spot when it begins to appear on the roads in the UK. The first cars – arriving in April – will all be black, however; a limited edition of 120 sold via Facebook earlier in 2013. No, seriously. It really was.

As this suggests, Ford is aiming for a youthful, tech-orientated buyer profile, and the EcoSport is the first European Ford to feature Ford Sync with Applink, giving you full control of Spotify and other useful smartphone capabilities via the car’s voice control system. Sadly, although we were given a demo in the press conference, Applink isn’t yet up and running for us to try in the cars. Still, Ford’s got nearly another half year to get it working before the market launch.

I know, I know – it sounds like I’m being a total downer on a car I haven’t even driven yet. But the signs are there. Including the choice of a very flash hotel in Barcelona, hosting a large, mixed group of 40 journalists. Distracting us from the car, chaps? I really do hope not.

25 minutes now, and I’ll be finding out.

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