Missing the Marque: Ford EcoSport

A product designed for developing markets with mere adequacy as its guiding principle, the EcoSport was foisted upon Ford of Europe with wholly predictable results.

It has a letter from its mum, excusing it from heavy lifting duties… Image: carwow

In a former era, when cars were regarded by the vast majority as primarily a means of transport rather than a status symbol, Ford was highly successful in mobilising the masses reliably and (relatively) cheaply. That earned the company a reputation as something of a working-class hero.

This perception subsequently became a liability as increasing affluence made buyers ever more receptive to the allure of the premium marques. It must be deeply frustrating for the company that it is widely regarded as a purveyor of automotive vin ordinaire when it consistently produces cars that are of decent quality and often dynamically superior to their more prestigious competitors. This has been the case since the launch of the first Mondeo in 1993 and Focus in 1998, both of which were regarded as class leading.

There is, however, one vehicle in its current and otherwise entirely competent line-up that is quite simply an embarrassment to Ford of Europe. That vehicle is the execrable EcoSport.

The current model is not the first to carry that moniker. The original EcoSport was a pleasingly chunky looking FWD crossover designed by Ford’s Brazilian offshoot and launched in 2003. It was heavily based on the Fiesta Mk5 platform and had strong overtones of the contemporary (European) Fusion model(1). It sold strongly in its home market as well as in Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela, racking up over 700,000 sales in eight years.

2003 Ford EcoSport. Image: autoentusiastas.com.br

Alan Mulally, the former Boeing chief who was appointed President and CEO of Ford in 2006, had devised an ambitious new strategy for the company under the title One Ford. The idea was to pull together Ford’s independent design and development fiefdoms in the US, Europe, Brazil and other centres, to eliminate duplicated effort and cost and accelerate model development. The company estimated that this could save up to $7Bn. in costs and reduce development time by around 20%.

The second-generation EcoSport was one of the first models to be developed under this new global programme. It was based on an evolutionary version of the Fiesta platform which underpinned the Mk6 and was launched in Brazil in 2012. Unlike its predecessor, the EcoSport Mk2 would be a global product sold in 149 countries and would be built in Brazil, China, India, Romania, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The EcoSport Mk2 arrived in Europe in 2014. It was built, not in Brazil, but in Ford’s plant in Chennai, India. It is a moot point as to how much input other Ford centres had in the development of the new model, but reviewers of the EcoSport were perplexed by just how much it fell below the standard of contemporary European Ford vehicles.

2014 Ford EcoSport. Image: honestjohn.co.uk

Car Magazine tested the EcoSport in 1.6 litre turbodiesel form and Titanium trim in January 2014. The reviewer was unimpressed by its appearance, citing its “…collection of [front] grilles in a teetering stack…piggy headlights…undersized alloys…slabby sides [and] enormous spare wheel cover tacked onto the tailgate” all conspiring to make it “no looker”. Inside it was “dingy and grey, and too button-heavy” with an “…old mobile phone inspired interface we’ve been coming to terms with since 2008”.

Dynamically, ride and refinement were good, but the EcoSport was softly sprung, so handling and steering were off the pace, even for an SUV style vehicle. The 1,596cc turbodiesel engine produced 98bhp (73kW) and 151 lb ft (204Nm) of torque, giving the car a claimed 0 to 62mph (100km/h) time of 14 seconds and a top speed of 99mph (160km/h). Overall, it was rated at two stars (out of five) by the magazine.

Despite the EcoSport being a significantly sub-par offering from Ford, a total of 160,528(2) still found European buyers between 2015 and 2017 inclusive, its first three full years on sale. Of its direct competitors, the best-selling Renault Captur achieved sales of 621,661 over the same three years. Even the polarising Nissan Juke comfortably outsold the EcoSport, achieving sales of 292,456 over the same period.

2014 Ford EcoSport dashboard. Image: ceritarakyatlucu.blogspot.com

Ford persisted with its underachieving small crossover and shifted production of European market models to its plant in Craiova, Romania in 2017, which led to some improvement in build quality. It also revised the suspension settings and improved the range of standard equipment. The front end styling was revised and the spare wheel was no longer mounted on the tailgate. Inside, an 8” touch-screen was fitted in place of the button-heavy original dashboard. Four-wheel-drive(3) and ST-Line versions were made available and the engine range was updated and widened.

These revisions, together with a heavy marketing campaign, caused a lift in annual European sales to 110,574 in 2018 and 120,376 in 2019, although they fell back to 47,548 in a Covid-affected 2020.

The EcoSport was revised again for 2021 and a new Active version added, which featured black plastic wheel arch extensions and other off-road styling addenda. Despite an increased ride height, this helped to give the car a more planted stance and reduce its unfortunate top-heavy and under-wheeled appearance.

2021 Ford EcoSport Active. Image: autoexpress.co.uk

Autocar magazine tested the Active version with a 998cc turbocharged petrol engine in early 2021. This engine produced 123bhp (92kW) and 125 lb ft (169Nm) of torque, good for a 0 to 60mph (97km/h) time of 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 111mph (179km/h). It was a substantial improvement in performance and refinement over the now discontinued turbodiesel unit.

Fuel economy, at around 45mpg overall, was fine if not exceptional, thanks to the bluff and tall shape of the vehicle. Firmer suspension settings had improved the handling to “just about adequate” and levels of grip were noticeably better, although ride quality had suffered as a consequence.

The interior was certainly improved over the original, which was ”…a disgrace and an embarrassment to Ford of Europe back in 2014.” but there was still plenty of scratchy, brittle plastics to be found and the seats, in faux-leather, were hard and flat. The reviewer noted that the (left) side-hinged rear door was inconvenient for street-side loading and unloading in RHD markets.

The EcoSport’s “shoddy cabin quality” was likely to remain the greatest obstacle to sales. At over £20k as tested, the EcoSport “…simply doesn’t justify a pricing position alongside plainly better-built, better-finished and more desirable European-designed crossovers.” The magazine gave it an overall two-star rating.

European Sales for the six months to end July 2021 were just 14,759 units, indicating that the latest revisions have not done enough to arrest what is likely to be the EcoSport’s terminal decline, in Europe at least.

So, how did Ford manage to get the EcoSport so wrong, for the European market at least? The explanation is pretty simple, I think: in its zeal to develop global products as part of its One Ford strategy, it simply ignored the radically varied expectations of different regions and customers, and tried to pitch a product that was clearly designed for developing markets directly against much more sophisticated opposition, with the inevitable consequences.

No amount of tinkering could ever improve the EcoSport significantly enough to make it class-competitive, and it was priced too ambitiously given its shortcomings. Even the name, admittedly inherited from the original, smacked of cynicism, since it was not particularly economical or ecologically friendly, and certainly not remotely sporting.

Ford has since rowed back considerably on Mulally’s One Ford big idea, Mulally himself having left the company in July 2014. Ford can certainly design and build a much better small crossover than the EcoSport and has already done so with the 2019 Puma. It is amazing that, at the time of writing, the EcoSport is still hanging around in Ford’s European range like a bad smell. In the UK, it lists from £20,850, compared with the Puma’s starting price of £22,045. It is safe to say that £1,195(4) would never be better spent or more foolishly saved than in this case.

(1) And a surprising resemblance to the 2006 Land-Rover Freelander 2, which is intriguing, given the authorship of the latter design.

(2) All sales data from www.carsalesbase.com.

(3) Not in all markets.

(4) Ignoring any discounts offered, of course.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

35 thoughts on “Missing the Marque: Ford EcoSport”

  1. Good morning Daniel. I agree with your sentiments regarding the Ecosport. I stumbled upon on of these a couple of months ago and couldn’t figure out what it was. Ford managed to shift 17 of these last month against 271 Pumas. The Puma is considerably cheaper too over here. Prices start at € 26,950 for the Ecosport against €24,575 for the Puma. If you get a Puma now they’ll lower that to € 23,575. I wonder how long it will take before the Ecosport leaves the catalogue.

  2. The real target of this piece is the assumption of market uniformity. Ford´s idea of OneFord isn´t terrible per se – merely that in this instance the market best suited for the EcoSport was too different than the Euromarket. If you have model range and a market as big as Ford does some cars are bound to slip through the filter. The margins on the car must have been small if they couldn´t raise the standard of the interior to Eurolevels. Funny to think this over-styled car is the heir to the Fusion which is such a timelessly correct bit of styling (it still looks perfect).

    1. Good morning Freerk and Richard. Wow! How crazy would you have to be to pay more in The Netherlands for an EcoSport over the Puma? Quite apart from its dynamic and quality failings, the EcoSport is just unforgivably awkward looking. It appears to be perched way too high on its wheels. For anyone who contends that it’s difficult to style such a car, take a look at its predecessor:

      It’s so much better planted than the 2012 model.

    2. I was intrigued by the price difference between the two models and I did some further investigation. I was assuming that the Puma came with the same 92 kW engine as the EcoSport, but it’s detuned to only 70 kW. Another thing is that the Puma has a lower level of equipment as well. The Ecosport produces more CO2 than the Puma 135 grammes/kilometer against 128 (122 in case the Puma has the 92kW engine).

      The car price consist of three elements in the Netherlands: base price, BPM (tax based on CO2/kilometer) and VAT (21% of base price). This translates to:

      EcoSport 1.0 Titanium 92 kW: € 17,309 + € 5,126 + € 3,635 = € 26,950
      Puma 1.0 Connected 70 kW: € 16,060 + € 4,202 + € 3,373 = € 24,575 (temporarily reduced to € 23,575)
      Puma 1.0 Titanium 92 kW: € 19,450 + € 3,410 + € 4,085 = € 27,895 (temporarily reduced to € 26,895)

      So basically the Ecosport is a good 2 grand cheaper in base price with comparable engine and equipment level, but you pay the penalty for the extra C02 emission. With the dealer incentive the Puma end Ecosport are only €55 apart.

    3. Agreed, Richard. The idea of a OneFord isn’t bad as such, but with markets too different it won’t work. Given this fact I just wondered why they bothered with selling it in the Euro-market in the first place.

  3. I discovered with considerable surprise that this not very attractive vehicle is still on sale here in Poland. What is most shocking is the price. It starts from 88 000 PLN (about 19 000 euro), while a much nicer, better finished Puma starts from 74 000 PLN (about 16 000 euro). I’m curious what tactics Ford is using. It is possible that EcoSport is aimed at older people who care about higher ride and don’t know much about cars, while Puma is for “young and dynamic”… There may be something to this, as I am considering leasing a Puma myself, even though I have not been a fan of crossovers so far. This car just seems surprisingly “cool”, as Opel’s new Mokka. And believe me, that’s something that I would not say 4-5 years ago, as I really didn’t approve of this “crossover” craze. Marketing worked for me, or those cars are just getting better?

    1. Good morning Kamil and welcome to DTW. Yes, Ford’s pricing policy is a mystery. The EcoSport should be sold (if at all) at a significant discount to the Puma, which is a highly competent car. I agree that crossovers seem to be getting better. I wonder if that is because they are becoming more like regular hatchbacks, with no off-road pretentions?

      (Apologies for the delay in your comment appearing. As a new commenter, your comment had to be approved, which I have done and deleted the duplicate. Your future comments should appear directly.)

  4. I`ve always had a soft spot for the Ecosport , drove one back in 2014. Apart from the irritating tailgate/spare wheel arrangement there was little to complain about. It was/is a utility vehicle first and foremost not a poseurs car, something of a curio and we get fewer and fewer of those.
    I do think the addition of the plastic wheel arches on the current Active model makes a big difference to the cars stance and should have been standard from the get go, and I still prefer the original frontal styling.
    For good or bad I think this car makes far more of a statement that its arch rival at the time, the oh so forgetful Mokka ever did.

  5. I find myself wondering if the unhappy EcoSport played its part in the downfall of Ford do Brasil, which ended all manufacturing this year and will function only as an importer, bringing in upper end SUVs, Mustangs, Transits, pick-ups and, oddly, the Chinese-built Territory. Sales of the Ka and EcoSport end when stocks run out, and it’s the end for the Troller T4. So much for “One Ford”, for most car customers in Brazil it’s No Ford!

    In other portents, the Puma outsold the Fiesta in Europe last month. This doesn’t seem to have been a freak result or the sort we’ve been seeing recently, rather a deliberate strategy. Possibly the Craiova-built Puma is more profitable than the Köln-sourced Fiesta. Pricing seems to favour the suv, which looks like far more car for not much more money than the Fiesta, which is perceived as expensive relative to its B segment rivals.

    1. Hi Robertas. That’s very interesting about the Puma outselling the Fiesta. Crossovers have all but killed off non-premium D-segment ‘conventional’ cars, they are making deep inroads into the C-segment and are assailing the B-segment.

      Is it possible that crossovers will eventually end up replacing ‘conventional’ cars and become the new convention in all these segments? Where then? Ah, I know, the manufacturers will offer ‘more dynamic and sportier’ successors to their crossovers and we’ll end up back where we started!

    2. Robertas: I too noted the report on the Puma outselling both Fiesta and Focus. However, I do feel that this might might have more to do with the ongoing semiconductor supply crisis which is paralysing much of the industry. A good many carmakers, faced with serious supply issues in this area are electing to idle or wind-down production of less profitable models in favour of higher-return model lines. I would imagine there is a notably larger margin on the Puma than either of the aforementioned hatchback lines, so there would be some commercial logic in this – notwithstanding the fact that Henry would undoubtedly prefer that madam would choose the higher-riding and more lucrative CUV model anyway.

      Of course, we cannot simply discount the fact that for the first time perhaps, Ford’s European arm have a homebaked CUV offering which is appealing to a broad swathe of the market. Certainly, there are quite a number of new Pumas on the roads here, and a marked dearth of 212-Reg Focus and Festies’. Draw what conclusions you may…

  6. The naming must have been a “wrong answers only” game by the marketing department.

    There is nothing Sport nor Eco about this thing. Sure, a Puma does not actually hunt herbivores and the Ranger will not assault Pointe du Hoc at D-day, but ECO SPORT for a jacked up previous gen Fiësta is pure joker.

  7. Ford tried, in 1980, the “world car” concept with the european and the US Escorts, and failed (both cars sharing very few parts).

    They tried it again, in 1993, with the Mondeo/Contour/Mystique. And failed (US versions being a sales failure).

    And the Ecosport was born under a similar plan (“One Ford”)…will they learn?

  8. Not forgetting that Ford wanted it to be pronounced “Echo-sport”. It can’t have helped their terrible name that even they seemed embarrassed by it. The door-mounted spare wheel was something I actually liked about it – better than no spare at all. I think when it was deleted on the facelift, it was still optional for a while.

    Possibly the biggest threat to the Ecosport was the Dacia Duster, which took the same idea but executed it more successfully, perhaps because it was considerably cheaper: as it stands now, the Duster in top specification, with 4×4 and a diesel engine, is £405 cheaper than the cheapest 4×2 petrol Ecosport.

    The Edge, like the Ka Plus, was another OneFord which seemed to fail to gain much market in the UK and I would guess Europe also. The Ecosport is still listed on the Ford USA website, though – I wonder what they would make of the Puma. (also, the Explorer is available to buy on both sides of the Atlantic once again – though not the UK)

    1. The Ka+ was possibly an even larger step back in Europe compared to the previous Fiat-built Ka which shared the underpinnings of the 500. It should have been named Ka minus instead of Ka plus, while it gained a lot of room inside and extra doors to access the rear seats, it unforunately failed to be the cheerful small car it’s predecessors were – not to mention the awfully outdated engine lineup. In fact, while the EcoSport can somewhat pull off the OneFord Mondeo-like grill on the front and even succeeds with giving an off-roadish impression that so many customers desired, the Ka+ just felt depressive.

  9. That you should be publishing this today is coincidentally timely for me as only yesterday I had one of these glued to my tailgate on the highway in, of all places, Kentucky.

    It stood out for a number of reasons, particularly that I do not recall having ever seen one before which led me to let it pass (briefly) to see what it was. A rather pathetic-looking thing piloted by a young women with a phone to her ear and a far-away look in her eye, you can imagine how incongruous it looked in the wilds of the southern Mid West of America. I had assumed it was the product of a South American division of Ford and I suppose I wasn’t too wrong. Compared to the other offerings on the road that day (in this part of the world these are mainly dumpy “domestic” saloons of the early 2000s) it certainly looked like a third-world product with its awkward proportions and dainty little wheels; like something a large multi-disciplinary firm might conceive to mobilize the masses in a burgeoning economy rather than the product of one of the longest-established motor manufacturers.

    Incidentally, by far the more interesting aspect of my journey was the sheer breadth and variety of roadkill on offer here. I’ve never seen an armadillo before, let alone one belly-up by the side of the road being eyed-up by a curious crow…

    1. Hi Jeff. I’ve just checked and EcoSport US annual sales averaged around 60k between 2018 and 2020 inclusive and were around 26k for the first six months of 2021. Not terrible, but not great either in such a large market.

      The Volkswagen T-Cross US annual sales averaged around 107k between 2019 and 2020. I can’t immediately think of another competitor in that market to benchmark it against. Any suggestions?

    2. Daniel – for comparison, the Buick Encore (a Korean-built Mokka) had peak US sales in 2019 with 102,402, with consistent sales growth from its 2013 launch. 2020 sales were 41,752, in difficult circumstances and with an impending all-new model.

    3. If sad EcoSport wants to feel better, it need only review US sales numbers for the Fiat 500X , which in its best year there almost reached 13K. And [in my opinion] the 500X isn’t even ugly.

    4. Hi gooddog. Oh dear, the 500x is certainly deserving of better. I’m rather taken with this 4WD ‘Sport’ version with colour-keyed rather than faux off-road trimmings:

    5. To reinforce the Ford / GM asymmetry, there’s also the Chevrolet Trax – basically the same suv as the Mokka / Encore – which achieved 106,299 US sales in 2020, and 116,817 in 2019.

      The poor 500X probably didn’t stand a chance after the Tipo 312 500’s US misadventure. Its better-assimilated Melfi factory-mate the Jeep Renegade put up a poorer showing than I’d have expected. Peak was 103,324 in 2017, declining thereafter to 76,886 in 2019, and 62,847 in 2020.

  10. It needs, among other things, a modern-day Issigonis to come along and stick 4 inches or so in the width. Although it looks as though it would be a top-heavy car, this appears not be the case, according to the film, below. I wonder how the mk1 EcoSport would have done in Europe – it looks so different from the later ones.

    Re the SUV trend, Carwow tested the Renault Arkana recently (me neither) and said that sort of vehicle will take over the Golf-Focus segment.

  11. The local pub landlord has one of these as in the headline picture colour. Should we be walking past (not to) even my wife comments on how ugly this thing is. I’ve given the Juke the nickname of Bratachian but I really cannot think of anything nice to say about this. Nor add to what Daniel and the commentariat have posted. End

  12. I seem to be very much in the minority in not actually minding the EcoSport’s looks very much! Comparing it with the Puma is something of a category error I feel: the EcoSport is really aimed at a quite different segment, the trad SUV wannabe, whereas the Puma is a crossover. Hence with the EcoSport one gets the butch styling cues of tall boxy shape with as high a bonnet line as can be contrived. The problem of course is that engineering constraints imposed by the need to use the Fiesta platform while not blowing the budget result in the comparatively small wheels as mentioned above. Ford should be far more concerned by the car’s failure relative to the GM rivals in various markets than by the Puma outselling it in 2021 Europe.
    I don’t think anyone has considered the question of how well the EcoSport has done in Brazil. It hadn’t been on the market long the last time I was there, but I did see a few around. (In an environment where the typical family car is a Gol or Palio, the proportions seem less egregiously odd.) Perhaps Eduardo or one of our other Brazilian commentators might be able to enlighten us? It’s tempting to assume the car is a failure because it didn’t meet the needs of the US or Euro markets, but that’s like saying the Fiesta was a failure because Ford no longer sell it in the US, or the Edge because it was ill-suited to Europe. Richard’s observation that the markets were just too different for One Ford to apply in this case is probably correct.
    I suspect Ford’s withdrawal from Brazil has to do with increased competition from Korean and Japanese brands and Ford’s realisation that they simply couldn’t achieve the same level of perceived sophistication as Hyundai in particular at equivalent price points. The difficult time the Brazilian economy has been through in recent years will not have helped in this regard. Again, though, I’d love to hear what someone with knowledge of the current situation in Brazil could tell us.

    1. Michael: Ford do Brasil hit a homerun with the Ecosport Mk1. Since Suzuki withdrew from the country in 2003 (the very year the Ecosport was introduced) to return six years later, Ford recreated and enlarged the compact SUV segment.

      Since the mid-1980s, Ford considered ceasing its manufacturing activities in Brazil. The ill-fated Autolatina gave Ford some extra time here. After the divorce from VW, Dearborn authorized some investments in Brazil, and the Ecosport was the brainchild of Antônio Maciel Neto, Ford’s then-president, the first man to see how a cheap, soft off-roader would be welcomed around here.

      As you mentioned, in a country where the typical family car was a Gol, a Palio or a Celta, the Ecosport, although riding the Fiesta platform, was seen as something an extra step above such entry-level vehicles. But Ford sneezed and lost the train around 2010, when two strong contenders arrived. First was the Hyundai Tucson, which, although larger, was aggressively priced and benefitted from Brazil’s booming economy between 2008 and 2012. By then, it was trendy for the Brazilian middle class to buy a Hyundai.

      As Tom S said, adding insult to the injury, Renault brought the Duster in 2010 or 2011, and the aging Ford couldn’t stand a ghost of a chance against it, too. I believe this was the real nail in the Ecosport’s coffin, but, as Brazil’s economy continued to grow until 2012, even the more expensive Mitsubishis (TR4 and ASX) took a slice of the Ecosport’s sales as well.

      When the Mk2 Ecosport was released (for the MY2013 IIRC), Ford had lost its moment. The Tucson and the Duster led the market for a few more years and were joined by the HR-V, the Nissan Kicks, the VW T-Cross and the leader of the pack, the Renegade – which sold almost 57k units in Brazil in 2020, almost equaling the U.S. sales mentioned by Robertas.

      Even though the Ecosport Mk1’s exterior design is not bad, its interior is too much of a letdown for me. I don’t know what cars sold in Western Europe have the worst ergonomics and materials, but I guess they can’t beat the 2003 Ecosport as the main offender.

    2. Good morning Michael. Good points about the EcoSport not bring a direct competitor for the Puma, and being designed primarily for developing markets (although, as Eduardo has said, the Mk2 has not had the same impact in its home market as the Mk1). It remains the case that the Mk2 was woefully inadequate for Europe and the US, hence it’s a candidate for the ‘Missing the Marque’ series, I would contend. It’s a moot point as to whether or not having a such a car in its range harms Ford’s image.

      Interestingly, Opel/Vauxhall also offered two different riffs on the small crossover theme with the Mokka and Crossland X, although the new Mokka now seems to have replaced both.

    3. Eduardo, thanks very much for your very detailed explanation of the background to the EcoSport’s lifetime in its home market. I never did get an opportunity to look closer at the interior of a Mk1 – I always presumed it was similar to the contemporary Euro Fusion, but I guess Ford do Brasil might well have found a way to decontent it. (And the interiors of that Fusion and its sister Fiesta were well made but not regarded as their strong points to start with…)
      I agree with you that the writing was on the wall for a lot of small soft-roaders once the Duster arrived: it’s a remarkably appropriate product for that segment. And I had forgotten about the Renegade – I presume it’s made in the Pernambuco factory? That was just being completed when I was last in Recife…
      Daniel, I agree really, the misfortunate EcoSport was the wrong car in the wrong place at the wrong time, and as such does qualify as a “miss”. So too does the home-grown Ford B-Max, whose door arrangement was not without merit but which found very few customers…

  13. Hi Daniel
    The Crossland x has recently been facelifted with the Visor front grille and lost the x from its moniker. So GM are still offering 2 takes on the SUV.
    Personally I am not too offended by the Ecosport and can see the logic in offering 2 alternatives in this rapidly increasing market. Admittedly the road behaviour of the Puma would appear to be up to the normal Ford of Europe excellence but I do think they’ve tried too hard with the styling.

    1. Hi Ayjay. Thanks for putting me right on the Crossland. I notice on the Vauxhall website that they describe the new Visor front end as ‘iconic’, which seems a bit premature!

  14. I am entering this discussion a bit tardy, but I just wanted to echo (Eco?) Michael’s sentiment above that the EcoSport cannot fully be judged on its foreign successes, rather its domestic market is the ultimate crucible. After all, the aforementioned failures of OneFord experiments with the Escort and Contour (née Mondeo) overlook perhaps OneFord’s biggest slip-up in recent history—the latest USDM Focus and Fiesta. In their eagerness to sell those Euro-designed compacts here in the ‘Land of the Free’, they saddled them not with traditional torque converters but the oft-maligned, flawed, and ultimately model-killing ‘Powershift’ dry-DCT from Getrag, which, in a country where people drive double-footed and expect their cars to need zero maintenance, has caused Ford no end of legal headache. The ultimate fact of the matter is that Mulally learned the hard way that world cars aren’t like airplanes; just because the 737 does excellently both in Southeast Asia as well as in Texas doesn’t mean that the same will hold true for cars. Multimillion dollar airlines buy and run planes, not commonfolk who have a certain set of regional expectations and budgets. (And hey, airplanes used to be pretty regional, too—remember the Vickers VC10 was designed for ‘hot and high’ performance in the former British colonies where 707s faltered).

    That said, the moment the EcoSport set wheel on American soil and I saw it on the pages of Jalopnik, I knew it was a tragic little ‘developing-market’ CUV with no hope of ever combatting the establishment in my eyes. The Juke was polarizing, but there was no denying the quality it oozed over the EcoSport (its replacement, the Kicks, is quite in the same vein as the EcoSport, and I think it similarly dreary.) Beyond that, the Renegade was quite attractive, the HR-V was a Honda (Americans love those), the Trax was cheap, the Encore could be had in Middle America, the CX-3 was attractive and premium, the 500X was actually European(ish), and the XV Crosstrek was a runaway success (Americans love those even more these days). Even before things like the Kona and CH-R, I definitely saw no compelling reason to choose the EcoSport above any of those—even the Daewoo-built GM twins had a bit of Opel in the dash which made them feel less cheap than the Tonka-toy Ford. The one redeeming feature to me was the external mounted spare, if only for the off-road cosplay aesthetic.

    It just puzzles me that Ford couldn’t price it drastically under the competition because then, and only then, would it make a great deal of sense. Considering all the money they were saving on R&D, manufacturing, and material quality, it was basically a crime to start it at $20k here, not to mention it arrived on our soil already six years old! It was like Ford set it up to fail, yet because the Blue Oval is so big here, they still managed to outsell things like the Juke and CX-3. Hell, one of my friends just bought one after her W203 Kompressor bit the bullet, and she managed to get a 24-hr test drive in the Mach-E from the salesman by purchasing it that day (thankfully an SE trim at a good discount). I suppose that is its biggest draw, that it is a Ford (established dealers, established brand), and that it can be gotten for a deal. Still, pricing it MSRP around $16k, $17k, or even $18k would have been much more fair, in my mind, and definitely would have boosted sales no doubt.

    As it were, despite its interesting backstory in being a Brazilian developed CUV to ‘unite Ford globally’, it is destined to lead the same life here in America as the original OneFord USDM Escort: a mediocre little transport pod with undersized engines selling mainly on the fact that, ‘well, it’s a Ford!’ The more things change, the more they stay the same…

    1. Good morning amoore100. That’s a good point you make about Alan Mulally and the diifference between selling aircraft and motor vehicles worldwide.

      My issue with the EcoSport in Europe is that I cannot see any advantages it offers over the Puma for roughly the same price, just many negatives. If the EcoSport was genuinely a ‘proper’ 4wd vehicle with decent off-road capabilities, as opposed to the on-road bias of the Puma, then the two could be complementary in Ford’s range. One could then even argue that the more basic interior materials and finishes suited its more utilitarian bias. As it is, I cannot see why anyone would buy an EcoSport over the Puma.

      (Regarding the Vickers VC10, it was designed specifically to meet the demands of BOAC, to serve the British ‘colonial’ routes to Africa, then the airline decided it didn’t want it after all, at least not in the numbers promised, and nobody else was interested. Poor old Vickers for roundly stuffed by BOAC!)

    2. Interesting. The totally awful Ecosport sold in North America is made in India. A friend was given one for a week while they tried to work out why his Fusion sedan’s engine stopped one day while driving and nobody could start it again. Even after a week at the main Ford dealer. But the Ecosport – the swear words my friend, and in particular his wife, used in describing it were amusing. Too narrow, wobbly and could hardly make it up the hill to their home. Somehow Ford sells these things, which seem completely uncompetitive, to people who presumably haven’t even half-an-hour to spare to check out any one of the competition, ALL of which are better. And the Ecosport is expensive as well. One presumes that only people with their mind out-of-gear lease or buy an Ecosport.

      Ford doesn’t bother to sell the Puma here. Their big seller is the Escape, which is basically the same beast as the Kuga and not much more expensive than the dreaded Ecosport. The Escape is also sold now as the squared-off design Bronco Sport, so rounded or butch, your choice, same underpinnings. The real Bronco, another vehicle altogether, has only just become available and is a competitor for the Jeep Wrangler.

      Daniel, VW doesn’t sell the T-Cross in North America, so where the 1o7K per annum unit sales comes from, I don’t know. Probably you meant the Tiguan, which along with the compact Escape/Rogue/CR-V/RAV4/Forester/CX-5/various Hyundais and Kias/plethora of GM and Jeep nonentities, is the biggest crossover market segment by far. VW has recently announced a smaller than Tiguan crossover, the Taos, which will shortly be available for sale — that might be a new T-Cross in disguise, I don’t know. In the subcompact crossover market, the Subaru Crosstrek is a huge seller, but the segment is not all that popular, because the main compact class vehicles above them are not much more to lease or buy, and much bigger inside and more useful for the average family.

      While Ford’s reputation in North America somehow manages to survive both slipshod assembly and the Ecosport, Fiat’s useless cars soon met their proper fate here — oblivion. The 500 T, I think it was, made in the Balkans anyway, looked like Medusa from the front — I could not bear to actually gaze on it. The 500X was a shape nobody wanted, and the companion Jeep Renegade is completely overpriced. Let us not even speak of the 500 itself which by the end was thoroughly into its dotage, and regarded as a bit of a joke. That’s from my pal who is Warranty Manager at one of the local Chrysler/RAM/Jeep dealers, who were the “winners” locally in snagging the Fiat franchise over a decade ago, and regretted it ever since.

    3. Bill – it´s interesting how the 500 is a dead mule in the US but it still selling very well here. I believe it was refreshed quite substantially though it´s hard to see precisely. There was a time in the US where massive numbers of consumers bought a Chevy Celebrity or an Olds Ciera sedan and they were on sale for aeons (14 years for the Ciera, I think). The little 500 is the Euromarket´s Ciera. It hits the sweet spot for the uninterested driver who likes a bit of cute. For all its sins, it works well and doesn´t cost a lot, exactly like the Ciera which, I presume, after the first few years was built as well it was designed to be built. I think they were dull but solid. You´ll hate me for saying I quite like these enduring slugs even if they do nothing for the enthusiast or aesthete!

    4. The 500 suffered in the US because of that good-ol European trait of being poorly designed for high-heat, long-distance driving. I just returned from 1000 miles at 82 mph in 105-115 degree heat (1600 kms @ 132 kph in 40-45 degrees C) in my Volvo XC70 and while it took it like a champ, it seems like a Fiat 500 would be considerably less happy doing something like that!

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