Two-in-one update strategy for entry crossover

Could New Zealand be the last place on Earth to enjoy overdue revisions to the Ford EcoSport?


SOME improvements rendered Ford’s poor-performing EcoSport small crossover in Australia seem unlikely to be made available to Kiwis for some months.

That’s because the distributor is awaiting yet another raft of changes coming to the Fiesta-based car – revisions that that seem likely to be implemented in mid-2018.

Ford New Zealand has signalled that it prefers not to follow the example of our neighbour, and launch the car with initial alterations now and then deliver more still next June.

The end result is that a car that is struggling to impact in the generally hot compact crossover sector will be denied for some time yet the refreshed powertrain line-up which retires the archaic four-cylinder naturally-aspirated 1.5 for a turbocharged like-capacity three-cylinder and the tweaked styling and the latest Sync3 multimedia entertainment system that the factory in India is now placing into Australia market product.

Those updates will come, a brand spokesman assures, but only after the plant in Chennai enables production, during the first part of 2018, of another round of changes – the most obvious being another external restyle whose most obvious alteration is the removal of the spare wheel from the back door.

“We’re working to a different strategy to Australia,” Ford New Zealand corporate communications manager Tom Clancy offered.

“We have not confirmed our complete line-up, and our line-up will not exactly match theirs, but we will be getting at least some of the changes (that have hit Australia) …

“We have not yet confirmed exactly what will happen but we will be seeing some changes in mid-2018.

“We are anticipating some significant upgrades for that model.”

Asked if it was Ford NZ preference to implement the full swath of changes in one hit rather than over two stages, Clancy replied: “There are a number of reasons behind it, but it does make it cleaner, I guess.”

He said the current car will stay in supply until then.

In respect to EcoSport sales, Clancy acknowledged that Ford NZ would be “happier if it did better.

“This makes this change all the more exciting. The entire segment is growing and growing and growing. If we can have something that is more appealing in that segment it is definitely going to be a good thing.”

With 90kW and 150Nm, the 1.5-litre tri-pot creates 8kW/10Nm more than the old four cylinder and attaches to a six-speed automatic. This engine goes into an Ambiente grade edition. The Trend continues with the turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost that still produces 92kW/170Nm, but is now also paired to a six-speed auto.

The Sync3 infotainment system brings a step up to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The high-end variants get voice-activated sat-nav.

The initial freshen of EcoSport’s styling delivers a new trapezoidal grille design, angular headlights, and a revised rear bumper and tail-light.

Australia’s entry-level Ambiente runs 16-inch steel wheels and offers a six-way manual driver’s seat adjustment, cloth seat trim, 6.5-inch touchscreen, 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio, seven airbags, ESC, hill launch assist, cruise control, rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and emergency assistance.

Stepping up to the mid-spec Trend adds 16-inch alloys, front foglights, silver-finish grille, body colour mirrors and door handles, black finish roof rails, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, seven-speaker audio and a rear armrest with twin cupholders.

The range-topping Titanium has 17-inch alloys, a full-size spare wheel with cover, chrome finish grille, HID headlights, daytime running lights, power-folding mirrors, front and rear bumper inserts, silver finish roof rails, sunroof, leather-accented seat trim, smart keyless entry, climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, front parking sensors, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

The updates to the Chennai product has been a long time coming; EcoSports built in Romania for the European and UK updated comprehensively more than a year ago – the changes introduced then included the spare wheel’s removal from the back.

There are still no plans to deliver four-wheel-drive to supplant the front-drive layout.