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    EcoSport20140318FORD vehicles have recently been getting more and more impressive. Their ways include providing much assistance to driver and passengers through features that—even if just newly developed—have been reengineered, resulting in the sort of products that amazed us when we were kids.

    The new EcoSport crossover is one such type of Ford vehicle. When I first saw it during its Philippine preview on January 30, I found it hard to believe that a B-segment-size SUV—a first in the local automotive scene—is the way to go for the American car brand.

    But a recent event held by Ford, where journalists were able to test and experience the EcoSport in a drive from Bangkok to Hua Hin and back, has made a believer out of me regarding the vehicle.

    Some people might think that the EcoSport is a “confused” vehicle because it’s a cross between an SUV and a subcompact car (it’s based on the Ford Fiesta). But with its capabilities, you could say it is suited for the Philippine market.

    Need to know
    Before the drive from Bangkok, officials from Ford Asia Pacific explained what the EcoSport is.

    According to Gary Boes, the company’s vehicle line director of product development for Ford’s B-,C- and D-segment cars, the EcoSport was conceived after Ford learned of the growing demand for SUVs and B-segment vehicles. The model, introduced in South America in 2003 and is only on its second generation, was built for the “global urban environment” and has the right size for navigating through city traffic.

    But George Thorton, Ford Asia Pacific’s segment chief engineer of the EcoSport, added that the model is not just ideal for the urban setting but is also perfect for weekend getaways. Partly, this is because the EcoSport has 20 storage compartments, including a bottle holder in the front passenger side that can fit an 800-milliliter container, as well as a new air-conditioner compressor that is capable of bringing down a blistering 65-degree Celsius heat to a more bearable 30-degree Celsius temp in a span of only 10 minutes. Of course, the EcoSport’s ample legroom and headroom, which make sitting in it comfortable, are welcome in both city and weekend getaway driving.

    On the road
    On the way to Hua Hin, the convoy of EcoSports passed by a known night marketplace near Bangkok where the roads are narrow and which was littered with parked motorcycles on both sides. But the dimensions of the EcoSport—1,658 millimeters tall, 4,241 millimeters long and 1,765 millimeters wide—helped us glide through with ease.

    Once out of Bangkok and into the highways, the EcoSport’s ride was smooth, its suspension able to provide a buffer against speed bumps and potholes along the way. Helping here is the vehicle’s high ground clearance of 200 millimeters, which allows me to drive down a deep shoulder off the road without giving the EcoSport a nick underneath.

    Also nice to know—according to Boes—is the vehicle’s excellent water-wading capability (although we did not test it). The Ford executive said they had proven that the Ecosport could keep its carpet dry even in waters as deep as 550 millimeters. That’s welcome news for Filipino drivers who know that most of the roads in the Metro can easily get flooded even with the slightest of drizzles.

    The EcoSport also packs a punch with its 1.5-liter engine that has Ford’s twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) technology, putting out 108hp at 6,300rpm and 142Nm at 4,500rpm. With Ford’s six-speed Ford PowerShift automatic transmission, the combination is both fun and economical.

    While having a chat with my codriver, we both noticed how the audio system’s volume level automatically adjusts when we speed up or slow down. Thanks to this feature, we did not have to shout or turn the volume knobs often just so we could talk.

    Upon reaching a vineyard in Hua Hin, where we had a taste of the place’s famous grape juice and mango and sticky rice (which, by the way, did not disappoint), participants were made to do an activity that’s meant to show how much cargo could fit inside an EcoSport. Well. It can accommodate up to 705 liters in its rear cargo space, or enough room for a washing machine to be placed there. Also, the rear seats can be split 60/40, allowing for long objects in the trunk while still being able to carry passengers.

    More fun features
    Serving as icing on the cake are the Ecosport’s Hill Launch Assist, Electronic Stability Program and Pull-drift Compensation, which all make driving easy and safe, thanks to advanced computerized systems that make sure the vehicle does not go into a direction unintended by the driver.

    People can also enjoy the model’s added amenities such as its smart keyless entry, Ford’s power start button, voice-activated in-car connectivity system called Sync, and sunroof.

    With all these features—and knowing that the EcoSport is priced from P775,000 (Ambiente MT) to P975,000 (Titanium AT) when the model is officially launched for sale in the Philippines at the Manila International Auto Show in early April—it’s likely Ford has a winner in the Ecosport.

    Asked if the company is wary that the success of the Ecosport might spell less sales for the Ford Fiesta and Focus, Ford Phils. Managing Director Kay Hart only expressed confidence and optimism over the prospect.

    “The three models cater to different markets. The EcoSport just gives people more options on what to choose,” Hart said.

    And if one needs a vehicle that is perfect for both the city and countryside, the EcoSport is an excellent choice.

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