The 2018 Ford EcoSport is the latest in the company's lineup of crossovers and SUVs, slotting in just below the Escape as the smallest member of the family. While new to the United States, the EcoSport has been a common sight around the world for years. In fact, the EcoSport we get is actually made in India, making it the first car to be sold in the US that's imported from the subcontinent.

While it’s called the EcoSport, don’t be confused into thinking it’ll help you save the environment or win you any races; you’ll find no electric motors or batteries drivetrains here, just a couple of small engines. Instead, “Eco” really stands for “economical” as it is meant to be as affordable as possible, while “Sport” stands for “small” as is the current naming convention for crossovers and SUVs.

Best Value

While the base S model is quite cheap for a crossover, it’s worth it to step up to the SE trim. At this level, the EcoSport is very well equipped for a $23,900 crossover, with a moonroof, push button start, heated front seats, backup sensors, and automatic climate control. We’re trying to save money here, so we’ll stick with the tiny 1.0-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive.

As for options, the SE Convenience Package adds quite a bit to the EcoSport, including a bigger touchscreen and blind spot monitoring. We’d pass on the Cold Weather package as the SE comes standard with heated seats and gloves are much cheaper, but the Cargo Management Package is a nifty addition with a net and an organizer.

  • Model: 2018 Ford EcoSport SE
  • Engine: 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder
  • Output: 123 hp/125 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 27 City / 29 Hwy
  • Options: SE Convenience Package ($1,795, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, upgraded infotainment system with 8.0-inch touchscreen, navigation, Sync Connect and voice activation, ambient lighting, 110V AC Power Outlet), Cargo Management Package ($110)
  • Base Price: $23,995 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $25,900

Performance

Ford EcoSport

The EcoSport features only one transmission – a six-speed automatic - and a choice of two engines. The first is a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder fitted only to front-wheel-drive models. All-wheel-drive models, like our SES tester are equipped with the larger, normally-aspirated, 2.0-liter four cylinder engine.

Around town, where it will probably spend most of its time, the EcoSport manages to accomplish everything an urban dweller might ask without much fuss. Due to a small footprint and standard rear view camera, parallel parking in small Fiesta-sized spots is a snap. Initial acceleration is fairly brisk and, as long it isn't pressed, engine noise is muted.

At the same time, the engine quickly runs out of steam, while putting your foot into it elicits copious amounts of noise from the engine compartment, and not much in the way of forward motion. Unlike the Fiesta on which it's based, the taller body and higher ride height of the EcoSport translates into merely adequate handling, with a great deal of body lean in corners. In addition, the short wheelbase that makes for great parking maneuvers also translates the chassis's encounters with potholes and even small road irregularities into abrupt ride motions delivered directly into the cabin resulting in highway trips that can quickly turn tiresome.

Finally, steering feedback is lackluster, there's very little initial bite to the brakes - making modulation difficult - while EPA-estimated fuel economy numbers of 23 miles per gallon in the city, 29 on the highway, and 25 combined, though decent, are only average for the class and fall short of rivals from Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and Chevrolet.

Style

A design that mimics that of the larger Escape begins up front with styling cues that include Ford's corporate crossover grille, high-riding headlights, and geometric-shaped enclosures below those lights that, in upper trims, house fog lights. It continues along the sides with prominent wheel arches, a prominent lower swage line, and an upper character line that bisects the front and rear door handles. In back, the biggest surprise is a door that's hinged from the left, rather than the top, with the release cleverly concealed in the right rear taillight – making opening and closing easier for those who are vertically challenged.

Park one next to its bigger brother the Escape and the difference becomes apparent: 16.8 inches shorter in overall length with a wheelbase that's six inches shorter, a width that's three inches narrower, and a height that's 1.2 inches lower. It's wrapped around a neatly formatted cabin that, in our SES example, featured door, dashboard, and center console trim that was color-matched to the EcoSport's copper-colored Canyon Ridge metallic paint finish, with the same color woven into the cloth seat fabric.

Both the front and rear seats are supportive and nicely bolstered, the driving position is high with good outward visibility out the front, sides and back. The rear seats split, recline, and fold forward for additional cargo space, with sufficient headroom to allow a pair of six-footers to clear the ceiling.

Rear seat leg room, on the other hand, doesn't match the headroom and rear seat passengers will find legroom at a premium, especially if seat in front is in its rearmost position. Likewise, maximum cargo volume is just 20.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded – low in itself - but also doesn't consider the fact that the rear seatbacks don't fold flat, but rest at an angle on the seat cushions – resulting in an awkward storage space, as well. Case in point: in order to transport a mountain bike without removing the front wheel, we had to push the front passenger seat to its forward-most position and stuff the front wheel in that space in order to close the rear hatch. And speaking of the rear hatch, as it opens from the side, this could present problems if loading or unloading is necessary and the EcoSport is parallel parked without much clearance between the bumper and the bumper of the vehicle behind it.

The biggest issue, however, is with the interior, itself. Awash in a sea of black plastics, it looks and feels cheap – even those surfaces that are padded. What's more, on our tester it even sounded cheap:. Driving with the sunroof open, the sunshade rattled annoyingly every time a bump or road imperfection was encountered. The only way to stop the annoyance was to either close the sunroof, or jam a hand, towel, or rag between the headliner and the sunshade.

The Best and Worst Things

The Ford EcoSport is a comfortable car for daily driving around town at a budget, with usable interior space, compliant ride, and quiet interior. If you’re looking for something inexpensive and practical, the EcoSport is a good fit.

On the other hand, the EcoSport feels cheaper than its price tag would have you think. It’s really slow, the trim looks like an afterthought, and there’s loads of low-quality plastics everywhere.

Right For? Wrong For?

Ford EcoSport

The EcoSport is perfect for a recent college graduate that's looking to burn a signing bonus on their first new car. It’s small, it’ll get you through most of your twenties without issue, and it will help move apartments when you realize your roommates annoy you too much.

The seats aren’t great for hauling children, and there isn’t enough space for all of the accessories that come with kids. If you’re looking for something family oriented, consider upgrading to the Escape instead.

The Bottom Line

The Ford EcoSport isn’t sporty and it isn’t green, but it is a competent little crossover. Handsome, affordable, and pretty good at carrying stuff, the EcoSport is a fine choice for an affordable subcompact SUV, even if the interior styling and trim are questionable.