A substantially revised Ford EcoSport will be going on sale in Ireland at the end of January, writes Brian Byrne.
The small SUV has a new grille and changed lights front and rear, and is also getting a two-tone colours makeover. There is also a completely upgraded cabin which includes a new centre screen.
Many of the changes are unseen, though they can be felt. The EcoSport for Europe is now being built in Romania following a €200m investment at a Ford plant there.
This allowed the company to 'tune' the car's underpinnings to suit European tastes, resulting in perceptively less noise and vibration, and a much more coherent ride and handling experience.
There's also a new diesel engine, a 125hp 1.5 4-cylinder unit which on a short introduction drive in Portugal today seems very refined. A 1.0 3-cylinder petrol EcoBoost with 125hp is the alternative engine. Both come with 6-speed manual gearboxes, and there's an automatic option. There's also an 'intelligent' AWD available for the first time.
The EcoSport is currently the smallest of Ford's crossover/SUV range, though an 'Active' variant of the Fiesta is coming next year.
For Ireland the latest EcoSport will come in two grades, Titanium and ST Line, both with top end specifications. According to Ford Ireland's MD Ciaran McMahon the experience is that customers in this segment only want high specification and they are prepared to pay for it.
The starting price will be €26,900 for the Titanium 1.0 petrol, and full specification and price detail will be available when new EcoSport arrives in Ireland. Pending the availability of the 125hp version in mid-year, the launch diesel in Ireland will be the 100hp version.
While sales for 2018 will be inhibited because the new car will be arriving after the key selling period, Ciaran McMahon is anticipating sales of 800-900 in a full year. The segment continues to grow both in overall market share in in the number of contenders.
For 2017, around 360 EcoSports have been sold, where the segment leader is Renault's Captur with 1,834 followed by the Dacia Duster with 1,739 and Opel's Mokka with 1,100.
"Our target vehicle is the Opel Mokka, and we have priced and specified our latest EcoSport with that in mind," Ciaran McMahon says.