The styling updates to the exterior and a new cabin inspired by the Ford Fiesta give the revised Ford EcoSport more appeal than before. But it is the all-wheel-drive version, a first for the EcoSport, that makes the most significant difference to the crossover.
In the metal
As with the rest of the model range, Ford is adding an ST-Line specification to the EcoSport offering. This model differs in that it gains a bespoke body kit that reflects its sportier look. The black door mirrors and roof come as standard items and it rolls on 17-inch 'Dark tarnish' alloy wheels. As with the other models in the range, it wears subtle ST-Line badging, extending to the branded scuff plates on the sills.
The interior enhancements largely replicate what already exists in the Fiesta, with details like the freestanding eight-inch touchscreen appearing in all Irish models. It runs Ford's SYNC 3 system and is more intuitive to use than before. For many, the ability to run both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be a major plus point. Part leather seats and a unique flat-bottomed steering wheel lift the interior a little more over the standard model.
Our first drive of this latest version of the EcoSport in its standard front-wheel-drive guise didn't do much to impress us. However, this all-wheel-drive version, with its new 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, did surprise us. The difference in how it performs compared to the other EcoSport is in the more composed and settled ride it delivers. This improvement is the result of the all-wheel-drive models gaining an independent rear suspension setup instead of the standard torsion beam arrangement.
In comparison to the standard suspension, the independent rear seems to do a good job of reducing the amount of body roll in bends. The narrow track, combined with larger diameter wheels contributes to the EcoSport having a somewhat fidgety ride over certain surfaces, but in this version, it is less apparent.
We also got sample the new 125hp 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine that will go on sale from mid-2018. Ford already offers a 95hp TDCi diesel in its front-wheel-drive EcoSport, but this new engine adds a further degree of refinement. With 300Nm of torque it's not the most potent diesel on the market, but the power output is sufficient for this small crossover. One further benefit of the new engine is the addition of a six-speed manual gearbox. The other EcoSports all get five-speeders, and these can sometimes leave you wanting to reach for a sixth cog, especially on the motorway. With the six-speed, the throw is a little long across the gate, but other than that it feels nice to use and is well-suited to the engine.
The ST-Line specification brings not only a more appealing image but tweaks to the electrically-assisted steering. There's a touch more weight to it, which is welcome, though this is permanent on the ST-Line, whereas some competitors offer this type of feel through a 'Sport' button. We found that the standard steering setup tended to snap back to centre quite quickly, but this is less so on the ST-Line model.
What you get for your money
Ford has yet to confirm the pricing for the all-wheel-drive EcoSport. With standard pricing starting from €26,900, we would expect the all-wheel-drive version with the new 1.5-litre diesel engine to cost around the €30,000 mark, especially in this ST-Line specification.
Standard equipment will include keyless start, cruise control with speed limiter, reversing camera, the Ford SYNC 3 system with eight-inch touchscreen that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and part-leather upholstery.
Initially, Ford's updated EcoSport didn't impress us that much, but this all-wheel-drive version is markedly better. The more sophisticated suspension setup makes for much better ride quality, though against an ever-growing amount of competition the EcoSport remains only a mid-pack contender.