Ford's mini 4x4

Ford EcoSport, side
Ford EcoSport, front
Ford EcoSport, front
Ford EcoSport, side
Ford EcoSport, rear
Ford EcoSport, rear
Ford EcoSport, rear
Ford EcoSport, boot
Ford EcoSport, interior

DESPITE a couple of attempts over the past few years, Ford had never managed to find me one of their small EcoSport SUV's to drive.

Finally a couple of weeks ago, I managed to get my hands on one and I thoroughly enjoyed its wide range of abilities.

Of course, it's up against some very stiff competition from the likes of the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and SEAT Arona, but I found that it matches them all in almost every way.

The EcoSport has actually been around now for quite a few years, but was given a big update in 2017 and then towards the end of 2018 a four wheel drive powertrain was offered for the first time.

This is the model I drove, powered by a 1.5-litre turbo diesel engine through a six-speed gearbox and in ST-Line sport trim.

Part of the spec is stiffened sports suspension and this seems a little like a contradiction in terms. One of the reasons many people buy an SUV is the usually high levels of comfort.

The EcoSport is by no means uncomfortable, but I would hazard a guess that the standard models without sports suspension are likely to ride better.

This is one of the strange truths of our time. Most of the car makers want us to pay extra for cars with stiffer sports suspension, when it almost invariably spoils the ride you would get in cars without it. This is just as true of Audi, Mercedes and BMW as it is of many others.

The little EcoSport drives beautifully in just about every way. The diesel engine is not the most powerful, but its suits the car well, and pulls lustily in the low to mid-range once on the move.

It's very smooth and quiet, dropping down to under 1,500 revs and pulling away again without a murmer of complaint, in the way that the vast majority of diesels seem to do these days - such a far cry from the low speed rattle of earlier oil burners.

I found it would happily pull up quite steep hills in fourth gear and this was also the best gear for overtaking - when traffic and road width allowed.

The sports suspension probably makes the corners feel better because it reduces body lean if you're driving quickly.

In fact, the road-holding and handling were very good and certainly ahead of some of the competition, with strong grip and good balance, plus excellently tactile and informative steering.

On smoother surfaces, the ride was exemplary but when I ventured on to narrow lanes through some hills not far from home, it became much more unsettled, bouncing me around a good deal at higher speeds and remaining less than comfortable at low speed.

The 4x4 drivetrain, should you want it, is available without the sports suspension and I think that would be my choice.

The six-speed gearbox is light and easy, as is the clutch, and the car endears itself to you by its perky nature and bluff good looks.

ST-Line spec incudes a very wide range of kit such as an electronic stability programme, hill start assistance, stainless steel pedals, ST-Line bodystyling, rear camera and parking sensors, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and keyless start.

There's a tyre pressure monitoring system, Ford sat nav with eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB sockets, height and lumber adjustment for the driver, special alloys, part leather trim, climate control, cruise and even puddle lights that are so useful at night.

FAST FACTS

Price: £24,250

Mechanical: 125bhp, 1498cc, 4 cylinder diesel, all wheel drive, 6 speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 112mph

0-62mph:11.3 seconds

Combined MPG: 47

Insurance Group: 16

C02 emissions:140g/km

Bik rating:30%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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