If there's one word you could use to describe the Indian car market, it would certainly be dynamic. Not only are manufacturers forced to account for ever-changing customer demands, but they also have to stay on top of inconsistent government regulations.
The Renault Duster validates our insatiable appetite for car-like SUVs. Despite an unknown brand name, older design, optimistic pricing and unfriendly dealer network, the Duster managed to sell between 5,000 - 6,000 copies per month in the most recent quarter. While the Duster is competent in the areas of engine, robustness and ride quality, what really worked in its favour was the lack of any direct competition. The Premier Rio was destined to be a flop, and Mahindra's Quanto is too utilitarian in comparison. This monopoly won't continue for long though, most brands have compact SUVs as a priority in their product plans now.
Like the Duster, the EcoSport is a monocoque SUV. Unlike the ladder-on-frame Quanto, Scorpio etc., monocoque SUVs are lighter and incredibly car-like to drive. On the flip side, they aren't as tough as traditional ladder frame UVs, especially in load carrying or off-road applications. The monocoque UV seldom has a 3rd row of seats either (Ertiga being an exception). While commercial users will undoubtedly stick to conventional UVs, it's the personal owner that the compact SUV has square in its sight. Cross-shopping across segments is commonplace in India, and the target customers include those who are considering a premium hatchback or C segment sedan. Ford expects the compact SUV segment to grow 5 times from the current level by 2020.
The EcoSport starts its fight with the Duster on a strong footing. Because its length ducks under the 4 meter mark, Ford saves a substantial chunk in excise duties (Related Thread (The 2012 Budget & the Indian Car Scene : All you need to know)) for all engine options, save for the 1.5L petrol. Good thing that the spare wheel isn't accounted for by the authorities when calculating vehicular length. Then, the EcoSport is a futuristic design and Ford dealerships have a far wider reach across India.
The Ford EcoSport has been launched in India at a price of between Rs. 5.59 - 8.99 lacs (ex-Delhi).
What you'll like:
• Snazzy, futuristic styling makes the EcoSport a head-turner. Solid construction too
• 3 engine options, including the impressive 1.0L EcoBoost & economical 1.5L Diesel
• Loaded to the gills with technology & equipment (SYNC, keyless entry & go, cooled glovebox, leather seats, parking display...)
• Smartly packaged interior. Adequate space for 4 adults. Lots of storage and practical features
• Dynamically sorted. Competent handling by SUV standards
• City-friendly! Great ergonomics, driving position, manoeuvrability and size for urban India
• Safety kit includes 6 Airbags, ABS + EBD, Emergency assistance phone call, Emergency brake warning etc. AT variant gets ESP and Hill-Hold
What you won't:
• Hyundai-esque light electric steering on the Highway
• Ride quality isn't as plush as that of the Renault Duster. Underlying stiffness obvious
• 362 liter boot is significantly smaller than all competitors
• Narrow cabin width makes a 5th occupant unwelcome. Best for 4 onboard
• Sub-4 meter size and compact dimensions take street cred away
• Tree trunk thick A-Pillars result in severe blind spots
• EcoBoost only on top variant. No high-powered diesel like the Duster 110PS
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