The Ford EcoSport was the vehicle that pretty much created the compact SUV segment in India, when it was launched back in 2013. While the vehicle has seen a number of special edition iterations and a mild facelift in the past, Ford India has now introduced the new refreshed model of the compact SUV, with the biggest update being the addition of a new petrol power plant. In addition to the new engine, the vehicle also features a new conventional automatic transmission, both of which have combined to help the compact SUV become more efficient. In this feature, we take a look at the top technological updates that the segment-starter compact SUV brings to the table.
The EcoSport has been one of Ford India’s top performers, having sold over 200,000 units in India alone. India is one of the four manufacturing hubs of the compact SUV, which is sold in over 50 markets across the globe. When launched in India, the Ford EcoSport had localisation content of about 60 %, which has now grown to over 85 %. Efforts are on to take the localisation level to over 90 % in the future, says Ford, confirming that India will continue to remain a major hub in manufacturing the EcoSport, as well as its other models. The new refreshed Ford EcoSport is also said to have over 1,600 new parts from its earlier model.
1.5 L ‘DRAGON’ PETROL ENGINE
The biggest highlight of the new Ford EcoSport is the new 1,497 cc, in-line three-cylinder, naturally aspirated, Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT), ‘Dragon’ petrol engine, and the new six-speed automatic transmission. The petrol engine delivers maximum power of 121 hp at 6,500 rpm, along with peak torque of 150 Nm at 4,500 rpm. Since the engine is naturally-aspirated, it has power and torque to offer in a very linear manner. This engine is offered with a five-speed manual transmission, as well as a new six-speed conventional torque-converter automatic transmission. The manual transmission version is said to offer fuel efficiency of 17 km/l, while the automatic variant claims to offer 14.8 km/l. India is the first country Ford is using to manufacture and supply this new Dragon petrol engine.
The new petrol engine is claimed to be part of Ford’s latest innovation, which has been designed to improve performance and efficiency, while reducing size, weight and friction. The Ti-VCT system allows each intake and exhaust cam to function independently of each other as engine operating conditions change. It offers variable independent phasing for intake and exhaust, with improvements to volumetric efficiency at full load, combustion stability at idle rpm and better fuel economy at partial loads. Ti-VCT is also claimed to deliver faster throttle response and enhanced fuel economy.
This engine has over 80 % of its components sourced from Indian suppliers. Since the new engine comes with one cylinder lesser than the previous 1.5 l petrol engine, it is automatically lighter, with further lightweighting taking place due to its aluminium block. The engine offers better efficiency than the existing four-cylinder one, achieving 7 % decrease in Brake Specific Fuel Consumption (BSFC) and CO2 emissions. Downsizing the engine saves weight and lowers friction, while exhaust manifold integrated in the aluminium cylinder head reduces emissions, and the dual-stage variable oil pump operated at low speeds results in higher fuel economy. Additionally, the off-set crankshaft and individual coil-on-plug system enable quicker engine start, while the spark plugs centralised in the combustion chamber promote more standardised and efficient combustion.
With all these technologies in place, the face-lifted Ford EcoSport with the new petrol engine does offer more efficiency in terms of fuel economy, along with optimum power delivery. The new engine also offers a smoother and quieter experience than the previous model, which Ford claims has been achieved as a result of a number of factors.
The first innovation comes in the form of a balancer shaft supported by hydrodynamic bearings that work as counter weight to eliminate natural first-order vibrations. Secondly, the engine’s timing belt-in-oil primary drive system – which is claimed to be an industry-first feature – cuts noise and friction. A specially-designed acoustic isolation system minimises the entry of engine noise into the cabin, additionally helping in making the ride quiet.
The new engine does sound like a typical three-cylinder unit, but is highly-refined, when compared to other three-cylinder engines in general. The engine also comes with another industry-first feature, which is its hydraulic tappets that are equipped with finger followers with self-adjusting feature, which minimises friction and is also compatible with alternate fuels like LPG and CNG.
The new petrol engine also features smart design innovations, such as an integrated front cover that results in lower weight, improved rigidity and reduced noise, vibration, harshness (NVH) levels. It also has an integrated exhaust manifold, which is made of a single piece and integrated into the cylinder head, without joints or fasteners. The integrated exhaust manifold helps reduce noise levels and lowers temperature emissions.
SIX-SPEED TORQUE CONVERTOR AT
The refreshed Ford EcoSport petrol variant is available with a new conventional six-speed torque convertor automatic transmission that offers low NVH levels, which are achieved through high powertrain bending frequency, with grader and softer gear shifts. This transmission also features a sport mode that has been tuned with optimised calibration, and can be shifted between gears using the steering-mounted paddle shifters.
This automatic transmission is quite supportive of the engine, and works along with it to offer a very smooth drive, when driven in the drive mode with a light foot. There is a very small lag, when the transmission shifts into higher gears, but that is hardly felt when driving in city conditions. It is this state of tune that seems to have helped Ford achieve an overall increase in fuel efficiency and reduction in emissions to the tune of 7 % in the new EcoSport petrol.
The sedate nature of the engine and transmission changes when sports mode is engaged. The transmission begins to hold gears longer through the rev band in this mode, in order to enable a more dynamic drive. However, the lag in upshifting via the paddle shifters increases as the vehicle is pushed further in this mode, with downshifts being much quicker.
INFOTAINMENT, SAFETY & OTHER EQUIPMENT
The interior of the new EcoSport sees a new layout of the dashboard design, with the highlight being a new floating 8-inch capacitive touchscreen that is offered as part of the infotainment system on the top two variants. The infotainment system comes with Ford’s SYNC 3 connectivity system that offers hands-free operation with voice control, as well as mobile connectivity through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The new system offers fluid operations with seamless touch integration and simple access to all options within the system. The screen is placed in the line of sight of the driver, with a high regard to ergonomics in terms of the reach for easy access.
The new infotainment system offers an interface that is very similar to that of a smartphone. The system itself does not offer navigation, but that can be accessed via phone integration. This infotainment system can be controlled only through touch, leading to some users feeling the pinch of the absence of a rotary dial control. The music system itself comes with six speakers, as well as audio playback with AM/FM, MP3, Aux-In and USB through two slots. Sound quality from the speakers is very good, with the ability to adjust the area of focus of the sound (front, rear, or towards any particular seat) through a smart touch.
Ford has made the biggest change to the exterior of the new EcoSport with a completely-redesigned front facia. The compact SUV comes with a new set of projector headlamps with LED daytime running lights (DRL), along with larger fog lamps that have the indicators integrated into them. The headlamps come with automatic switch-on function in the top variants. Safety features in the vehicle include dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, engine immobiliser and emergency brake light flashing as standard across variants. The top-end variant gets six airbags, in addition to features like rear-view camera, Traction Control System, Hill-Launch Assist, Cruise Control, Emergency Brake Assist, automatic headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. The traction control system in the compact SUV performs its duty in a subtle, minimalistic manner, providing good levels of grip while driving across various road conditions. The EcoSport features an electric power assist steering system combined with pull drift compensation.
In all, the refreshed Ford EcoSport has been equipped with a range of technologies, be with regards to the engine and transmission or the infotainment and convenience systems. All these technologies have resulted in making the creator of the compact SUV segment more efficient, powerful, reliable and convenient, while extending the driving pleasure.
TEXT & PHOTO: Naveen Arul