HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—On the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford unveiled its latest SUV for the US market. Called the EcoSport, it’s the smallest SUV the company has brought to these shores, and it’s fitted into the range below the Edge. The rapidly growing “compact SUV” segment (think Honda HR-Vs and Buick Encores) has sold more than 1.7 million vehicles sold since 2003, and Ford hopes to sell more than half-a-million of its own small SUVs by 2020.
“Young Americans are spending their money on experiences, not stuff,” Ford SUV group marketing manager Michael O’Brien told me. “But they need a vehicle to enable those experiences.”
The EcoSport, which is loosely based on the Ford Fiesta platform, will come with a choice of two engines and four different trim packages. Buyers can get either the company’s award-winning 1.0L three-cylinder EcoBoost engine or a 2.0L four-cylinder, naturally aspirated direct injection option. Both use the same six-speed automatic gearbox. The EcoSport will be available in front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions. The latter sends up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels when necessary.
“Years of experience taught me there’s three things the customer is looking for: performance, capability, and technology,” said the EcoSport’s Chief Engineer Eric Loeffler. As such, the EcoSport will come packed with connectivity. There are a pair of fast-charging USB ports up front, 12v power outlets front and rear, and even the option of a 110v power outlet for the rear passengers.
The EcoSport comes with Ford’s latest SYNC 3 infotainment system, which uses an 8-inch (203mm) touchscreen on the dash. During our brief hands-on, the system proved impressive compared to previous generations, particularly when it comes to responsiveness. (Android Auto and CarPlay are both present and correct.)
Despite the SUV’s size, the interior is surprisingly roomy, even for backseat passengers. The EcoSport is festooned with storage cubbies and pockets, and the rear hatch opens out to one side rather than lifting up as you might expect.
One thing we don’t know yet is the price. The EcoSport doesn’t arrive in the US until 2018, but expect the base S trim to be significantly cheaper than Ford’s current cheapest SUV. If you’re in the Los Angeles area and fancy checking out the EcoSport out for yourself, Ford has set up the Go Small, Live Big experience at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. In addition to the EcoSport, you can listen to DJs, look at some displays from local artists, or fawn over tiny rescue animals with the LA Wildlife Learning Center. There will even an urban beach.
Go Small, Live Big is open from 2pm-10pm this Tuesday and Wednesday, and free tickets are available from FordPresents.com.
Listing image by Ford