Text and photos by Aries B. Espinosa

WHAT more does this pioneering subcompact SUV need to prove, when in all these four years since its introduction, the model has consistently led in the category’s sales, peaking at a remarkable 50% share in 2017?
Apparently, the Ford EcoSport isn’t done yet pulling off neat tricks to reel in more fans of the mini SUV. This time, the model comes out with two guns blazing — the EcoSport powered by the 1.5-liter TiVCT (for Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing) engine mated with either a new six-speed A/T or a five-speed M/T, and the new 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine paired with a six-speed A/T.
After the launch of these two new models on Aug. 29, Ford Philippines organized a group ride-and-drive on Sept. 25 and 26 to highlight the design, new cabin features, handling, and power of the two EcoSport variants.
For this trip, FGP chose a route that would bring out the best attributes of both the 1.5-liter TiVCT and 1.0-liter EcoBoost: The south Luzon expressway to test for fuel economy at highway speeds, and the narrow, twisting interior roads leading to and from the coastal town of Laiya in Batangas province to test for handling and ride quality on unpaved roads, as well as engine response in stop-and-go traffic and when overtaking.
Though I must say the 1.5-liter TiVCT engine held its own in the handling, ride quality, and comfort factors, it was what Ford claims its most technologically advanced engine ever, the 1.0-liter EcoBoost and its direct fuel injection technology and variable camshaft timing with turbocharger, that was the more athletic one. True, the difference in power was completely negligible (119 hp versus the EcoBoost’s 123 hp), but it was the 170 Nm maximum torque of the EcoBoost (versus the 150 Nm of the 1.5-liter) that brought out the “woot-woot!” from both driver and passengers.
The subcompact SUVs’ size was also ideal in negotiating the narrow, winding roads of southern Batangas province. The suspension and handling were also remarkable, the EcoSport exhibiting a firm grip even on the dirt roads.
Toying with the EcoBoost’s “power surge” certainly primed up the ride-and-drive participants for an afternoon of fun physical challenges outside of the vehicles, at an adventure park in Laiya.
Despite a punishing run with moderate traffic in the town centers, and with three passengers on board loaded with luggage, our EcoBoost variant still yielded a satisfying fuel mileage result of 12 kilometers per liter.
Bertrand Lessard, Ford Philippines managing director, joined the group and solicited feedback from the participants. Understandably, praises were heaped on the EcoBoost. Mr. Lessard stressed that both variants has its own charms, and that both “combined quality design, rugged capability, best-in-class features, superior fuel economy, and great value for money, all into a single and fun vehicle.”
The new Ford EcoSport prices are: P1.168 million for the 1.0L EcoBoost Titanium A/T; P1.028 million for the 1.5L Trend A/T; P968,000 for the 1.5L Trend M/T, and; P918,000 for the 1.5L Ambient M/T.