With what seems like an all-new mini SUV hitting the showrooms almost every week, the latest Ford EcoSport certainly has its work cut out. 

The previous model wasn’t afforded the best reception, thanks to a cabin that trailed its rivals in overall quality, an awkward, side-opening rear door and a driving experience that fell well short of Ford’s usual impressive standards.

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Although it’s still based on the previous-generation Fiesta’s underpinnings – a perennial bestseller – Ford reckons it has addressed every shortcoming, to help make the latest car a credible rival to the likes of the Seat Arona and Renault Captur. 

A new look

The most obvious styling tweaks have been made to the front end of the car. A bigger, bolder grille, an X-section bumper treatment, angular headlights and a couple of bonnet bulges make things considerably easier on the eye, and help the EcoSport fall better in line with Ford’s growing SUV portfolio. 

Entering the cabin for the first time, it’s clear that the interior is a big improvement, thanks to many parts lifted from the latest Fiesta, including clear instrumentation, big, easy-to-hit dials and a standard 8in Sync 3 touchscreen with built-in navigation, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. 

Our Titanium trim car’s notable additions included a centre console with a sliding armrest, as well as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. 

Significant improvements 

Although the latest EcoSport still isn’t entirely free of the scratchy plastics that blighted its predecessor, there are noticeable improvements with various softer trims and leather-accented seats that, taken together, make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of the car. 

While there’s head and legroom aplenty up front, the back seats are a different story, and anyone around the 6ft mark will struggle to keep their knees out of the back of the person in front. The 355-litre boot doesn’t place the EcoSport at the top of the pack when it comes to practicality either, and is easily topped by the 400-litre capacity of the Seat Arona.

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Worst of all, the rear door – which is designed for left-hand drive markets – swings open towards the pavement, so you stand very close to passing traffic when opening it. On top of this thorny problem, you’ll need to find a generous parking spot, to enable you to walk around the door when unloading your shopping. 

Diesel insecurities 

Most people will be lining up for a petrol model as uncertainty over the future of diesel mounts, and Ford’s much-admired Ecoboost engine is available in two specifications. 

Along with the 125hp version that we drove here, there’s a stronger, range-topping 140hp model which, along with Ford’s latest 1.5-litre diesel, is new to
the EcoSport range. 

Both petrol engines achieve an impressive 119g/km of CO2 and 54.3mpg; however, the latter is only available on the ST-Line trim, which is well over a grand more expensive.

Driving impressions

Not surprisingly, the 1.5-litre diesel is the best of the lot for efficiency, turning in an impressively low 107g/km of CO2 and a higher mpg of 68.8. Still, we’d happily recommend the entry 1.0-litre. While it’s hardly fast, taking 12.7 seconds to complete the 0-62mph benchmark, it is free-revving and responsive, with enough shove to keep up with the traffic around town, while staying smooth and refined. 

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The manual gearstick is precise and smooth, just like in the Fiesta, and the steering is well weighted and pleasingly direct. While the ride and handling aren’t the worst in the class, with more sophisticated rivals such as the Seat Arona around, it really needs to be improved further. 

Body roll isn’t a problem in bends, but the relatively firm suspension means the EcoSport has a tendency to fidget its way down a B-road and it never feels entirely at ease on the motorway. 

Despite the fact the engines are nearly identical to those in the Fiesta, more mechanical racket somehow finds its way into the EcoSport’s cabin. Thankfully, the interior is solid enough to blot out most other noises from outside. 

It’s much easier to recommend the EcoSport now that it has been given a comprehensive overhaul. It’s clear that the overall driving experience has improved and the interior is now a far more pleasing place to spend your time. It’s just a shame that the awkward rear door remains. Sadly for Ford though, the rivals in its class are extremely competitive and highly competent, so we reckon the EcoSport may still have a hard time when it comes to pulling its weight. 

Ford EcoSport 1.0-litre Titanium 125hp manual 

P11D £19,280

On sale January 2018

Residual value 37.9%

Depreciation £11,880

Fuel £6,062

Service, maintenance and repair £2,020

Cost per mile 45.8p

Fuel consumption 54.3mpg

CO2 (BIK band) 119g/km (20%)

BIK 20/40% a month £64/£128

Boot space 355 litres

Engine size/power 999cc/125hp