A global initiative by Ford, the EcoSport to be made in India has been designed in Detroit and developed in Brazil with driveline technology from Germany
It is the aggressive stance of the EcoSport that draws attention. It also looks contemporary. Riding on 205/60 R16 tyres, with 200 mm ground clearance, it is the bold air dam in the deep bumper that is the primary source of aggression. Set high into the bonnet above are sleek lamps bridged by an even sleeker grille. Measuring 3999mm
in length, the EcoSport is comparable in dimensions with a B-segment hatchback. Yet it looks like an SUV and achieves an impressive drag co-efficient of 0.371. A sibling of Fiesta but not a twin, according to Ehab Kaoud, Chief Designer (Car Exteriors), Ford North America, the EcoSport is revolutionary. Interesting is the manner in which the bonnet rises to merge with the steeply raked pillar, the prominent front wheel arch adding to the aggressive looks. Sculpted and muscular, the EcoSport, carrying a large number of inputs from India, other than the markets it will serve, has the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate.
“To retain the continuity of the surface flow, we built the tailgate handle into one of the rear lamps,” announced Mr Kaoud. He drew attention to the rear roof edge that doubles up as a functional spoiler; the plastic cladding running along the lower portion of the body that creates a visual ‘waterline’, and subtle design features that help the EcoSport to achieve an impressive drag co-efficient.
A monocoque body construction, over 50% body parts are of high strength and very high strength steel. Boron steel is also used for critical body components. Over 70% localised, the dashboard of the EcoSport is similar to that of the Fiesta. Spacious than a B-segment hatchback, and less spacious by SUV standards, or expectations, the EcoSport offers high seating and a car-like feel. Typical of a crossover, the vehicle, to be imported to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Taiwan, saw Ford invest US$ 142 million at Chennai to make the necessary changes. The export version will be made in right hand drive and left hand drive guise, the chances of it being imported to Europe not ruled out.
The automaker exports Figo to 38 markets across the world. Developing global products with India as a reference point, and taking them to other similar markets, enjoying considerable cost advantages in the process, the EcoSport is revolutionary. It brings the ‘Sync’ voice enabled infotainment system to India.
An interesting safety feature the Sync is the Emergency Assist. It dials the emergency number on the phone paired with it in case of a crash, provided the air bags have deployed or the fuel pump has cut off. A call is made unless the driver decides to cancel it, informing the co-ordinates of the vehicle. With 80% Ford customers using hands-free features of the Sync according to Rod Philips, Sync Engineering Manager, Ford Asia Pacific, Sync will find good acceptance in India. Offering useful yet innovative features like front door pockets that can hold two water bottles, a chilled glove compartment that can hold six Coca Cola cans, and a sliding drawer under the front passenger seat that can store a laptop away from prying eyes, the EcoSport is also equipped with a highly effective air conditioner. It is also one of the quietest in its category, according to Juan Die Pena, Segment Chief Engineer, Small Cars, Asia Pacific. Powering the EcoSport is a revolutionary EcoBoost petrol engine. Displacing 999cc, this three-cylinder engine does 125PS and 170Nm of torque between 1400rpm and 4500rpm.
An example of how automakers are downsizing engines that promise immense driveability and superior fuel efficiency, the EcoBoost direct injection, turbocharged engine has four-valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. The exhaust manifold is cast into the cylinder head to ensure better cooling. To counter the unbalanced nature of the three-cylinder engine, the pulley and flywheel are intentionally unbalanced.
Developed by Ford in Germany and UK, according to Frank Hoffmann, Senior Manager, Powertrain Planning, Asia Pacific, there’s an overlap of inlet and exhaust valves, which leads to fresh air entering the chamber and exiting from the exhaust side, eliminating turbo lag. The engine runs cooler, and more efficiently. The block of the engine is small enough to fit on an A4 size sheet of paper. With over 125 patents filled by Ford during the development of this engine, a number of innovative energy saving measures have gone in. Ford’s first three-cylinder engine, the cooling system is split. Separate thermostats for the cylinder head and block allow quick warm up. The two main engine drive belts are immersed in oil to deliver a quieter, more efficient engine. The variable oil pump ensures optimal oil pressure across the full speed range. Having won the ‘Engine of the Year 2012’ award, the EcoBoost engine is unlike any in the history of Ford spanning more than a century. It has the highest density of any Ford engine, and promises an average of 18.9 kmpl.
With the EcoSport pulling away smartly, the EcoBoost engine does not feel like a 1-litre engine. It is quiet and refined. Transversely positioned at front, it ensures that the EcoSport performs well. It also ensures superior fuel efficiency. Other choices of engines on the EcoSport include the 112PS, 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 91PS, 1.5-litre four-cylinder common-rail turbo diesel engine.
Both these engine are made at Chennai. The EcoBoost engine is sourced from Romania, and would be localised. A choice of 6-speed auto transmission is offered with the 1.5-litre petrol engine. Expected to be a game changer for Ford, like the Figo, the EcoSport is revolutionary in terms of appearance and technology. Expected to contribute significant volumes according to Joginder Singh, President and Managing Director, Ford India, the compact SUV carries forward the innovative child parts strategy.
Found on the Figo, the strategy evolved around the premise of key assemblies having child parts that would ensure minimal replacement, lowering the cost of ownership. The EcoSport has 12 sub-assemblies, including the bumper, that conform to the child parts strategy.
Entering the market in a relatively less crowded segment at a time when the Sanand plant of Ford is being built, the EcoSport has the ability to kill. A part of the strategy that will see Ford invest US$ 2 billion in India, the EcoSport will open the doors for other exciting models to follow. The Sanand plant is expected to go on stream in 2014, and will hike the manufacturing capacity to 4,40,000 units from the current 2,00,000 units.
Engine plant capacity will also go up from 3.4 lakh units to 6.10 lakh units. Said Graham Pearson, Vehicle Line Director (Small Cars), Asia Pacific, “We are already working on projects to develop vehicles with India as a reference point market and to take them to other similar markets”.
Seeking higher involvement of the suppliers, many of which are in India already, Ford is gearing up to exciting times ahead. The dull market scenario does not seem to hold it back, the EcoSport likely to pave the way to another victory.
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