I spent a few months researching automatic petrol vehicles in India, before finally settling on the Ford EcoSport. Read on to find out why.
UPDATE: 9-Sep-2021: Today Ford announced a shutdown of most of its car manufacturing facilities in India. Read the annoucement here. I NO LONGER RECOMMEND CONSIDERING BUYING A FORD ECOSPORT CAR. This blog post is still useful for historical perspective and might give you an idea on how to evaluate a Car for purchase.
Disclaimer: Car specifications and quality are always changing. Please contact respective brands and companies for current specifications. This blog is based on my research to purchase a good petrol automatic vehicle for my needs, and I do not take any liability on the accuracy of the information mentioned here. Most of my research is based on various articles on the internet, car brouchers, and how I felt when I test-drove various vehicles. Each individual has their own tastes and preferences, and I would strongly recommend you to carry out your own research.
After having driven a fantastic Skoda Fabia for the last 9 years, I was looking to upgrade. My annual driving is under 15000km, which is basically to office on weekdays, and to Lonavala/Mahabeleshwar/Mulshi/Goa, etc on weekends; so it made sense to stick to a petrol version. Also, with BS6 changes rolling out in 2020, BS4 petrol vehicle owners won’t need to worry so much – whereas as BS4 desiel vehicle owners might need to. Read this article for further information: (CarWale) BS6 emission norms: Do I need to worry about the fuel?
A petrol vehicle is also relatively better for the environment than a diesel vehicle, although if the environment comes first – then not driving a vehicle is the best! That is a toughie, until public transport and cycling tracks improve! :(
So, I was on the quest to see if I could find a reliable and safe automatic petrol vehicle, which is a joy to ride, preferably under the 20 Lakh range – and this was also a stretch budget. I’d rather stay under 15L if possible. Money doesn’t yet grow on trees.
After researching and/or test-driving various petrol automatic vehicles for almost 3 months – like the Honda City, Hyundai Creta, Hyundai Venue, Renault Duster, Volkswagen GT Polo, Skoda Rapid, Toyota Glanza, Toyota Yaris, Kia Seltos, etc – I finally settled on the Ford EcoSport Titanium Petrol (Automatic). The Kia Seltos and Honda City were the closest contenders to swaying me. But in the end, the Ford EcoSport won!
Note: I waited an additional 3 months to finish driving 2500 KMs on the Ford EcoSport, before writing this blog.
Here are the top 10 reasons why I chose the Ford EcoSport and what I like a lot about it:
1. Amazing Automatic Gear Box – Quick, Reliable and has Paddle Shifters
The EcoSport Petrol engine is a 1.5 Litre, 123bhp @ 6500rpm with a torque of 150Nm @ 4500rpm. This makes it one of the most powerful engines in its category to be mated to an automatic gearbox. It is a pleasure to drive, responds instantly, makes overtaking a breeze and has no lag during shifts. The gearbox uses the Torque converter technology, which although older but is considered to be the most reliable and mature automatic gear box technology around. The last thing I want is a gearbox that breaks down in the middle of nowhere and is such a complex beast that most mechanics in India would recommend a replacement, than making any attempt to fix it. After reading this team-bhp thread on comparison of Automatic Gearboxes, I was happy to choose a Torque Converter over the relatively new DCT/DSG or the CVT ones. In the future, this may not be case as the DCT technology matures in reliability.
Note that, Indian traffic conditions are considered tougher and unique due to poor roads, traffic jams, stop-and-go traffic, pot holes and speed breakers, etc, which are not so common across many other countries. Therefore a proven gearbox is a smarter choice.
As an additional bonus, the EcoSport Automatic Gear also comes with a Sports “S” Mode and Paddle Shifters, which allow you to get the joy of manual gear shifts. Although in the last 3 months, I was able to drive across all conditions without ever having the need to shift into S mode, or use the Paddle shifters. The “D” mode is intelligent to respond to all my needs, including hill driving! But once in a while, for an adrelaine high – the “S” mode is fun!
2. Hill Driving – Conquers inclines easily
I was concerned about how would an Automatic car would respond to steep inclines and hill drives. Also, like most SUVs, the EcoSport is a heavy vehicle, and I was concerned if its engine will strain during climbs? I stay in Pune, so hill driving isn’t something I encounter daily, but when the need arises – think Lonavala, Lavasa, Mahabeleshwar, Bapdev Ghat, etc – I didn’t want an engine that makes me think twice before overtaking on hills.
It turned out that the EcoSport is a beast on the hills. With 3 adults and the AC on, it is able to climb up effortlessly, and responds really well! I don’t even need to shift to “S” mode or use the paddle shifters. I think this has to do with the high-torque 1.5L engine, and the intelligent gearbox under the hood.
An interesting thread on hill driving in India: Is an Automatic Gearbox a good choice for hills?
I love how the EcoSport feels on the hills. You will too.
3. Safety – 6 Airbags
Accidents in India can happen not because you drive like an ass. They happen because many people around you drive like an ass.
For instance, in 2018, in 26% of all road accidents, drivers who were in an accident did not have a valid license or were driving with a learner’s license. Source: Scroll.in: The Reason why there are so many road accidents in India.
Global NCAP, is a UK registered charity, that conduct safety tests of various cars in different impact scenrios, and then provide a world-recognised safety rating. You can see some of the results for Indian cars here: NCAP Safety Ratings For Cars.
The EcoSport Titanium Automatic comes with 6 Airbags, which is rare in this segment. Most vehicles in this segment come with 2 or 4 airbags – and although there isn’t a Global NCAP rating yet, there is a NHTSA rating available for EcoSport 2018 and a EuroNCAP rating for EcoSport 2013.
You can read more about Ford EcoSport safety features here: EcoSport Safety.
4. High Ground Clearance – Drive anywhere
The EcoSport has a ground clearance of 200 mm, the same as the Hyundai Creta, and second only to the Duster by 5 mm. This is super for any speed breakers and undulating roads that one might come across. I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling when the underbelly of my car grazes the road. Until Indian authorities don’t get their act together with regards to speed breaker design, I want peace of mind that my loaded vehicle won’t touch the ground. And the EcoSport ticks this box wonderfully.
5. Hill Assist – No rollback on inclines
On steep hills, drivers of an automatic vehicle can be inconvenienced if their vehicle doesn’t have a feature called the Hill Assist.
Hill Assist essentially prevents vehicles from rolling back on inclines, so that the driver gets sufficient time to lift the foot off the brake and gently accelerate. The EcoSport has Hill Assist which prevents any rollback for a period of 5 seconds, and provides complete peace of mind during hilly drives. If you were driving a geared vehicle, one would waste some fuel balancing the clutch and the accelerator in such situations; but there is no need to worry about all this with Hill Assist and a powerful automatic mated engine of the EcoSport.
In my research, the Honda City (Automatic) 2019, costing almost an additional of 3+ Lakhs doesn’t come with the Hill Assist feature! That was a let down for the Honda City. Also the Hyundai Creta 1.6 SX (Automatic) 2019 doesn’t have Hill Assist. The top end Hyundai Venue Petrol (Automatic) and Kia Seltos Petrol DCT (Automatic), both provide the Hill Assist feature. This is a big plus for the EcoSport too.
6. Bluetooth Car Phone & Music – Just works
The EcoSport Automatic comes built-in with a LCD tablet display, that is super responsive and stylish. My iPhone 6s bluetooth connects instantly everytime, and provides for a great music and phone call experience. The steering has built-in controls for music playback, volume and call connect/disconnect.
The only thing I miss is Google Maps – since the Apple CarPlay/Android option isn’t available in the EcoSport Automatic models. They are available only in the top-end Sports edition models (which have a manual gearbox). This isn’t a deal breaker, since I can use my phone display for Google Maps, mounted on a car mobile stand.
7. Reverse Camera & Parking Sensor – Amazing clarity, day or night
The LCD tablet also doubles up as a rear-view camera display whenever one switches to the Reverse (R) gear. The display is sharp and crystal clear at day and night. The EcoSport also has Car Park Assist that provides audible beeps to help understand how close the rear of the vehicle is to an obstruction. All in all, they make parking in tight spots a breeze. Another really helpful feature while parking in tight spaces in India. As a comparison, I found the Honda City 2019 rear camera view to feel dated and spotty.
Since the EcoSport is a sub-4m compact SUV, it generally also doesn’t need long parking spaces unlike the Hyundai Creta and Honda City. The compact size of the EcoSport works for us quite well, even in terms of luggage space.
8. Cruise Control – Rest your feet on the highway
EcoSport Automatic has steering mounted Cruise Control that allows you to set a speed on the highway, and then the car keeps at it, without you needing to keep your foot on the accelerator. The moment you put your foot on the brake, the Cruise Control disengages and you are back to full manual control. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway is a great place to use this, just set it at 80 km/h, and give both your feet some rest. You can increase / decrease the speed with steering mounted buttons, and use the “Resume” button to shift back to Cruise Control mode, while in temporary manual mode. Works like a charm! Luxury feature though. Usually available in expensive models for other brands. Can live without it. But it’s fun sometimes!
9. Build Quality – Sturdy & High Quality Feel
The EcoSport feels sturdy to sit and drive. The interior controls have a reassuring click to them, and you can see that the design is solid and confidence inspiring. I didn’t feel the same for many of the other cars I drove. Take a test-drive and you will know what I mean.
10. Value For Money – On road in under 13L (Pune)
I got the Ford EcoSport Titanium Petrol (Automatic) with full 3M coating and 4 year Ford assurance at under 13Lakhs (Sep-2019). This is a great price for a car that feels like an SUV and has the above mentioned qualities. The Hyundai Venue is close – but with only 2 Airbags, a slightly cramped interior for the front passengers and no rear wiper. The Renault Duster is also in the same price range – but lacks the finesse in interior quality and got a poor NCAP safety rating.
The others - Hyundai Creta, Honda City and Kia Seltos – are an additional 2-6 Lakhs more expensive for their top-end variants approximately. Are their steeper price justified? I don’t feel so. But if you want a more spacious SUV, then the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos are good options to consider.
I didn’t go for the Kia as it is a new entrant in the Indian market – and as experience of Chevrolet and others would have told you – our roads and our market are both an uphill task for new entrants. I would prefer to choose a car (and a brand) that has already proven itself on Indian roads.
Some other features
Besides the attractions I have mentioned above, the other features that will likely put a smile to your face are:
- 2 USB slots in the front for charging,
- a strong climate-controlled AC,
- two 12-v DC chargers for the rear occupants,
- a collapsable center arm-rest with cup-holders in the rear seat,
- sunglass holder on the roof,
- height adjustable seat for the driver,
- keyless entry with touch-sensors on front door handles for lock/unlock,
- automatic rain sensing wipers,
- programmable keys for low-speed driving,
- leather wrapped steering wheel,
- smart black seat covers and interiors, etc.
Make you love the car!
Stuff that you would likely miss or be unhappy about
Some things about the Ford EcoSport Petrol Automatic that might disappoint you or could be better:
a. Mileage: The best mileage I got till now is on Mumbai-Pune Expressway. A pleasant 16.2 kmpl. On the other hand Pune city driving mileage is 8.5 kmpl. I guess if you have such a powerful engine, and a stop-and-go traffic, this is what you get. This means I refuel every 375+ kms in the city, and about 550+ kms on the highway. The diesel variant would be definitely smart if you care about fuel efficiency – but remember BS6, the environment and maintenance of diesel engines in the long run.
b. Small dashboard holder: The dashboard on the co-passenger side is quite small. A generic tissue box doesn’t fit in it. I ended up storing the tissue box vertically in the arm-rest compartment.
c. No Grab Handles: No grab handles for passengers. Since the EcoSport has side-roof curtain airbags, it doesn’t have grab handles for passengers to hold on to during a sharp curve, or for exits. This is something all your passengers will definitely miss.
d. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto: Would have been nice to have this in the automatic version, for full seamless connectivity with smartphones. This is only available in the top-end Sports model (manual only) with SYNC 3 technology.
e. Seat Belt Height Adjuster: This is another helpful feature for short passengers. Not available in the EcoSport, but was available in my 2010 Skoda Fabia.
f. Bumpy Sometimes: The ride can feel slightly bumpy when going through certain potholes at medium speeds, unlike the Renault Duster, which is super smooth in most situations. Maybe Ford can focus some more engineering effort towards improving the EcoSport’s suspension and ride feel further in bad road conditions. On highways though, and decent roads, it’s amazing!
g. A-Pillar Design: The A-pillar design on the driver side causes two-wheelers to be sometimes hidden from view at small & busy intersections. Not sure if this happens just for me, but there have been mixed reviews on this online too. It requires me to be extra careful in such intersections, to ensure I move slowly, or lean a little to the side to ensure no-one is there. Could be quite inconvenient for people who drive impatienly, most of the time, on busy Indian roads.
BONUS: The Ford Experience with PPS Ford, Pune
A special mention to PPS Ford, Pune. My experience with their sales staff and the after-sales service center was just WOW!! Personal and Professional at the same time. It is rare to come across customer service that is beyond 5-stars! Highly recommended to consider PPS Ford if you are thinking of buying a Ford in Pune.
The Ford EcoSport Petrol Automatic is a practical buy for Indians who expect the comfort, safety and reliabily of an SUV coupled with a Zippy drive. It is also a great looking car, and responds to your every driving need!
If you own an EcoSport, and would like to share your experience or tips, I would be happy to know. Meanwhile, how does my EcoSport fare in the long term – only time will tell. Fingers crossed.