In the time of the scrunchie and the Olson twins (aka the 1990s,) the SUV segment was king. Born out of the popularity that the refined Lexus RX300 and the rugged Ford Explorer brought to the auto industry, a whole new vehicle class was created. The size of the SUV ballooned from what is now considered mid-sized standards and into full-size with the Expedition, Tahoe/Suburban, Navigator, and Escalade rolling through suburban shopping malls and trailing on low-grade angled driveways. Low fuel prices and a flourishing U.S. economy led to both fast and loose cash and a desire to have the largest, newest car on the block and with that, a whole new vehicle category was created.
As time would tell however, the full size SUV market would shrink with rising gas costs and eventually the Expedition and Tahoe led way (back) to the Explorer and Trailblazer. Of course, even smaller alternatives existed, such as the Escape and Equinox, but the compact class wouldn’t explode until closer to the 2007/08 recession when fuel skyrocketed again and buyers who wanted an SUV but didn’t need throw rows (or even 4WD) started to reconsider how much money they wanted to spend on the purchase and ownership of a vehicle.
Now we are in the time of the dreaded-and-hopefully-done-for man bun and the Kardashian klan. While the economy is doing relatively well and gas prices are low, America has gained a knack for getting the most bang for its buck and in recent years the sub-compact SUV has taken off. The Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, and Honda HR-V are some of the newest members of this infant category and even luxury manufacturers such as Mercedes have taken notice of this trend and provided their own solution, such as the GLA-Class.
Of course, this is only the beginning and more competitors will follow, including the
Scion Toyota CH-R. However, a very foreign Ford is about to make its long-awaited (and somewhat overdue) debut to the States. Enter the Ford EcoSport: a cute-ute found in Mexico, Brazil, Japan, and Europe among other markets. Based on the B3 platform, it shares its bones with the Fiesta as well as the Ka and B-Max, the latter two of which are not available stateside. The EcoSport has been around since the 2004 model year and has already went through one major re-style for the 2013 model that brought it up to par with the competition.
However, a new and redesigned EcoSport is coming, and it will be available in the U.S. for the first time. What tipped the public off to what was supposed to be a surprise reveal was a post on Snapchat by DJ Khaled, who will be headlining a three-day event by Ford called “Go Small. Live Big” that will be a kick off of sorts for the 2016 LA auto show, and it starts this upcoming Monday, 11/14.
So what can be expected from the new EcoSport? Spy shots from Autoblog.com show that it will feature styling similar to the Ford Escape and Edge all throughout, while the c-pillar and rear glass shows some resemblance to the Buick Encore. This rear styling may cause the same back-and-outwards visibility issues suffered by the Encore, but only time will tell if this is the case.
For the powertrain, it is likely that both an automatic and manual transmission will be available and AWD should be optional with the automatic. Given that the competition only offers one engine, it is most likely that the 1.6L 4 cylinder from the Fiesta will be used. However, the Fiesta’s 120hp engine would give the EcoSport an 18 hp deficit compared to the Trax’s turbo 1.4 and it is possible that Ford may either use the Focus’ 160hp 2.0 engine to hold a horsepower gain over the competition or add another EcoBoost motor to its portfolio.
There is a lot potential for the Ecosport to expand Ford’s consumer market and it is hard to overstate how important this debut is for the Dearborn manufacturer. Come Monday, we will know much more about the Ford EcoSport and its offerings and see if it will be a solid contender in the subcompact SUV market.