EcoSport powers ahead
Ford EcoSport. Picture: Wieck

Ford will continue the expansion of its SUV model range next year with the introduction of the EcoSport.

The small five-seater, which sits on the same underpinnings as the Fiesta hatchback, will be powered by a new three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre engine that will make it the market leader in terms of fuel-efficiency, with an official consumption figure of just 4.5L/100km.

But Ford says the high-tech powerplant, which won the 2012 International Engine of the Year Award, will produce the same performance as a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine, generating maximum power of 90kW and 170 Newton metres of torque.

While the 1.0-litre engine is the only source of power confirmed by Ford Australia at this stage, it is available elsewhere with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine and a four-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo-diesel.

The petrol engines should come with the choice of five-speed manual or six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, while the diesel is expected to be available with either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The EcoSport has been engineered for all-wheel-drive but we are only likely to see the front-wheel-drive models, which are cheaper and have proven far more popular in this category.

The new hatch has also been designed to achieve the maximum five-star rating in NCAP crash testing.

Ford Australia chief executive Bob Graziano said the EcoSport was a perfect fit for the company's expanding SUV portfolio, which included the Kuga and the award-winning Territory.

"The EcoSport is great for crowded urban streets and it will inspire customers to seek adventure away from the city too," he said.

The compact SUV has been designed to combine the agility and practicality of a compact hatch with high ground clearance and a commanding drive position.

While Ford Australia will not reveal final pricing and specifications until much closer to the launch date, the EcoSport will be pitted against the likes of the Mitsubishi ASX, Skoda Yeti and Suzuki SX4, which all have a starting price under $28,000.

The entry level to the EcoSport would also need to be well below $30,000 to lure buyers away from its more established competitors.

Ford has also confirmed that the all-new Kuga, which will also be launched next year, will be available with an EcoBoost petrol engine or TDCi turbo-diesel coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Apart from new, fuel-efficient, engines, the new-generation Kuga will also be available with a host of new smart technologies, such as Ford's voice-activated in-car SYNC connectivity system and Active Park Assist.

Other new features on the medium SUV include a hands-free automatic tailgate, allowing customers to access the luggage compartment simply by sweeping a foot under the rear bumper.

Using the same motion technology found in video game systems, a gentle kicking motion under the centre of the rear bumper activates, unlocks and raises the tailgate when it senses the smart key in the vicinity.

The Kuga will also introduce a new AWD system that continually assesses road conditions and adjusts the amount of power delivered to each wheel to maintain the best handling and traction for the surface.

Meanwhile in WA, Ford has started to gain some traction in the 4WD pick-up market, with its new Ranger finishing among the top five bestsellers over the past two months.

The West Australian

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