THE recent slump in global oil prices has pretty much given relief to two satisfied groups in the motoring industry: designers and engineers.
There was real danger that rising oil prices that had been experienced in recent years were going to stifle creativity in the SUV segment as demand plummeted.
But of late there has been a turn of fortune. Demand has recovered and car markers have been quick to put their new SUV babies on the market.
Sales and profits from sport utility vehicles (SUV) are giving car makers a welcome financial boost.
Ford is one company that has been aggressive in this market segment.
In 2013, Ford launched the Ford EcoSport which had been assembled in India where most automobile manufacturing plants are now based due to cheap labour costs. Late last year an improved version of the EcoSport was launched and it is now in Zimbabwe.
EcoSport is new, different, imaginative and designed from the ground up with driving fun in mind.
The SUV is smaller, manoeuvrable and comes with a choice of a responsive 1,5-litre petrol or diesel engine.
It also has manual and automatic transmissions. In line with the European Union specifications that vehicles should be environmentally friendly, the EcoSport scores high.
It has a high tech automatic transmission that could save fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions compared to any conventional automatic vehicle.
It’s neither a small car nor a big car: It is clearly in between. You only have to look around to confirm that Zimbabweans have an appetite for big cars.
The EcoSport can simply fit in the class of the Chevy Trailblazer, Toyota Prado and Nissan Patrol, but it is, however, relatively smaller and more disciplined on consumption.
A single glance at this utility vehicle will show you that Ford seems to have changed its style. It has moved away from the old, stale look to an eye-catching, sporty elegant look.
Also, it now has a light emitting diode (LED) thin line around the head lamps which you don’t find on the older versions of the Ford Everest and the Ford Ranger.
There is an added option of using LED lights rather than using the fog lamps or park lights in the early morning or when you find yourself in a mist.
I have driven the EcoSport around Harare and it indeed has made a good, first impression on me.
It is an SUV that really talks to you – yes, talks. Well, this model is just 3,9m long and has a width of 1,7m, taking a very small footprint.
For those drivers who have trouble with parallel parking, this is the ideal car, especially for confined spaces on Zimbabwe’s ever busy city streets. If it is compact outside, it doesn’t mean it is squeezed on the inside. This car can comfortably accommodate five adults and had a good in class luggage capacity.
The Ford Ambiente, which is the entry level, is pegged at US$32 500 for 1,5-litre petrol engine while the 1,5-litre diesel option is fetching US$33 220.
To make sure that they cater for every taste and palate, the EcoSport is available in a range of colours ranging from diamond white, bright yellow, mars red metallic and moon dust silver metallic. Such colours are more suited for the female clientele.
There are also additional colours such as the panther black metallic, chill metallic, golden bronze metallic, kinetic metallic and smoke metallic that are available.
The interior can be custom made to a dark shadow cloth or the charcoal black cloth. For those with toddlers who can spoil the car seats, the warm neutral grey cloth is definitely not an option.
Actually, the charcoal black leather seats with perforated inserts will be ideal.
One doesn’t have to worry about the condition of our local roads when driving this car. Its raised ride height means you will enjoy a commanding driving position, with the additional benefit of a great view out.
It also gives you 200mm of ground clearance for crossing speed bumps and potholes. Cruise control and power windows are additives that are most welcome. Clearly, this SUV is a Life Utility Vehicle for those who love to be out and about, even for families and business executives.
Engine Capacity: 1,5 litres with 5-speed manual transmission; 1,5 litres diesel with 5-speed manual transmission
Mechanical: Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
HP and Torque: 82 kilowatts at 6 300 revs per minute (petrol); 66 kilowatts at 3 750 revs per minute (diesel)
Exterior: Wheelbase 2 521mm; length 3 998mm; height 1 645mm
Safety: 2-way adjustable outboard head restraints; 3-point safety belts; Air-bags single driver and front passenger; Child safety rear-door locks
Competitors: Hyundai ix25, Nissan Qashqai
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