How Ford Can Use Global Innovation to Put the “Eco” into its Entry-Level Vehicle, the Ecosport

November 5, 2019 | 12:56 pm
A red 2020 Ford Ecosport Titanium driving over bridge in urban settingFord Media Center
Dave Cooke
Senior Vehicles Analyst

Earlier this year, Ford (along with some other auto companies) worked out a deal with California–the company would support states’ ability to set emissions standards that are stronger than those set at the federal level, but it wanted certainty from California that it could meet those strong state standards with a national fleet that fell short of the standards currently on the books. But the fact is, Ford is actually in a good position to meet the current standards–holding them to a weaker standard is just going to reduce the number of efficient options for consumers, who are already feeling the pinch of manufacturers’ pricey wares.

The average new vehicle price continues to skyrocket, pushed predominantly by Americans’ infatuation with utility vehicles and automakers’ infatuation with upselling luxury trims. But lost in this is the fact that the prices of entry level vehicles have actually remained steady over time when considering inflation. With consumers at the lower-end of the market also those most likely to be interested in and benefiting from saving money at the pump, it’s critical that automakers continue to improve the efficiency of their entry-level offerings, without breaking the bank.

Ford, unfortunately, is abandoning the car market, with the 2020 model year marking the final year of its lone sedan offering, the Fusion, and the Fiesta not even getting a 2020 model year. This makes its subcompact crossover, the Ecosport (pronounced “echo-sport”), the company’s lowest-priced offering. Unfortunately, any cost-conscious consumer interested in a low base price and high fuel economy will have to look elsewhere thanks to the Ecosport’s thirsty 25-28 mpg.

While the current Ecosport is anything but economical at the pump, Ford has an opportunity to green up its cheapest vehicle for 2025 and save its customers a few greenbacks in the process (over $6,300 in fuel!!!).

By employing strategies used elsewhere in its fleet like lightweight materials and its newest EcoBoost engines, Ford could put the “eco” in its entry-level crossover, saving its consumers over $6,300 in fuel.

Three cylinders is plenty

Ford has made its Ecoboost series of engines the workhorses of their global fleet. These smaller, turbocharged engines provide a compromise for consumers—at light loads, they act like a tiny fuel-sipper, but press the pedal for power and the turbocharger provides enough boost to get the job done. The Ecoboost comes in a range of sizes and now makes up nearly 60 percent of all sales in the U.S.

The company’s smallest offering is a 1.0L 3-cylinder that has the same power-to-volume ratio as a supercar like the Bugatti Veyron, and the latest version of that engine took the “small” factor even further by incorporating cylinder deactivation, which means that the engine can run on just two cylinders (!!!) under its lightest operation. While the o.g. 1.0L is currently the base engine on the Ecosport, simply dropping in the latest, greatest, and smallest Ecoboost engine will do plenty to help Ford’s entry level vehicle sip fuel.

Where Ford can make a big correction, however, is replacing the old, inefficient 2.0L in the AWD Ecosports with another 3-cylinder, a 1.5L that takes what was learned in developing the smaller 1.0L to improve efficiency, reduce weight, and pack enough power to replace Ford’s four-cylinder engines.

A nip and a tuck for a more efficient truck

One of the biggest issues many car reviewers had with the Ecosport was its size, calling it “tight”, “diminutive” and “Lilliputian”, and “cramped”. One reviewer even compared it to the Smart Fortwo. And while its small stature received praise when it comes to parallel parking in the city, reviewers balked at the shortage of space compared to competitors like the Honda HR-V.

Given the criticism of the aging Ecosport now that it’s finally landed on U.S. shores, it seems highly probable that Ford will want to address the size of the vehicle in the next iteration. Extending the wheelbase will not only help with the interior of the vehicle, but lengthening the profile of the vehicle will also aid improving aerodynamics of the Ecosport—right now the vehicle is nearly 15 percent less aerodynamic than competitors in its class.

With the Ecosport shifting to a global platform, it will also be a perfect opportunity to introduce more lightweight materials to the vehicle. Reducing the weight of the Ecosport will help put it on par with lighter competitors like the Hyundai Kona while also improving performance of its efficient EcoBoost engines.

Global companies should leverage global ideas

Ford is a global company, and the Ecosport is no exception, as it is actually imported to the U.S. from India. Ford can take advantage of its global perspective in order to meet U.S. standards by looking to its European offerings.

The newest crossover to the Ford brand is the Puma (not to be confused with its older namesake). On that Focus-based crossover, Ford has already paired its 1.5L 3-cyl. EcoBoost with a 48V mild hybrid powertrain. That 48V system is also coming to next year’s Fiesta and Focus, paired with the 1.0L engine, which is already paired with the aforementioned 8-speed transmission. Dropping the same powertrain in another vehicle based on the same global platform is about as easy as it gets when it comes to automotive engineering…it’s a no-brainer.

Thousands of dollars back for customers of the Blue Oval

Ford is taking a gamble on lining up the Ecosport as its entry vehicle, and thus far its sales have not been particularly explosive—through 3 quarters this year, the Ecosport has sold just over 50,000 units, and while that’s an improvement from last year, it’s about 2,000 fewer vehicles than the Fiesta it is meant to replace.

To satisfy the needs of its most cost-conscious consumers, Ford has a great opportunity to put the “eco” in Ecosport and make a more compelling vehicle with the next re-design, all while living up to both its own environmental statements and the strong 2025 standards on the books today. And, oh yeah, the folks buying this newer, better Ecosport in 2025 will save over $6,300 in fuel over the life of the vehicle.