Ford EcoSport : Finally a credible rival to the Renault Duster

After a year long uninterrupted run, Renault Duster–the blockbuster story of last year, gets its first dose of competition. The launch of the Ford EcoSport has been keenly awaited for quite sometime.

It grabbed a lot of eyeballs during the Delhi Auto Expo 2012 and over the course of the last few months, it has raised many expectations. Built on a global platfiorm that has been tweaked to bring the size of the vehicle at under 4 metres to help it qualify for lower excise duties, EcoSport is one of Ford’s most promising cars in quite sometime.

There are a lot of things that work for the car and some that dont, but the one that grabs the headlines is its price. When I first drove the car in Goa last month, I had a sense that it would come with a Rs 6 lakh price tag that will stretch upto Rs 11 lakh for the top of the line automatic variant. There is no shame in admitting, Ford has proven me wrong. And how.

At Rs 5.59 lakh for the base 1.5 litre petrol variant, Eco is a good 30% cheaper than Duster, a gap of Rs 2.4 lakh. For the base diesel version, which many believe would be the volume generator, the gap is a substantial Rs 2 lakh.

At worst the pricing is aggressive if one takes into account that the petrol version does not even qualify for the lower 12% excise duties as the engine is bigger than the prescribed 1.2 litre.

The other areas where the EcoSport scores is the gamut of features and a mint fresh design. For a car that is this small, it has a raised stance and a commanding driving position, which should go well with Indian consumers. The interior fit and finish and quality is also notch above the Duster. In terms of driveability too, it holds the edge.

Where the Duster scores is space and a rugged rustic appeal. Since the car was not constrained by milimetres, the rear seat offers more comfort. It is borrowed from Renault’s Romanian cousin Dacia’s engineering backyard, which means it looks a little dated by European standards, but it goes well in India. Not that big, but there is a macho element attached to it. Which clearly the Eco due to its urban appeal, lacks.

None of the two cars are off roaders in the strict sense. The Duster does not have a 4*4 option in India though it is exported out of here with that capability. Ditto for the Eco. It is equipped with all wheel drive option in Brazil but is unlikely to be offered with that in India soon. At the same time, that turf is not likely to be occupied anytime soon. Maruti’s upcoming compact SUV based on the Swift platform will also not be a refined Thar. The only real offroader to come could be the Toyota Rush but there is no confirmation yet whether and when that will come to India.

For now, all we know is it is the start of a cat and mouse game. And the mouse seems to have the aces up its sleeves.

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