It’s as if this car was built with a picture of #CountryRunner framed on the wall in Ford’s design studio. If you live in the suburbs and head out into the countryside at every chance you get, it could work for you, too.
You’ll have seen the handy Ford EcoSport advertised in our print edition and dashing about on our roads. It’s a handsome beast: neat, confident, quietly capable. It’s a vehicle that makes lots of sense to the growing market of city dwellers who relish the outdoors.
Five days a week you want something nimble, economical and comfortable. On weekends you want to load up a few mountain bikes, a braai and a few friends without worrying about the dirt roads and potholes you might encounter. It’s an ideal match for #CountryRunner, who’s relying on the EcoSport to get him to the Drakensberg mountains for the Run the Berg 2014.
Let’s start with the 200mm of ground clearance. That’s not going to help if the goal is to win the Monster Truck Derby. But compare it to your typical sedan or hatch and the difference is important. The additional 30-50mm determines whether or not you can handle that last let of rough dirt to get to your lodge in the heart of the Drakensberg.
It’s also rather pleasant to sit higher up than many other vehicles in town! The 550m wading depth means the overflowing stream en route shouldn’t be an issue either.
Then there’s the SYNC system. This means reduced stress with hands-free phone calls, wireless music from your MP3 player and even the capacity to have your text messages read to you by the on-board computer. Other smart kit includes auto headlights that turn on when needed (say, in a flash storm), fold-down seats for 705 litres of space in the back, an air-conditioned cubbyhole to store drinks in and no fewer than 20 storage compartments, so everything from your sunglasses to umbrella will have a space to stay.
Of course, no outdoor traveller wants to have any more impact on the planet than is absolutely necessary. Enter the 1.0l engine, which can punch out 18.9 kilometres to the litre in tests. That’s up to 20% less fuel compared with a traditional 1.6 litre petrol engine, and just 131g of CO2 per kilometre.
#CountryRunner will be road testing the EcoSport between 3 and 7 October, both on the highways and byways between Joburg and Greenfire Lodge, and on the mountain roads of the Northern Berg. Watch this space and our social media channels for more reports on how this little SUV performs.