2018 Ford EcoSport subcompact SUV finally debuts in the US

If Ford can deliver on its promises for the long-awaited EcoSport, those in the market for a fun and functional pint-sized crossover will likely have another great option.

Reed Saxon/AP/File
Ford's all-new EcoSport for North America is seen during what the company says is the first-ever Snapchat vehicle reveal during a three-day event called "Go Small, Live Big" in Los Angeles' Hollywood district Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Ford targets its newest SUV to younger buyers seeking a smaller SUV with a big personality, customizable to the buyer's taste. EcoSport features an available 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine, SYNC 3 infotainment system and seven color ambient interior lighting.

Like most things at Ford that don't have GT or RS in their name these days, the new Ford EcoSport is about 90% hype and 10% car.

Fortunately, underneath all that ad-speak, it's a cute little thing, with some cool features.

If Ford can deliver it with the right driving experience, for the right price, those in the market for a fun and functional pint-sized crossover will likely have another great option.

If you think the EcoSport looks familiar, you may be well-traveled; Ford has sold the EcoSport in markets outside the U.S. since 2003, launching the current, second-generation vehicle in 2013. In fact, we've even driven it.

We're getting an updated version for the U.S. launch. However, since the EcoSport isn't hitting the market here until early 2018, details like price and specifics on options packages, features, technology, and driver assistance systems are still undecided--or at least unannounced.

What we can tell you is that it looks pretty good, it has a nice interior, and it ticks the major boxes most small crossover buyers will want to have ticked.

Primary among those boxes is Ford's SYNC 3 system, complete with an 8.0-inch floating touch screen, bringing with it Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

While Ford is eager to play this up as "living big" despite "going small," the truth is, the availability of a proper smartphone-integrated entertainment system is nearly a pre-requisite for relvance today--let alone in early 2018.

But Ford's SYNC 3 system is quite good, and with the major phone-system integration bases covered, you'll get all the features Google and Apple see fit to bake into their hardware and software as well.

The other key to the EcoSport is the combination of a ride height that matches some light trucks and an available all-wheel drive system. Yes, Ford calls it "Intelligent 4WD," but there is no low-range function, or any other function that's driver-controlled, however, and you can't even make it operate all the time in inclement conditions.

Under normal driving, the "intelligent" part of the system disengages the rear wheels for better fuel economy; when the system detects wheel slip, yaw, or other metrics that fall within its pre-determined grid, it will activate the all-wheel-drive system, sending an unspecified amount of power rearward.

Despite the murky marketing message (by the way, it's pronounced "echo-sport," not like "eek-o-boost" despite offering an EcoBoost engine as the base configuration) the package is about on par with other compact crossovers, and should be serviceable in snow and light mud when equipped with the right tires.

Speaking of EcoBoost, there are just two engine options for North American versions of the EcoSport, and both will share a 6-speed automatic transmission. The base engine, which comes only in front-wheel drive, is the 1.0-liter three-cylinder that has been used in several other Ford vehicles.

The upgrade option is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which brings with it your only route to all-wheel drive. Horsepower, torque, and gas mileage figures are still forthcoming, and should be released closer to the vehicle's on-sale date in early 2018.

On the tech front, aside from the SYNC 3 system, the EcoSport will also offer an available B&O PLAY (yes, as in Bang & Olufsen) stereo system, featuring 10 speakers (six of them B&O PLAY-branded) and 675 watts of output.

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