A platform – essentially the chassis and components in it as well as key dimensions and positions for various hardware – is an expensive thing to develop. For this reason, manufacturers try to maximize the use of a platform by creating many variants on it. This also saves time, which is crucial in a competitive environment, and more importantly, it helps to reduce cost.
The One Ford philosophy aims to do just that, making it a must that a platform is used for as many models as possible and on a global scale. Thus where there was once a separation of models in different regions, now Ford makes sure that what sells in North America can also be sold in Asia and vice-versa. Of course, there are still some exceptions, eg the huge F-Series pick-ups don’t appeal to many outside America but they are still what customers there want, so Ford will still make them.
The B-platform is one of the global platforms that Ford has developed for this decade and thus far, we’ve seen it used for the Fiesta in hatchback and sedan form. This evening, the company unveiled an all-new variant in India which takes the form of a compact SUV that will be called the EcoSport. The first showing of the new model in India (at Auto Delhi which starts tomorrow) indicates the importance of that market to Ford and the EcoSport will be built there for the Indian market as well as for export to 100 other countries.
|All-new EcoSport (above) was developed following the success of a model with a similar name (below) which
has been sold in South America since 2003. It sits on an older Fiesta platform but has not been offered globally
While a compact Ford SUV may seem something entirely new for Ford which seems to have not offered anything smaller than the Escape, there has actually been such a product in South America with a similar name, and using the platform of an older Fiesta generation. It’s been sold there since 2003 and because of its success, development the new global EcoSport originated from that region.
The all-new EcoSport has an entirely different style from the current South American model and is said to be the first to use Ford’s new global design language. You can also see some cues from the Fiesta, especially the rakish profile and distinctive front end but there are also signature SUV elements like extra ground clearance and a rear-mounted spare tyre on a side-hinged door.
A rear-mounted spare tyre requires some extra engineering work on the back door and obviously some extra cost. The engineers probably prefer it not to be there while the stylists would like it for the image it provides but it’s what customers want and so they should get it.
Just as with the first display of the new Ranger in Sydney in 2010, Ford is only showing the exterior of the EcoSport at the motorshow. Only a few details are being released too and there’s nothing that reveals what the interior is like. But Ford says that customers can expect the interior of the vehicle to feature ‘the same high levels of craftsmanship, material quality and quiet isolation from noise that have been central elements in other new-generation global products’.
What is known is that the EcoSport will be the first model to use the new 1-litre EcoBoost engine. This is the smallest version of the EcoBoost family and it’s a 3-cylinder unit which produces 120 ps – which rivals traditional 1.6-litre engines.
EcoBoost engines feature turbocharging, direct fuel-injection and other technologies to replace larger engines with no loss of performance and with lower fuel consumption. Developed at Ford’s Technical Centre in the U.K., this engine features a new compact, high-performance turbocharger. The extremely fast response of the turbocharger and its ability to reach nearly 250,000 rpm results with virtually no turbo lag and peak torque of 170 Nm is available from 1300 to 4500 rpm.
The engine has an exhaust manifold cast into the cylinder head which, in turn, lowers the operating temperatures of the exhaust gases, enabling the engine to run with an optimum air-fuel ratio across a wider rev band.
An advanced “split cooling” system reduces fuel consumption by warming the engine more quickly and – unique to this version – cast iron is used forfor the block, reducing the amount of energy needed for warm-up by up to 50% compared with aluminium. So not having an all-aluminium design is actually not a drawback.
Intelligent ancillaries such as a variable air-conditioning compressor and oil pump also reduce demand on the engine – improving economy and emissions – while special coatings for engine components and intricate development of engine geometry result in minimal frictional losses. Like the other EcoBoost engines, there’s also variable camshaft timing on the intake and exhaust side to further improve performance and economy. An all-new camshaft actuator to speed up response times without sacrificing durability is fitted.
A 3-cylinder engine gives off a lot of vibrations and a lot of effort has gone into addressing this inherent characteristic. Rather than employ the traditional method of adding energy-draining balancer shafts, Ford engineers have deliberately “unbalanced” the flywheel and pulley to offset the engine configuration. This innovation, combined with optimized engine mounts, is claimed to deliver a truly refined performance feel perfected during 720,000 kms of tests – including 360,000 kms of durability trials and 10,000 kms of environmental testing. Engine refinement is improved thanks to an innovative design that immerses the two main engine drive belts in oil – resulting in quieter and more efficient running but with the durability of a chain.
The EcoSport is the second of eight new vehicles that Ford plans to bring to India by mid-decade. It will also help expand Ford’s presence in Brazil, India, ASEAN markets and other countries, sharing the B-class platform which is expected to sell more than 2 million units by 2005. Ford’s aggressive global plan is to increase worldwide sales by nearly 50% by mid-decade to 8 million vehicles a year. Of that figure, 60 to 70% is expected to come from the Asia-Pacific and Africa region.
“We’ve promised to bring more than 50 new vehicles and powertrains to Asia-Pacific and Africa by mid-decade and the all-new EcoSport continues to deliver on that pledge,” said Joe Hinrichs, President, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa. “Endowed with traits that customers in markets like India will want and value, this exciting compact SUV will define a new segment in the small car market.”
We couldn’t get anyone at Sime Darby Auto ConneXion to comment on the model’s availability in Malaysia in future but given that Ford has said it will be sold in the ASEAN region, it should be offered here eventually. The 1-litre powertrain might not be the most appropriate but since it sits on a Fiesta platform, there’s clearly the possibility of installing a bigger EcoBoost engine.
Visit www.ford.net.my to know more about the Fiesta and other Ford models available in Malaysia
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