The Ford Ecosport comes as part of a run of small SUVs - the Nissan Juke led the way for this new type of car, with a blend of funky style, low running costs and supermini space. The Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 have joined the battle and now, at last, Ford has entered the fray with the new Ford EcoSport.

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The Ecosport is part of Ford’s global One Ford philosophy: developed primarily for the South American market, but tweaked for global appeal and with UK cars built in India. It’s based on Ford Fiesta underpinnings featuring the excellent 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine, but sadly it lacks the charm of the Fiesta. Sure, it drives well, but awkward styling, compromised practicality, not especially good economy and poor quality let the Ecosport down badly.

Our choice: EcoSport Titanium 1.5 diesel

Styling

In the Ecosport’s biggest market, Brazil, quick and easy access to the spare wheel is essential for safety reasons. That’s why the Ecosport has its spare wheel mounted on the back of the boot door, eighties-style. In Europe, it spoils what is otherwise a smart and sleek look, making the car look rear heavy.

When the Juke, Captur and 2008 are such striking and stylish cars, that’s a big own goal for Ford – we’d rather see the wheel removed and a can of tyre weld offered instead.

Otherwise the Ecosport looks very much like a Ford Fiesta in a hall of mirrors: stretched upwards. The new family grille is present and correct, and inside the dashboard comes straight from the Fiesta, too – but without the quality that you’ll find in Britain’s best supermini or the Ecosport’s rivals.

Driving

The Ford Ecosport excels when it comes to the driving experience. As with all other Fords it has strong grip and nicely direct steering that reacts swiftly to your inputs. You can’t hide the fact that this is a tall car that Ford claims has some mild off-road ability (even though there are no Peugeot-style electronic aids to help off road).

The multi-award-winning 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Ecoboost engine is available in 123bhp form, but the 1.5-litre 90bhp diesel is a better bet for its blend of refinement, handling balance and, more importantly, economy – the 1.0 or entry-level 1.5-litre petrol engines aren’t especially efficient in a class where high mpg and low CO2 are the norm. None of the three engines offer especially sparkling performance, either.

Reliability

The Ford EcoSport only managed four stars in its EuroNCAP crash test, in spite of having a full roster of airbags on board. An adult occupant score of 93% is good enough, but with 77% for child occupants, 58% for pedestrian safety and 55% for safety assistance features, the Ecosport trails some rivals.

Ford doesn’t have the greatest history on customer satisfaction, either, finishing in 23rd place in our Driver Power survey in 2013. The Fiesta, with which the Ecosport shares many of its components, didn’t fare too well either – it failed to break into the top 100 in 2013’s Driver Power survey, charting at a lowly 117th position.

Practicality

SUVs like the Juke, Captur, 2008 and now Ecosport may be small, but practicality is an important part of their talent. Once inside the Ford, you’re not too badly off. The extra height means you could comfortably wear a top hat, while there’s decent legroom in the back, too. Getting into the rear isn’t especially easy – the door openings are quite narrow and the doors don’t open very wide. Fitting a little one in a child seat won’t be easy, although the seating position is higher than in rivals.

The biggest problem though is boot access, which relies on a wide, side-opening rear door that opens up away from the kerb side. If you back into a space, you’ll have to leave plenty of room to be able to open the door, too. The arrangement will put many people off the EcoSport altogether. That spare wheel on the back prevents the rear glass from opening, which is a shame as the boot is nice and deep.

Running Costs

The Ford Ecosport is only available in top-spec Titanium trim with the option of an X pack for a few additional goodies. That makes the car quite pricey to start with, but at least you get plenty of goodies for your money, including Ford’s much vaunted Sync with AppLink smartphone connectivity.

Ford tends to peg its running costs low with servicing costs that err on the affordable side. But the economy figures for the EcoSport are nothing to write home about. The diesel model is our pick of the range, not least because of its claims of 61.4mpg and CO2 of 120g/km. That’s not especially outstanding in the modern world, but the Ecoboost engine only offers 53.3mpg and CO2 figures of 125g/km – they’re not award winning stats.

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