Ford's newest entry-level vehicle, the EcoSport crossover, takes the place of the Focus in its lineup. Unlike many of its competitors, the Ford EcoSport is a true crossover, with AWD available on every trim level and standard at the top of the line. It's also surprisingly roomy up front and has nearly the cargo capacity of a Subaru Crosstrek. We found the EcoSport to be a great daily driver on back roads, commutes, and the highway. However, on the North campus of the Team O'Neil Rally School, we found that on a course covered in ice and snow the EcoSport has hidden capabilities.
Our day at the Winer Safe Driving School included drives in the new Ford Ranger, Ford F-150 Raptor, and the Team O'Neil Rally School's signature Ford Fiesta rally cars. This group gave us a perfect selection of front drive, rear drive, and 4X4 drive vehicles in which to hone our skills. However, we needed an AWD vehicle to round out the possible drive configurations and the EcoSport was on hand, so...
As it turned out, the Ford EcoSport makes for a great rally vehicle. In the hands of a Team O'Neil instructor, the EcoSport danced through the slalom and looked easy to drift on the skidpad. In our hands, not so much, but truth be told we had as much fun flogging the EcoSport as we did in the Raptor.
The EcoSport's paddle shifters allowed us to use the higher RPM ranges to help steer the vehicle with the throttle. The EcoSport's traction control off, we had a blast spinning all four tires during hard launches and while making the crossover slide through (and sometimes over) the cones.
We discovered that with the traction control on, the EcoSport is very predictable, and very stable, even on a surface completely covered in thick ice with a topping of crystallized snow. One of the instructors said to us while he deftly transitioned from cone to cone, "Throw a set of winter tires on this puppy and you'd have yourself a fun little rally racer."
Couple the EcoSports inherent driving abilities with the heated steering wheel and heated seats and we were thinking more along the lines of, "Throw a coffee in the cupholder of this puppy and this is the perfect winter commuter vehicle."