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An image of two 2019 Ford Ecosports, one red and one blue, in a city

Compact SUVs, Who Needs Passengers Anyway

At this point in the new year, we are all well aware of the crossover SUV’s gaining popularity in the auto market. So much so, that most automobile manufacturers are suspending, and even some going so far as to discontinue, car/sedan production altogether on certain models. The crossover has provided American drivers with a perfect combination of the decent gas mileage, generally only associated with a car or sedan, with the body combination and performance capabilities of a sport utility vehicle. Most dealerships will tell you that sport utility vehicles have been gaining traction since the mid-90s, but their dominance of the auto market really started to pick up the pace in the late 2000s post-recession years. According to LMC automotive, SUVs, just 15% of light vehicle sales globally in 2013, will account for 35% of sales this year; and in the US, and they are projected to cross the 50% mark by 2020. That’s right, demand for crossover SUVs has even take sway in Europe. I think it is safe to say that the crossover SUV is no longer a trend but a way of automotive life. As the American-minded SUV culture invades Europe, European economy-sized culture is set to be introduced with the subcompact crossover. The 2019 Ford EcoSport, based on the Ford Fiesta platform, takes its first foray into the American market having been around for awhile in different foreign markets. Which bodes well for consumers as the EcoSport is not fresh off the design floor, with potential bugs and eventual patches to fix them. Not much will be changed from the 2017 foreign model when it comes to the exterior or interior style, and after first test drives, it is noticeable that Ford did not have to create a new vehicle from the ground up to jump into this class. In order to asses Ford’s new kid on the block subcompact crossover, we decided to put it up against an old heavyweight in the crossover market and compare the 2019 Ford EcoSport vs 2019 Mazda CX-3.

Performance and Powertrain

At first glance of the base model’s performance the 2019 EcoSport appears to be an ironic nomenclature for it does not offer particularly eco-friendly or sporty driving conditions. However, even in the performance category, Ford’s compact crossover does not underwhelm; it just does not outperform other vehicles in its class. The base trim EcoSport is equipped with a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine capable of producing 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque; the smaller engine leaves a little wanting in acceleration but performs well within the needs of daily and city driving conditions. Ford wisely offers a second engine option with the EcoSport for those who need a little extra punch in their compact crossover taking it outside the means of daily driving. The second optional engine is 2.0-liter four-cylinder all-wheel drive that produces 166 horsepower with 149 lb-ft of torque. Granted these are not Earth-shattering numbers, but well within the means of above average class standards. The larger engine does give the compact crossover more of a Sport Utility feel. Also, the option for a second engine is a nice touch; not everyone needs the power for quick highway acceleration and vice versa. And finally if not in the engine, then the sporty angle of the name does come into play with the compact crossover’s handling. For anyone who has driven the Fiesta, they will be familiar with the EcoSport’s excellent handling. It has the ability to hug tight corners, and there is a smooth, steady feel as you swing around curves without the risk of rollover; all of which make it feel fun and a little faster than the vehicle’s real-time capabilities.

Whereas Ford wisely placed the option of two engines before taking the EcoSport to market, Mazda’s CX-3 is only equipped with one engine option for all trim levels. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces a class average 148 horsepower with 146 pound-feet of torque which outperforms the EcoSport’s base model engine; however, the larger engine on the EcoSport is more powerful and quicker than the CX-3’s. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the CX-3 performs average for its class with a little more speed than most crossovers, but the lack of engine options, even at the most expensive trim level, is disappointing from a consumer standpoint.

Utility and Interior

This is the category where the 2019 Ford EcoSport really starts to shine. The EcoSport has better than average cargo room, which is a surprising statement given about any compact vehicle. This is a car-sized vehicle, however, it has so much more storage than your average sedan. Ford has included over thirty different compartments inside of the SUV for personal item storage, electronics, or water bottles. With 20.9 cubic feet behind the second row and 50 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with seats folded down, the EcoSport has really been designed to suit the needs of active lifestyles. The EcoSport’s storage capacity makes a perfect companion for any weekend getaway or outdoor excursion as well providing room for any oversized holiday shopping sprees or average weekly grocery trip. It’s more space than any of its rivals offer including the Mazda CX-3.

The image is showing the Ecosport's cargo space and tan interior to compare the 2019 Ford EcoSport to the 2019 Mazda CX-3

Generally, in compact crossovers more cargo room means sacrificing the comfort of your backseat passengers, but Ford did not have to sacrifice comfort for convenient storage. With the Ford EcoSport, you get a smaller vehicle that is easy to park and maneuver with maximum storage capacity that can comfortably seat five adult passengers. It is both easy for passengers to get in and out and the back seat has plenty of leg room so your passengers are not sitting with their knees in their chests. The interior almost seems impossibly large when you consider the actual length of this crossover.

Unfortunately, the Mazda CX-3 is not up to snuff in both storage capacity and back seat comfort. It seems the CX-3 was designed as more of a one -person vehicle with the occasional friend passenger. Behind the rear seats, the Mazda compact crossover is even more compact than most for its class at 12.4 cubic feet while folding the seats down only expands that space to 44.5 cubic feet. Once again, you can get some average storage capacity, but within the limits of only two people. As for passenger room, the back row is scrunched, making three adults feel as if they were sharing two seats instead of three. Unlike the EcoSport, the CX-3 seems to have sacrificed passenger comfort and storage capacity as the vehicle comes up with a zero (possibly negative) sum score in this category.

Tech and Standard Options

Affordability, a variety of optional features are now standard, and the latest technology; this is where the EcoSport reigns supreme. With an MSRP starting around $19,995, the Ford EcoSport is one of the most affordable compact crossovers on the market. The base price is probably the lowest in this category of vehicles. Ford intentionally built a budget-vehicle but still stacked with all of the features drivers expect from more expensive crossover. The system features an 8-inch touchscreen and Ford’s Sync3 system, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included, multiple USB ports, as well as 110-volt and 12-volt outlets. The latest in tech seems standard in this modern age so no surprises here, but the inclusion of the Sync 3 infotainment system is a real treat for this moderately priced crossover. With an intuitive interface and quick reactions to user inputs, this is one of the best systems out there.

The CX-3 has consistently come up short in the tech department and this year is no exception. The updates, like infotainment screen, are nice but always a year or two behind the trend. The infotainment system is hardly intuitive and some functions are too complicated for on the road usage. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not included or even available. For a vehicle with a higher MSRP of $20,390 you would expect more tech options or at least the industry standards.

Conclusion

Ford’s new entry into the U.S. compact crossover market is a nice addition to their crossover lineup. If you are looking for a vehicle in this class, it is well worth your time to test drive the EcoSport. Ample cargo room and a roomy interior make the vehicle an ideal choice for group outings, outdoor activities, family trips. In the compact crossover category, which generally really only seats two with three as an option, the Ford EcoSport is one of the few that would make a great family vehicle. The CX-3 may pair well with EcoSport on performance, but when it comes to comfort, room, price or the latest in technology, the EcoSport is the sure winner in the comparison of 2019 Ford EcoSport vs 2019 Mazda CX-3.

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