City driving is a chore. It’s something we all do every day mostly because we have to, though we doubt it’s something people look forward to on a regular basis. Ford wants to change all that with the EcoSport. The versatile little vehicle is perfect for cramped city streets and the traffic that we have to put up with daily. To prove a point, Ford Philippines took members of the local motoring media on an adventure race around the Metro, through the usual city traffic, to show that all you need to tame your commute is the right car.
The day started at the Ford dealership in Chino Roces. We had a call time about as early as a regular day at work, and even at that hour, we could see that the traffic was building up. Ten motoring journos were then split into three teams, with each team assigned their own EcoSport. After a quick safety briefing and general instructions, as well as a photo for posterity, everyone jumped into their cars and received the first cryptic clue. After a moment deciphering the pictogram on the card we received, my partner Carlo Chungunco of Top Gear magazine made quick work of the clue, and were off to the first destination in no time. The metro traffic, however had other ideas. Points were to be awarded to those who arrived first, so we pushed the EcoSport as fast as the road conditions would safely allow us. Its compact size and nimble handling allowed Carlo, who was behind the wheel at the time, to easily maneuver through the tangled mess which was EDSA and get us to the first challenge at Art in Island in Cubao.
Once we got there though, it dawned on us that we may have enjoyed the ride too much, and found that we were the last to arrive. Bent on taking it all in stride and finishing first anyway, we waited for our own turn to hear the instructions for the next challenge. Once the other teams were inside, we got our turn. In the challenge envelope were snapshots of small segments of the pieces inside the gallery. We were tasked to find the artwork from which the small photo was taken, and pose with it. It was no cakewalk. With 15 photos taken from 15 different paintings across all of Art in Island, there was a lot of scrambling back-and-forth, head scratching, and false alarms. In the end, all of the teams got practically all the photos right, and were more than ready for a break.
The next clue required a little mathematical skill. Teams were given an equation to solve, and a flash drive loaded with music. Participants had to solve the equation, plug the flash drive into the EcoSport’s USB drive, and use their voice to have the audio system play the correct track, which contained instructions for getting to the next venue. While we did run into a bit of a snag solving the equation (though our own method was correct), we eventually got the track right, and the car to recognize our voice commands. We were then off to Pasig for a quick lunch and a chance to regroup.
Despite the heavy EDSA traffic, the EcoSport made the ride more than bearable. The EcoSport Titanium was surprisingly roomy inside, and even with clues, snacks, and enough gadgets for a small office in the mix, it didn’t feel like we were riding a compact crossover. There were enough ports and chargers around to keep our phones topped up as Waze guided us to our next destination which was Cow and Chicken in Kapitolyo. Fate was kinder to us this time around, and despite having to make our way through intense noontime traffic, we found ourselves first to arrive at the lunch venue. The others had apparently taken a different route, and ended up on the wrong side of C5, allowing us to make up for the points we lost getting to Art in Island at the tail end of the party.
Lunch was massive, and fit for a group that spent its morning running around an art gallery, and stuck twice in Manila traffic. If you’re in the area, head over to Cow and Chicken and order their philly cheese steak, or if you’re particularly hungry, the chicken and waffles, but make sure you have a massive appetite ready. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
From the lunch venue, it was a quick hop to the Greenfield district in Mandaluyong for the next set of challenges. It was my turn behind the wheel of our EcoSport, and after I had everything dialled in, I pulled out of the parking lot and headed off in the direction of the next challenge. Not having taken the wheel of an EcoSport before, I honestly had no idea what to expect. What I did find, however, was extremely pleasant. Nimble steering, a great view of the road, and superb ground clearance were all very welcome given the state of the roads we were going through. The throttle does take a little while to react to inputs, but it wasn’t so bad as to cause problems, though you might find yourself revving a little more than you’re used to. Give it some time, and you’ll be driving it as smoothly as any four-wheeler you’ve had in the past.
I also appreciated the controls conveniently located on the steering wheel. There’s a lot going on with a car as feature-rich as the EcoSport in this level of trim, and to have everything within reach is a great boon, particularly when you’re plodding through a long string of buses and stopped cars.
We eventually got to our last venue for the challenges, Trampoline Park in Pasig. After a quick safety briefing and warm-up, we saw exactly what we had to do to complete the challenge. It was an obstacle course that involved jumping across trampolines, shooting basketballs, swimming through a foam pit, and completing a list of the Ford EcoSport’s features, followed by a quick game of dodgeball. This was by far the most exhausting part of the day, and once the smoke had settled, we found, to both our surprise and delight, that our duo (or rather trio at this point, as Kat Lanot from Ford joined our ranks) ended with the shortest time.
But the day wasn’t quite done yet.
There was one challenge remaining, and it put the teams and the EcoSport to the test. We had to fit as many soda cans into the various compartments inside the EcoSport in as short a time as possible. There were 30 cans available, and all of them had to be placed snugly in their appropriate holders and containers inside the vehicle. This was a real eye-opener, as there were more spots to hold soda cans than I thought. From cup holders for front and rear passengers, and a glove box that routes cold air from the A/C to keep your drinks chilly, the only question that was on my mind at the end of the exercise was “What are you going to do with all that soda when you’re on the road?” We managed to fit all 30 cans inside the car, though the official number is 24. Still, that’s way more cans that I would have expected. It’s really quite roomy for such a tiny vehicle.
At the end of the day, everyone was richer for the experience. We had fun, got to drive a wonderful vehicle from Ford, and made a few new friends. The cherry on top though was that Carlo and I managed to take first place, even with a slow start. The EcoSport was a great companion throughout though, and should very well serve anyone in need of a competent, comfortable daily driver.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE September 2016 issue
Words by Ren Alcantara