Wednesday, 4 January 2012

New Ford EcoSport Is Everything That's Wrong With Everything

Princess Leia in a gold bikini not included
In the motoring world, "crossovers" are a plague that has plighted us for a few years now. They've been around for a while (see the '90s Isuzu VehiCross or the '80s AMC Eagle), but nowadays they're spreading like a virus, and Ford has just announced their second one, a Fiesta-based car to sit under the Focus-based Kuga (that doesn't at all sound like 'Cougar', a coupé they used to make...), which has the worst and laziest name ever conceived for a car: EcoSport. That says it all, doesn't it? Crossovers are clearly nothing more than moron bait...

Let's stay on the name for a second. 'EcoSport' isn't the name of a particular options package or trim level, it's the name of the whole car. You will actually have to say to people "Oh, I drive an EcoSport". Even you, the owner, will wince. I guarantee it. You might as well just yell "I am an idiot", because if you buy this, that's exactly what the spotless off-road trim and twinkly LED lights will say to other people. It says you're someone who knows nothing about cars. Is it even available with 4-Wheel-Drive? The press release doesn't say, so because it's based on the purely 2-Wheel-Drive Fiesta, I'm going to safely assume it doesn't. It's probably also safe to assume that everyone including Ford is on the same page when it comes to off-roadability, in that it won't have any. What you've bought is in fact just a high-riding Fiesta that looks like Jabba The Hutt. Well done you.

If the name wasn't a big enough clue, the press release also suggests that this is a car cynically conceived to make money. There's two whole sections about nothing but the new markets it will be sold in, as well as later being available in the western world, where many idiots live. This attitude is one that's taken when designing a good 90% of crossovers. Build it, and they will come. Sell it, and they will buy. That's all these cars are for. How else do you explain the Audi Q3 and Q5, or the BMW X1, X3 and X6, or the 2WD RR Evoque? Cynical cars made by cynical people as a cynical marketing ploy.

Why do they sell so well? Because most normal, non-car people don't know about or consider these things. Despite many car companies bending over backwards to apparently appeal to customer needs (Ferrari made the FF for this reason), this genre of cars proves that in some cases, the customer is being told what they want, and blindly agreeing. Marketing buzzwords like "Eco" help lure in more hemp-wearing hipsters with Apple Macs as well, which is why the name "EcoSport" is a horrible stroke of sad, sad genius, because people also want other people to think they look "sporty", which by extension makes them "cool". It's the perfect name for this kind of car and the kind of world we currently live in. What's more, these crossovers with black and silver plastic trim and big chunky wheels (this one even goes as far as having a spare on the boot like a RAV4 or a CR-V) are frequently branded as "lifestyle vehicles", a term just as wet and empty as it sounds. Having a "Lifestyle Vehicle", or a "Sport Activity Vehicle" is meant to suggest that you go skiing on a surfboard at a beach in the mountains where your mountain bikes get used frequently between time spent either chillaxin' with your friends on Facebook or eating ice creams sold from a straw hut while you wear hemp sandals with your rock-climbing wife and two outdoorsy children. You then load up your various leisure equipment into your perfectly suited vehicle, dry yourself and your small family off with some towels and head off on a flat-but-sandy path back to trendy urban civilisation. What do people really put in them? Kids. Kids, bags and prams. Maybe a few tissues and "acceptable" CDs as well. That's some trendy lifestyle you have there. May I suggest an MPV with sliding doors?

Ford have branded this particular "Compact Utility Vehicle" (CUV) as, and I quote, "a sporty and casual car, for consumers who want to stand out and who want more from life, but in an intelligent and sustainable way." Oh dear.

It's like companies writing these things (and clearly the designers too) live on the island where they film The Truman Show (if you haven't seen that movie, first of all watch it, but basically they don't live in the real world, where real people live). Alas, the so-called discerning consumer just sees a car with some flashy bits on it and 4x4-esque trim that makes it look "safe" compared to the 5-Star safety-rated Fiesta, Clio or Polo, and that's all it takes for many people...

That, dear reader, is why you should never buy a crossover. OK, maybe the Nissan Qashqai, because I hear that's actually a very good car, but that's the exception which proves the rule that all crossovers are crap. Oh, and the Škoda Yeti, because you can land your trendy lifestyle helicopter on it.

Edit: Apparently 4WD is an option, just to reassure us that it can drive over speed bumps with no trouble.

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