Production EcoSport is close to concept models unveiled in Brasilia and at the New Delhi motor show last January and the near production version shown in China in April

Production EcoSport is close to concept models unveiled in Brasilia and at the New Delhi motor show last January and the 'near production' version shown in China in April

View 2 related images

After a long, nine-year life cycle for the first Ford Brazil EcoSport compact SUV, finally comes the long-anticipated 'MkII', clearly evolved from its popular predecessor and now destined for global sale and additional production outside South America.

just-auto's Production Life Database lists Maraimalai Nagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (India); Camaçari, Bahia (Brazil); Rayong (Thailand); CFMA, Chongqing (China) as planned future production sites.

Back in 2003, Ford virtually created the compact, front-wheel drive city SUV segment in Brazil, lobbing the new EcoSport into the ring to compete with small utility models with rear-or all-wheel drive, like the Suzuki Jimny and locally assembled Mitsubishi Pajero TR4 [Shogun Pinin in Europe], both heavier models more off-road focused.

Late last year, Renault launched the locally-built Duster, which finally tipped the EcoSport off its segment leading perch. But, from launch on 31 December, chances are the redesigned EcoSport will reclaim Ford's crown.

This time round, the EcoSport and Duster no longer have the segment to themselves, though. GM is expected to bring in the Chevrolet Trax [aka Buick Encore/Opel-Vauxhall Mokka] from Mexico in the first quarter of 2013. And Peugeot [a 208-based crossover], Hyundai [a Brazilian EcoSport rival based on the new, locally assembled HB20 hatchback] and Fiat are also expected to launch locally produced rivals within two years.

Meanwhile, Ford will begin new EcoSport export to Latin America before year end, starting with Argentina.

After just over 700,000 units sold, Ford knew exactly what to do with the new model.

The redesigned model is about the same length as its predecessor– 166.9in/4.24m – but wheelbase is up 1.18in/3cm; height by 2.75in/7cm and width by 1.96in/5cm, allowing a small increase in overall cabin room.

Inside, ambience is improved considerably with better materials and finish. Dashboard, steering wheel, instrument cluster, onboard electronics are all based on the also locally produced current Fiesta  from which the EcoSport also gained steering wheel height and distance adjustment and electric power steering.

Boot [trunk] space was boosted 20% to 12.78cu ft/362 litres.

LED day running lights now surround the headlights, and aerodynamics are better (Cd improved 10%) with corresponding wind noise reduction. The tailgate-mounted spare wheel – essential for street-cred in this segment remains but with just a small, release handle disguised within the off-side tail light unit in place of the previous bulky handle.

The engine is an all-alloy, 'Sigma', 97.6 cu inch/1.6-litre flexfuel unit developing 113bhp on 100% ethanol. That, along with new high-strength steel in the bodywork, kept the average model-for-model weight rise down to 88lb/40kg despite considerably more standard equipment. Ford claims better fuel efficiency with this engine.

Using the new Fiesta’s architecture also allowed Ford to specify safety-related upgrades such as anti-lock brakes and driver and passenger air bags plus, in upscale versions, side and curtain air bags and stability and traction control. Basic versions are no longer offered. Ford’s global infotainment system SYNC is also standard for all versions. Retail prices range from BRL$53,490/US$26,470 to BRL$71,490/US$35,391.