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Ford EcoSport small crossover spied on U.S. roads

Thu, 16 Aug 2012

Ford may need a smaller crossover in its lineup, and the new EcoSport--created in Brazil and designed for markets such as India--could fill that opening.

Need evidence? This camouflaged prototype has been spotted on the streets in metropolitan Detroit. Underneath the paint, this crossover is the new EcoSport that was unveiled in India in January (we've put some photos of that car in the gallery for you to compare).

Now, the Ford folks have said since that intro that the EcoSport is not coming to the U.S. market. They're sticking to that stance.

But, this is the One Ford era. Products are designed on global platforms and engineered for global markets. So, the EcoSport in the U.S. market is not implausible.

There is competition. Nissan already sells the B-sized Juke crossover here, and Buick is preparing to launch the Encore, which is based on the platform used for the Chevrolet Sonic. Honda has also hinted that a crossover based on the Fit platform is in its future.

The EcoSport rides on Ford's B-platform, which underpins the Fiesta in the United States and Europe. Ford has also just launched the B-Max wagon, with sliding rear doors, on that platform in Europe.

The EcoSport was developed by Ford's design team in Camacari, Brazil--the country is one of the crossover's prime markets. It includes signature design cues, such as the large grille and narrow headlamps. The rugged roads in Brazil and India make a full-size spare tire a must-have--and the platform's size makes hanging it on the rear door necessary.

It's not unusual for automakers to test vehicles developed for other markets near the home office. And Ford's Michigan complex houses its prototype build operation. So Ford insiders caution that the EcoSport's appearance in Detroit is not an automatic signal that we'll get it here.

But the looming boost in fuel-economy regulations, combined with consumers' continued preference for crossovers in the United States and Europe, makes it impossible to rule out getting an EcoSport-sized vehicle here.

And it's not impossible that Ford has decided to test the waters here by putting an EcoSport prototype on the roads to see what reaction it gets.

See, we noticed.

By Dale Jewett