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2018 Ford EcoSport review: A small SUV that’s a big deal

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Ford is one of the last automakers to introduce a subcompact SUV into the United States, but it still pulled off a first.

The 2018 EcoSport is the first car imported to the United States from India, one of several locations where the globally popular model has been built for the past few years. That means Ford can sell it here for a starting price of $20,990 and presumably turn a profit. Not something the smallest vehicles often provide automakers.

In fact, there seems to be so much wiggle room that Ford is launching the EcoSport with a $2,750 lease incentive on its tiny hood that runs through April 2. When you’re behind in the game, you’ve got to make a big play.

That’s particularly true in the competitive subcompact SUV segment, which is jam-packed with strong entries like the Honda HR-V, Chevy Trax and best-selling Kia Soul.

All-new Ford EcoSport delivers a fun, capable and connected driving experience in a compact SUV loaded with technology.

The EcoSport was thoroughly reengineered for U.S. duty and looks a lot like a shrunken head version of a Ford Escape. It’s pretty tiny, even among its diminutive peers, and solidly aimed at the single and empty-nester scenes. There’s plenty of room in the front seats, which provides a high perch, but you’ll need to get friendly with the dashboard if anyone is going to fit behind them.

ecosport

The trunk is more impressive, and there’s a wide bumper in front of it that you can use as seat for tailgating. The tailgate itself swings open like a door instead of lifting up, which is an artifact from the overseas model that has a full-size spare attached to it. U.S. versions get a much lamer fix-a-flat kit instead.

All Ford EcoSport models feature swing-gate-style tailgate.

Unfortunately, the hydraulically-assisted tailgate doesn’t have any stops for it like a passenger door does and it opens itself all the way if you let go of it. This means you need to give it a wide berth when parallel parking, so you’ll have to pass on the impossibly small spaces if you’re carrying any cargo that needs to be unloaded.

Equipped with either an award-winning, 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost® engine or 2.0-liter four-cylinder with Intelligent 4WD, all-new Ford EcoSport provides power and control.

The EcoSport comes standard with front-wheel-drive and a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that it shares with the Focus. An all-wheel-drive model with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is also available for $27,735.

A three-cylinder engine may sound odd, but this one runs smoothly. Its 123 hp is adequate, but hardly stirring, while a 29 mpg highway rating is the same as what the 166 hp four-cylinder delivers. Both engines get tow ratings, believe it or not, which are 1,400 and 2,000 pounds, respectively.

I found the steering to be a little vague and rubbery for a modern car, but it didn’t take too long for me to acclimate to it. The suspension is also elastic, but in a better way.

The ride is cushy and the EcoSport laughs at potholes. You can probably thank its emerging market roots for this characteristic. It’s surefooted on the highway, however, and exceptionally quiet for a vehicle in this size and price range.

Ford does its cheap cars well, and digging around under the carpets and in the door jambs of the EcoSport doesn’t reveal any sketchy build quality, which can’t be said of every low-priced foreign car. That said, it doesn’t have crash test ratings yet and it only went on sale in January, so it’ll be a while before anyone can get a fix on its reliability.

All EcoSports get a standard backup camera, while high end models add rear parking sensors and a blind spot monitoring system. They also offer the latest version of Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, so you don’t get shortchanged on tech. The kids have gotta be connected these days, after all.

It has a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and also Alexa integration that I didn’t get to try because the iOS version was in the middle of an update when I had the vehicle. (It was completed the next week, of course.) Among other skills, you can use it to remotely start and unlock the EcoSport, which can also be done via the FordPass app.

Aside from that ─ and the whole country of origin thing ─ the EcoSport doesn’t really break any new ground. It just fills a hole in Ford’s showrooms that keeps getting bigger as consumers continue to shift from small cars to small SUVs. It should keep plenty of them from going to the next dealership down the block, and if things work out, turn them into loyal customers that will buy a bigger, more expensive Ford the next time they come around.

———-

2018 Ford EcoSport

Base price: $20,990

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door front-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 1.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Power: 123 hp, 125 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

MPG: 27 city/29 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor. Follow him on Twitter @garygastelu



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Joe Biden-Vladimir Putin summit: Leaders agree to return ambassadors to posts in bid to lower tensions | World News

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Russia’s Vladimir Putin says he and US President Joe Biden have agreed to return their ambassadors to their respective posts in an attempt to lower tensions.

It comes after around four hours of talks between the leaders at a summit in Switzerland.

The two men have had face-to-face discussions at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva.

The first round of talks involved both leaders, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a pair of translators.

A second session involved other senior officials on both sides.

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Putin and Biden meet in Geneva

President Biden gave a thumbs up as he left the villa and then entered his limousine, TV footage showed.

Diplomats deemed it to be too risky for them to appear together because of the potential of an embarrassing public spat in response to media questions.

Opening the talks earlier, Mr Putin said he hoped for a “productive” meeting, while Mr Biden called it a discussion between “two great powers” and insisted “it is always better to meet face to face”.

As they appeared together for the first time since 2011, both men appeared to avoid looking directly at the other during a brief and chaotic photocall before jostling reporters and photographers.

Mr Biden instigated the summit, and for months the two leaders have criticised each other.

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Biden: Putin is a worthy adversary

Mr Biden has repeatedly called out Mr Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on US interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and alleged interference in American elections.

Mr Putin, in turn, has pointed to the US Capitol riot on 6 January to argue America has no business lecturing on democratic norms.

And he insisted the Russian government has not been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite US intelligence showing otherwise.

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Russia’s View: Exclusive interview with Putin

The jailing of Mr Navalny, whose novichok poisoning was blamed on the Kremlin, was a subject on which Mr Biden was unlikely to get much traction with Mr Putin who considers the case an internal Russian affair.

But there were areas where cooperation was expected. They include arms control, climate change, containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, humanitarian assistance to Syrians and working together on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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US-Russia summit: Putin hopes for ‘productive’ meeting and Biden says it is ‘better to meet face to face’ as event gets under way | World News

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US President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have embarked on hours of face-to-face talks at a lakeside mansion in Switzerland.

Opening the talks, Mr Putin said he hoped for a “productive” meeting, as Mr Biden insisted “it is always better to meet face to face”.

Their encounter at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva is full of the potential for high drama but low on expectations for diplomatic breakthroughs.

Biden and Putin
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Biden and Putin

As they appeared together for the first time since 2011, both men appeared to avoid looking directly at the other during a brief and chaotic photocall before jostling reporters and photographers.

When a reporter asked if Mr Putin could be trusted, Mr Biden appeared to nod, but the White House quickly sent out a tweet insisting the president was “very clearly not responding to any one question, but nodding in acknowledgment to the press generally”.

Mr Putin ignored shouted questions from reporters.

The two leaders shook hands with Mr Biden extending his hand first.

Shortly before, Mr Biden had smiled at the Russian leader when they posed with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland for the summit.

The meeting, which is expected to last four or five hours in total, comes at the end of Mr Biden’s first foreign trip as US president which has taken him to Cornwall for the G7 meeting and Brussels for separate NATO and EU summits.

About two hours in, the Kremlin announced that the first round of talks had concluded, with a short break, followed by their resumption with a larger group of people in attendance – the first of two such rounds.

The first meeting involved the two leaders, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a pair of translators.

At all of these meetings, messages have been moulded and red lines set by western leaders which sources say Mr Biden will spell out to Mr Putin.

Ukraine, Belarus, Iran, Syria and issues like arms proliferation are all expected to be discussed as well as behaviour by Russia which western nations consider to be contrary to the so-called international rules based system.

The fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, poisoned then imprisoned in Russia, will be raised by the American president. It is a subject on which he is unlikely to get much traction with his Russian counterpart who considers the case an internal Russian affair.

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Russia’s View: Exclusive interview with Putin

But domestically for Mr Biden, who is facing criticism for agreeing to a meeting with Mr Putin so early in his presidency, it’s important to be seen to be pressuring the Russians.

The US president, who famously called Mr Putin “a killer” has conceded already that there is “no guarantee” that the meeting will effect any change of behaviour by the Russian president.

As well as the Navalny case, the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018 is likely to feature in the talks.

Defence rivalry will be a key issue with an attempt at a new dialogue on arms control. Issues like the territorial control in the Arctic, space, cyber and autonomous weapons systems could all be up for discussion.

Andrey Kortunov is director general of the Russian International Affairs Council and considered to be a Kremlin insider.

He told Sky News: “They will not resolve these issues in Geneva, they might only authorise their respective bureaucrats and military and diplomats to get into a serious conversation on all of these issues. That would be already a major accomplishment.”

Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with then vice president Joe Biden in Moscow in 2011
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Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with then vice president Joe Biden in Moscow in 2011

He continued: “I think that Biden and Putin will probably articulate their positions on issues like Ukraine or Belarus too. But it’s hard to believe that they can achieve a breakthrough on such sensitive issues.”

Expectations by diplomats on both sides are being kept intentionally low. From that base it’s possible to build up even small wins as diplomatic breakthroughs.

There is a chance that the two leaders could agree to repair the basic mechanics of their bilateral relationship by reinstalling ambassadors in their respective capitals. But beyond that sort of gesture, bigger announcements are not likely.

On Monday, Mr Biden said he will make clear to Putin “what the red lines are” and “if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond in kind.”

Asked for his assessment of the former KGB officer, Mr Biden said: “He’s bright, he’s tough, and I have found that he is a – as they say when I used to play ball – a worthy adversary.”

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Biden: Putin is a worthy adversary

The meeting, which was initiated by President Biden, has been arranged over just a few weeks and will involve one-plus-one talks with Mr Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mr Biden and his Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

A second session will then include other senior officials on both sides.

The two leaders will not hold a joint news conference. Diplomats deem it to be too risky for them to appear together because of the potential of an embarrassing public spat in response to media questions.

“Definitely the summit was prepared in a haste. It’s the very beginning (of the relationship). And it’s going to be a modest beginning especially for Biden. He cannot look as if he yielded too much to the Russian counterpart,” Mr Kortunov told Sky News.

There are areas where cooperation is expected. They include arms control, climate change, containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, humanitarian assistance to Syrians and working together on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Nora Quoirin: Malaysia court overturns coroner’s verdict that teen’s death was misadventure | UK News

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A High Court in Malaysia has overturned a coroner’s verdict that the death of French-Irish teenager, Nora Quoirin, was likely misadventure with no one else involved.

The 15-year-old, who lived in Balham, in southwest London, was staying with her family at a hotel around an hour from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, when she disappeared in August 2019.

After a ten-day search, her body was discovered around 2.5 kilometres from where she was last seen at the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan.

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A coroner in Malaysia ruled in January that the death of British teenager Nora Quoirin was most likely a misadventure.

Meabh Quoirin said her daughter was born with holoprosencephaly, a disorder that affects brain development leaving Nora with learning and physical disabilities.

During a short virtual hearing, Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan laid out the reasons for revising the judgement and returning an open verdict.

In particular, he highlighted Nora’s struggles with balance and coordination, the steep terrain around the resort, which was challenging for people without her physical disabilities, and her shy personality which made her “unadventurous” and “uncomfortable with the unfamiliar”.

“Having reviewed the material, that was before the court, I am of the view that the verdict of misadventure ought to be vacated in the interests of justice and substituted with an open verdict, as there was no credible evidence to support any other verdict,” he explained to Nora’s listening parents.

“I am willing to accept that on the evidence before the court the possibility for third party involvement was lower than the possibility that Nora Anne had inadvertently got herself into a situation from which she could not extricate herself.

“That does not mean, however, that I should enter a verdict of misadventure,” he added.

The ruling is a legal victory for the family who believe Nora may have been abducted and challenged the coroner’s decision.

Police have always suggested there was no evidence of foul play, claiming she likely climbed out of a window and wandered off into the jungle alone.

Her family has dismissed this saying that Nora would not have been physically able to disappear into thick forest unaided and evade detection during the intensive search involving drones and sniffer dogs.

Nora’s parents said they were “utterly disappointed” by a coroner’s verdict in January.

They have suggested her body may have been placed in the area where it was finally found.

Legal representatives for the family previously said an open verdict would be “appropriate”.

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