MUMBAI – Ford India is taking two vital steps to boost its fortunes in the country’s fast-growing automotive market.

The latest One Ford global product, a small, next-generation EcoSport cross/utility vehicle, will be introduced in India early next year. It is based on Ford’s weight-saving global B2E platform jointly developed with Mazda.

The B-segment CUV is powered by Ford’s tiny but efficient 1.0L 3-cyl. EcoBoost direct-injected turbocharged gasoline engine. It generates 125 lb.-ft. (170Nm) of torque, equivalent to that of a naturally aspirated 1.6L diesel engine. Ford’s emphasis on aerodynamic design helps it achieve fuel efficiency of 42/47 mpg (5.6-5.0 L/100 km) city/highway.

The EcoSport with EcoBoost is designed for India and other expanding auto markets such as China, South America, including Brazil, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. After making its global debut in India in 2013, the EcoSport will be exported to 100 countries.

Ford India plans to introduce eight new products in India by 2015. The EcoSport is the second in the series, after the new Fiesta that was launched last year. Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally said during a January visit to the New Delhi auto show that the auto maker is investing about Rs111 billion ($2 billion) in the development of those vehicles.

Of that total, Rs7.9 billion ($142 million) is committed to producing the EcoSport in India, says Michael Boneham, president and managing director-Ford India. He says the CUV, based on the B-segment Fiesta sedan, is part of the auto maker’s strategy to increase annual worldwide sales 50% to 8 million vehicles by 2015.

The EcoSport is produced in India with 80% local content. Less than 157 ins. (400 cm) long, it falls within India’s small-car tax classification. With 7.9 ins. (20 cm) of ground clearance and 21.6 ins. (55 cm) of water-wading capabilities, it is made for both urban and rural traffic and road conditions.

Ford will offer 2-wheel drive at launch but eventually may introduce all-wheel drive, as well as a 1.5L or 1.6L diesel engine.

The base-model EcoSport is expected to cost about Rs800,000 ($14,300) and will compete with Renault’s Duster in a new segment of small, car-like CUVs. Rival auto makers including Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Mahindra & Mahindra plan to enter the segment, in which 15 new-model launches are planned.

“Despite the competition, it is the right pricing and performance that will decide the fate of new models," Boneham says.

The EcoSport’s affordability, coupled with its comfort, roominess, styling and small but efficient engine, will provide a true alternative to a midsize car or even a premium hatchback.

But Ford India is taking a calculated risk with a new product similar to CUVs such as the Chevrolet Forester, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Fortuner, none of which succeeded in India.

And no other auto maker wants to market a vehicle powered by gasoline, which costs 50% more than diesel fuel in India. The EcoSport could well be a test of Ford India’s faith in consumer acceptance of its EcoBoost engine.