Could Ford be planning a mini SUV for the United States?

A fresh round of spy shots taken in Dearborn indicate that Ford could be getting serious about plans to sell its pint-sized EcoSport SUV in the United States.

The sub-compact utility vehicle market is booming right now, with vehicles like the Kia Soul, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Nissan CX-3 seeing strong consumer demand. However, Ford is missing out on the action because it doesn't currently have a utility offering smaller than the Escape.

But that could soon change thanks to the EcoSport. On sale in other global markets for the last few years, Ford engineers were spotted testing an updated version of the SUV in Ford's own backyard.

The prototype seen here is an updated version of the EcoSport currently sold in other parts of the world. Although still covered in some camo, it looks as though the new EcoSport will adopt some of the styling cues laid out by the larger Escape and Edge. In a nod to its rugged nature, the updated EcoSport retains its exterior-mounted spare tire.

Although it's possible that we could eventually see this EcoSport on our shores, it's more likely that Ford will hold off on U.S. sales until an all-new version of the SUV lands in 2018 or 2019. Like the current model, Ford's all-new EcoSport will share its underpinnings with the sub-compact Fiesta.

It's unlikely that the EcoSport name will carryover to the U.S. market given Ford's EcoBoost branding strategy for its turbocharged engines. What Ford might call the EcoSport, however, remains a mystery.

It's also unclear where the U.S.-spec EcoSport will be built. Asia is currently the main production hub for the EcoSport, but it's possible U.S. vehicles could come from a North American production facility.