FORD AT­TEMPTS GREAT ES­CAPE

Comment News (Gosnells) - - Driveaway - Chris Ri­ley

DON’T you love it when car com­pa­nies fool with names?

Af­ter a brief hia­tus as Kuga, Ford’s mid­sized, five-seat SUV has re­verted to the orig­i­nal name.

Why? Well, Ford needed a name start­ing with E to match its other SUVs.

De­spite the change, Es­cape is yet to strike a chord with buy­ers, the name res­onat­ing about as vi­brantly as a bro­ken gui­tar string.

This time last year, Kuga was 9th in a field of 16 com­peti­tors, with 1094 sales so far for the year. As we speak, Es­cape is run­ning 10th in a field of 19 with 1054 sales.

Prices start from $28,490 for the man­ual Am­bi­ente two-wheel drive base model, $35,990 for the all-wheel drive value-for­money Trend with an auto, or $44,490 for a top-of-the-whiz Ti­ta­nium with the lot (add $2500 for a diesel).

Stan­dard kit in­cludes cloth trim, two zone cli­mate, a re­verse cam­era, rear park sen­sors, and a fully fea­tured in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with sat­nav, digital ra­dio, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto. But it rides on steel wheels with hub­caps and I’m yet to find a com­pelling rea­son to get ex­cited about An­droid Auto, es­pe­cially in a car that al­ready comes with sat­nav.

In terms of safety, Ford seems to be stuck in the past.

Much of the more ad­vanced safety gear like auto emer­gency brak­ing (AEB) is not avail­able at all with Am­bi­ente or part of a $1300 op­tion pack with other mod­els.

What it’s like to drive de­pends on what you’ve got un­der the bon­net.

The line-up is overly com­plex with a 1.5litre turbo petrol en­gine, 178kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol and 132kW 2.0litre turbo diesel en­gines. But, in an ef­fort to get the price down, the 1.5 comes in two states of tune, fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the de­ci­sion mak­ing process: 110kW and 134kW (al­beit both de­liver the same 240Nm of torque).

We had a crack at the en­try 110kW fron­twheel drive Am­bi­ente with a six-speed man­ual and the 178kW top-of-the-line all­wheel drive Ti­ta­nium with a six-speed auto. Both fea­ture auto en­gine stop-start to save fuel at idle, but as you can imag­ine, there’s quite a bit of dif­fer­ence in the way the two cars per­form.

Get­ting into the car for the first time, the in­te­rior looks a bit grey and drab in typ­i­cal Ford fash­ion, with an overly elab­o­rate dash lay­out.

The cabin is very quiet with com­fort­able front seats, but rear seats that are thin and straight-backed, with legroom that is squeezy. The boot is a good size and hides a space-saver spare.

The sus­pen­sion is tai­lored to­wards com­fort rather than road­hold­ing, but it still han­dles well enough for an SUV with some bounce on sec­ondary roads.

The 1.5-litre turbo feels more than ad­e­quate, but you can be caught out with the man­ual if you let the revs drop be­low 2000 rpm; off boost it lacks get-up-and-go.

The larger 2.0-litre en­gine with 345Nm of torque of­fers very strong, re­spon­sive per­for­mance in com­par­i­son, with pad­dle shifts to change gears man­u­ally. If we had the money, it’s the one we’d buy.

Verdict: The Ti­ta­nium is an eye-catcher with strong per­for­mance from the larger en­gine, but it's a big ask. Ford needs to sharpen its pen­cil on the en­try model and throw in al­loys and auto brak­ing if it hopes to make buy­ers take no­tice.

Ford has Es­caped from Kuga's non-sell­ing name.

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