Finessed for the family AT A GLANCE
A solid contender with a trusted badge takes a fresh tilt at the medium SUV segment
IT looks a lot like the old Ford Kuga. It’s the new Ford Escape and the maker is putting a huge effort into boosting sales of its updated medium SUV.
The badges have been switched, the bodywork finessed — but the Escape is instantly familiar.
Ford Australia changed to the blue oval brand’s global name with the promise of “a fresh face, five-star ANCAP safety rating and improved fuel efficiency, all at a more affordable price” for the Escape at the beginning of the year.
The starting price is now $28,490 for a front-wheel drive with 1.5-litre EcoBoost turbo.
The sweeter deal is essential in the riotously competitive mid-sized SUV battle. The name change will help because Kuga never really fired in Australia.
It’s up against a Mazda CX-5 (all new this week, see cover story), Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4 and all the rest.
A known and trusted name, the Escape has extra standard equipment including an essential reversing camera, infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio — if you have reception — and auto wipers and headlamps.
Ford also touts auto safety braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control but these are in the $1300 Technology Pack option, down from $1600.
ANCAP test scores for the Escape, Ford says, put it ahead of the Sportage, CX-5 and RAV4. The new CX-5 is still to be tested.
So it’s time to drive the refreshed, improved package.
ON THE ROAD
The Escape is better than I remember and, after driving so many mid-sized SUVs in recent months, better than I expect.
It rides and drives like an SUV that’s a cut above the price leaders in construction, which instils a sense of confidence. It feels substantial on the road and it is equipped to work for a family on all fronts.
To be honest, any visual changes are so minor I can’t pick them, badges apart.
The test car arrives in Trend level of trim, its 1.5-litre EcoBoost (134kW/240Nm) and front-wheel drive right in the sweet spot for family motoring. The price is $32,990 and that, again, is on the money.
There are bolder and brassier Escapes, up to the allwheel drive Titanium with turbo diesel — but why would you bother unless you spent a lot of time on gravel roads or needed the range that comes with its 5.5L/100km economy?
On test we sip only 7.2L and still get along surprisingly well. It’s an eager little engine that shows the smartness of smallcapacity turbos, and the sixspeed auto comes with paddleshifters to exploit extra kick for overtaking.
In the cabin, the Escape is not up to the standard of some rivals. I still find Ford uses far too many baby-sized buttons even after cleaning up the controls in the likes of the Focus hatch stablemate. The infotainment display is good and I enjoy the Carplay connection. However, some of the plastics look and feel cheap and it’s a very busy place, with lots of intersecting lines and individual pieces in the cabin.
Front seats are fine, there is good room in the back and the boot is roomy.
The tow rating suits the sort of people who will buy an Escape but there is yet another space- saver spare — and lots of Carsguide readers are emphatically against these.
The Escape rides well over all FORD ESCAPE TREND PRICE $32,990 WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km
CAPPED SERVICING $1155 for 3 years
SERVICE INTERVALS 12 months/15,000km SAFETY 5 stars ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 134kW/240Nm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto; FWD THIRST 7.2L/100km DIMENSIONS 4524mm (L), 1838mm (W), 1749mm (H), 2690mm (WB) WEIGHT 1607kg SPARE Steel space-saver
TOWING 1800kg braked, 750kg unbraked surfaces, noise is reasonably well suppressed but it’s not as quiet as some rivals. The handling is fine and so is the braking.
I’m driving the Escape backto-back with a Honda CR-V and it makes for an interesting contrast.
The Ford feels chunkier and a bit roomier but the CR-V is more refined and the cabin quality is superior. The Honda doesn’t have as much shove but still drives well.
The Escape keeps its position in the middle of the pack but it’s a solid contender for SUV sales.
It will definitely improve on the Kuga but the competition is getting tougher all the time.
It’s a car that I enjoy and is refreshingly good.
It gets The Tick.