MAZDA CX-5 MAXX $33,690 Just updated with best-in-class standard safety tech. Made in Japan quality. 138kW 2.5-litre runs on regular petrol. All-wheel drivetrain. SUBARU FORESTER 2.5I-L $33,240 EyeSight safety tech isn’t available on this variant, which is a shame. Drivetrain is 126kW 2.5-litre/CVT/AWD. A bit thirsty. VW TIGUAN 110 TSI TRENDLINE $33,490 The brand seems to be doing its best to alienate customers but Tiguan should be on your test drive shortlist. Runs a 110kW 1.4-litre turbo/six-speed dual-clutch auto. kickdown. It’s not an issue in Sport mode, and paddle-shifters are also provided.
The Trend used 10-12L/ 100km in town, assisted by unobtrusive stop-start. Premium is recommended.
Electric power steering is a touch heavy at parking speeds and the brake pedal is high. Ride comfort is excellent. Though firm, the suspension delivers outstanding compliance and control, as is usually the case in vehicles engineered by Ford of Europe.
ON THE ROAD
The 1.5 doesn’t quite feel like 134kW worth of power at the top end but with a solid 240Nm available from 1600rpm5000rpm, it’s rarely necessary to go there. It’s a silent highway cruiser, returning 7-8L/100km.
As in town, the ride is absorbent and the suspension exercises disciplined control over body movement. That said, the Escape can feel disconcertingly top heavy, like most rivals, in a tight corner, a characteristic exacerbated by pretty sharp steering. It pushes the front tyres hard but they’re wide (235/50-18), good quality Continentals, so they hang on well, especially in the wet.
Torque steer, that tugging sensation at the wheel under acceleration you get in some front-drivers, is present at times, though it’s not a problem.
If you add the $1300 safety option, the Escape Trend is one of the best value buys in this ultra-competitive class and an A-grade kid carrier. Its 1.5-litre turbo is also a stronger, more flexible engine in daily driving than the naturally aspirated fours in most rivals.
And you don’t have to tell anybody you drive a Kuga.