Ford’s mid-sized, five-seat SUV.
What is it?
Don’t you love it when car companies fool with names.
Nissan Pulsar is a case in point and Escape is another candidate.
After a brief hiatus as Kuga it’s reverted to the original name, because, well, Ford needed a name starting with E to match its other SUVs and because it believes buyers will relate better to the name – translation: Kuga was a flop.
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 sitting 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.
What’s it cost?
Prices start from $28,490 for the manual, Ambiente two-wheel drive poverty pack, $35,990 for the all-wheel drive, value for money 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.
Seriously? When AEB is standard on the market leading CX-5?
What’s it like to drive?
Depends on what you’ve got under the bonnet.
The lineup is overly complex with a 1.5 litre turbo petrol engine, 178kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol and 132kW 2.0-litre 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 front wheel drive Ambiente with a six-speed manual and the 178kW top of the line all wheel 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.
Some splashes of chrome look plastic on the doors break the monotony, while the bottle holders in the doors are difficult to access.
Hooking up the phone is lightning fast but the computer screen shines brightly like a beacon.
Despite our best efforts we could not find a way to turn it down, becoming really annoying at night.
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.
Moving off the steering feels dull and lifeless and the car itself feels heavy in the front end.
The suspension is tailored towards comfort rather than road holding, but it still handles well enough for an SUV with some bounce on secondary roads.
The 1.5-litre turbo feels more than adequate, pulling strongly all the way to 6500 revs, but you can be caught out with the manual if you let the revs drop below 2000 rpm – off boost it lacks any 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. But the response is peaky, coming on with a rush as the car bounces on and off the throttle.
If we had the money, it’s the one we’d buy.
Rated at 6.3 L/100km we were getting 8.3 from the fronty after 400km and rated at 8.6L/100km, 10.3 from the Titanium after a similar distance. Both take 95 RON and neither figure is terribly convincing.
What we like
- Smooth and quiet
- Good road holding
- Mostly strong performance
- Lots of kit for the price
What we don’t
- Steel wheels
- Dash too elaborate
- Rear legroom squeezy
- Heavy lifeless steering
- Satnav speed limits unreliable
- Difficult to switch between Sync3 and Android Auto interfaces
What are the alternatives?
- Hyundai Tucson, priced from $28,590
Much better looking than previous model and offers a strong value for money proposition, with fixed price servicing and a 5-year warranty. But, sadly, you only get auto emergency braking with the top spec Highlander.
- Mazda CX-5, priced from $28,690
The one to beat. A new model has just been released and it continues to lead the sales race. Safety has been beefed up with auto emergency braking now standard across the range.
- Nissan X-Trail, priced from $27,990
Continues to sell well but auto braking is not available nor does it get CarPlay or Android Auto. With this in mind we’d be asking what sort of deal they can do?
Deal or no deal?
Maybe. 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.