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Competitive is the only way to describe the midsize SUV segment. There’s a seemingly endless supply of new models and updates. Competition between manufacturers has delivered some very high-quality cars at impressive prices. There’s some joy here for buyers who know how to shop value, instead of shopping on price.
Despite all the haters, this is an instance where capitalism has done its job, the consumer is king. As a result, this is a category where good doesn’t quite cut it.
As it stands, the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson are mainstays in the top ten selling cars in Australia each month. Getting some traction against this trio is no easy task.
This brings us to Ford, a brand that hasn’t strayed far from controversy in 2017. Dramas surrounding the popular Mustang’s ANCAP safety rating and falling foul of the ACCC in relation to its response to faulty PowerShift gearboxes have given potential buyers more than enough reasons to look elsewhere.
Things aren't all bad though, the Ranger continues to consistently move in big numbers and bring customers to Ford showrooms. The Ranger unfairly carries the weight of Ford’s Australian fortunes. It does get some support at the crease from the Mustang, which remarkably, regardless of the 2-star rating, has remained desirable and the first choice of the gentleman wanting to recapture the joys of his youth or navigate the perils of a midlife crisis.
From the outside looking in, Ford has a strong local portfolio. They have the arsenal to do well but have found it challenging to convert their range into sales success.
One such car is the Escape, the car charged with improving Ford’s performance in the midsize SUV segment. Now is a good time to review the Escape, it’s recently been freshened up and now carries more standard equipment, a greater choice of drivetrain options and sharper pricing.
On test here is a new Escape variant, a front-wheel drive Trend powered by a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. In looking over the updated range, this is the model that presents a strong argument to lure family buyers. It’s well featured and the engine promises to blend performance and economy. In terms of pricing, the 1.5L Trend kicks off at $32,990 plus on-road costs.
Straight off the bat, renaming the car was a very sensible thing to do, Kuga isn’t the best name for anything, let alone a car. The return of the Escape badge to Australia is a start in making the car a more desirable proposition.
Another good move is the styling, for 2017 the Escape comes sporting Ford’s latest corporate wardrobe, in the form of a new grille. The car now has a rugged yet classy appearance that should appeal to those who fancy the look of the Ranger.
It packs in a fair bit of standard equipment, including dual zone climate control with rear vents, push button start, 18-inch alloys, rear view camera, rear parking sensors, automatic rain sensing wipers and automatic headlamps.
There are plenty of comfort and convenience features, however, safety is the primary reason to overlook the base Ambiente trim level and make a beeline for the Trend variants. All Escape models have achieved a 5-star ANCAP rating, however, Ford offers an optional Technology Pack that brings the latest safety equipment to the car.
For some unknown reason, the extra safety kit can’t be optioned on the base trim level. Moving to the Trend and opting for the Technology Pack brings Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Driver Alert, Lane Keeping Assist, Auto High Beam, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise with Forward Alert and Enhanced Collision Mitigation, and Autonomous Emergency Braking that operates at speeds up to 50km/h. This pack wasn’t fitted to our tester, however, at an additional cost of $1300, ticking the box should be a no-brainer.
Getting into the Escape, you’re greeted by a nicely designed cabin that makes use of some great tactile materials. Ford has put some genuine effort into the Escape’s fit and finish. The indicator stalks, for example, have a chunky, reassuring feel to them. In fact, they feel sturdy enough to be used as part of my daughter’s outdoor play set.
All the buttons and switches offer that precise and positive action one would expect in a car from the premium segment.
The Escape provides a very upright seating position. Those sitting up front will feel perched on the ledge of a second story balcony. It is comfortable though, as is the rear. Those in the back will be content with the amount of space available.
Drivers enjoy wonderful outward vision, the dash is very deep which makes the windscreen feel a long way forward. This effectively creates a larger than expected panoramic view of oncoming road conditions.
Another thing drivers will appreciate is the 4.2-inch colour display screen that’s nestled into the instrument cluster. All the important figures can be found here, as can the digital speedometer.
Technophiles will find Sync 3, Ford’s latest infotainment platform to be one of the best in the class. It’s intuitive, well laid out and has plenty of features. The 8.0-inch touchscreen brings an excellent satellite navigation system that will save you some data. There’s also enhanced voice control, Bluetooth, and smartphone mirroring technology Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It takes no time at all to familiarise yourself with the functions of Sync 3, its simplicity is a thing of beauty.
The two USB ports in the front are handy, however in a device driven world, at least one is needed in the rear.
Getting the Escape out on the road, it’s as comfortable as any other midsize SUV. Agility is an area where the Escape differentiates itself from the hordes of similarly sized SUVs. The Escape’s advantage is found in its athleticism. Body control is excellent for this type of car, it doesn’t wallow about.
The Escape offers a sharp handling package that’s responsive and engaging. For drivers wanting to balance a quality drive with a high seating position, the Escape is a very worthwhile proposition. The weight of family practicality need not take away all the fun.
At first, some drivers may find a little too much resistance in the steering calibration. This is only likely to be noticed if the Escape is driven back-to-back with a CX-5.
Ford’s range of EcoBoost engines have a fair bit to do, delivering performance, economy and refinement while keeping the price reasonable is a significant undertaking.
In this case, the1.5L EcoBoost petrol engine is a strong performer in two of those three categories. If we are to take Meat Loaf at his word, that ‘ain't bad.’
Performance and refinement are easily covered. The 134kW moves the car around without any problem. It’s a refined engine, in fact, the Escape is a refined car. Noise, vibration and harshness levels are low.
Economy is where the 1.5L EcoBoost falls short in this application. The official combined fuel consumption figure of 7.2L/100km is impossible to achieve in real world testing. Even with the stop/start fuel saving tech, the closest we were able to get was 9.5L/100km, over two litres more. The Escape loses some ground here, its rivals from Japan offer more respite between refills.
Service intervals are set at a convenient 12 months/15,000km. Ford offers transparency when it comes to service costs. For the Escape on test here, the first three services come in at $325 a visit. As an added bonus, genuine servicing renews roadside assistance for a further year.
When it comes to warranty coverage, Ford covers the Escape with a three year/100,000km package. This is no better than average in the current market, with both Honda and Skoda making the move to five years, three looks too skinny.
Surprising is how I would sum up the week with the Ford Escape Trend. It has plenty to offer those not yet willing to completely abandon a quality drive to appease tall teenagers. The Escape is comfortable, spacious and well featured. It’s somewhat let down by higher than expected fuel consumption and lower than expected warranty coverage. If the Escape is the SUV for you, ignore the base trim level and head for the Trend where the latest safety kit can be optioned. With that box ticked, the value of the 1.5L FWD Trend is significantly improved which goes someway to overcoming its few shortfalls.
2017 Ford Escape Trend 1.5L EcoBoost Specifications
Price from $32,990 plus on-road costs Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost Power 134kW @ 6000rpm Torque 240Nm @ 1600 - 5000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Performance 0 to 100km/h 5.0 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 7.2L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Length 4524mm Width 1838mm Height 1749mm Wheelbase 2690mm Turning Circle 11.18m Kerb Weight 1607kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
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