With less inclusions than its competition, will Ford lure buyers away from the ever popular, and spec’d up Mazda and Toyota equivalents?
Let’s see what Car Sales had to say in their review of the Ford Escape Vignale.
It’s a tough job standing out in the crowded medium SUV segment. A year after its release, let’s see if the Ford Escape has what it takes.
Ford’s stronghold over Aussie buyers’ hearts and wallets is a thing of the past and the heyday if it’s popular Territory, the nation’s only homegrown SUV, was all too brief.
These days a constant onslaught of new and keenly priced and packaged imported SUVs means Ford has to work harder than ever before.
Of course none of Ford’s three SUV offerings come close to the ongoing sales success of the Ford Ranger dual cab ute, which finds almost four customers for every one SUV sold by the blue oval badge today.
The fourth generation Ford Escape is designed to change all that, with a five grade model lineup including three trim levels, front and all-wheel drive options and next year the first plug-in hybrid variant.
On test here is the entry-level front drive Escape, which is priced a few thousand dollars above equivalent versions of popular direct rivals like the Toyota Rav4 and Mazda CX-5.
The latest Escape’s larger footprint forms a modest silhouette with nice proportions despite the mainstream design. Front and rear LEDs, a chrome finished grille, tailgate spoiler, twin exhaust outlets and 18-inch alloys are standard.
Until the long overdue plug-in version arrives all Ford Escapes are paired to a two-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol eco-boost engine, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The entry level escape is two wheel drive only. You’ll have to step up to the ST line or the flagship Vignale for all-wheel drive.
Much like the escape’s exterior the interior is humble mainstream, which feels well behind the competition.
In entry level, guys, there’s a lot of hard plastic surfaces, which tells the story of a robust and practical vehicle above all else. On top of that comfort and ergonomics are great. The manual adjust cloth trim seats are supportive and the fully adjustable steering wheel feels nice in hand. The rotary e-shifter is a modern touch and intuitive, but unlike a traditional gear shifter, it requires looking at to operate.
In-cabin storage is generous and practical in its layout and there are plenty of charging solutions. You’ll find a wireless phone charger plus USB, USB-C and 12 volt power outlets along with two cup holders, a lidded arm rest, small oddment storage and room for drink bottles in the doors.
The Ford Escape may not be as flashy or tech savvy as some of its rivals but it’s got the important bases covered in a simple and intuitive interface. An 8 inch touchscreen is home to satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay Android Auto, digital radio, voice control, traffic updates and the Ford-pass connect embedded modem, with handy Ford-pass app compatibility.
Front and rear sensors and a reversing camera make parking pretty easy. Safety equipment is comprehensive on all Escape models with all key bases covered. Second row leg and head room is really good but with three bums on the seat it’ll be a little bit tight back here.
Two directional air vents, seat back pockets, two USB outlets and two lights are standard. There are also two ISOFIX positions and three top tethered child seat points, but there’s no arm rest or cup holders in the back.
The boot’s a good size but the convenience of a hands-free power tailgate will cost you extra. There’s a light, four anchor points, a bag hook, a 12 volt outlet and you can fold the second row flat with the pull of a lever.
Right, now let’s see how the Ford Escape carries itself on the road.
It’s really easy to get comfy behind the wheel and the Escape has this sense of athleticism that I did not expect, to be honest.
Power from the 2-litre turbo engine is brisk, from standstill, and the body feels both balanced and composed. The Escape’s handling is great, in fact, as is the crisp throttle response and the always-ready auto with really well spaced ratios.
Despite the sporty dynamics, ride comfort is another highlight of the Escape. I ‘d happily settle in for a long road trip behind the wheel.
Outward vision is great and it’s really easy to get a good feel for this car’s place on the road.
Overall refinement falls short of some of its rivals here. The cabin ambiance and sense of occasion is just not there. But it’s fair to say the Ford Escape surprised me with its dynamic prowess. I’d go as far as to say that it’s a fun drive.
Ford’s standard five-year warranty is par for the course these days but there are some after sales ownership perks not offered by others, such as a free loan car while yours is being serviced.
The latest Ford Escape is a good step forward in all areas, making it a very well-rounded contender in Australia’s biggest new vehicle segment.
If you’re in the market for a modern, medium-sized SUV, the Ford Escape is absolutely worthy of your consideration. However, it’s not the cheapest in this class and particularly in entry-level form, will struggle to pry buyers away from Toyota, Mazda and other tech savvy newcomers in this field.
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