Car Reviews

2017 Ford Escape Review – First Drive

Alex Rae’s 2017 Ford Escape review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The Escape achieves Ford’s goal of being a sharper all round proposition but it’s hard to see how it will pip the current top dogs.

2017 Ford Escape

Pricing From $28,490+ORC Warranty three years, 100,000km Safety 5 star ANCAP  Engine 1.5L four-cylinder petrol (two outputs); 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol; 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder diesel Power/Torque 110kW/240Nm; 134kW/240Nm; 178kW/345Nm; and 132kW/400Nm Transmission six-speed manual; six-speed automatic Dimensions 4524mm (L); 1838 mm (W); 1749mm (H) Spare Space saver Fuel Tank 60L Thirst 5.5-8.6L/100km

Editor's Rating

What's it like inside?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
Practical Motoring Says: Improved styling, a choice of good engines and sharper pricing lift the appeal of the Escape over the outgoing Kuga. The interior isn't the update we wanted but it's comfortable and comes with good tech across the range.

IT MAY APPEAR that the Escape is an all new mid-size SUV offering from Ford but in reality it’s last year’s Kuga with a new name and wearing a new suit. Ford’s Ads will also tell you it’s not just another family SUV, but of course, that is just what it wants to be.

The Kuga was unsuccessful for Ford (maybe because of the name?) and the CX-5 outsold it last year five to one. It’s unfortunate for the Kuga because it performed better on the road than it did in showrooms, and left some heads scratched. So Ford has given the new Escape a top-to-bottom refresh, and apparently improved everything from styling to millennial appeal – but it’s a big job to add the ingredients it needs to start pinching sales from the big sellers.

Read our pre-launch drive impression of the Ford Escape.

What is it?

The Escape is a mid-size SUV based on the small car Ford Focus platform and it manages to keep its dimensions – 4524mm long, 1838 wide and 1749mm high – about the same size as its competitors such as the CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4.

The Escape name replaces Kuga, and it brings the Australian SUV in-line with Ford’s global platform nomenclature (except for Europe, who will keep its number one selling mid-size SUV’s name). The Escape carries over the Kuga’s three model line-up of base Ambiente, mid-range Trend and top of the line Titanium.

Ford elected not to bring in the US market 2.5-litre V6 and instead we get a 1.5-litre and two 2.0-litre engines. The 1.5-litre is available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive while the 2.0-litre engine is exclusively all-wheel drive.

Ambiente only gets a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, which produces 110kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1600-5000rpm behind a six-speed manual (only available in Ambiente FWD) or 134kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1600-5000rpm with six-speed automatic (FWD and AWD).

Bare bones Ambiente starts at $28,490 (+ORCs). Add $1500 for an automatic or $4500 for auto with AWD.

Trend can be fitted with the automatic version of the 1.5-litre engine, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol producing 178kW at 5500rpm and 345Nm at 2000-4500rpm (fuel consumption is 8.6L/100km) or a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel producing 132kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm at 2000-2500rpm (fuel consumption is 5.5L/100km). Titanium gets only the 2.0-litre petrol or diesel.

Ford has also introduced a front-wheel drive 1.5-litre model Trend that will apparently open the door to more sales. It claims this mid-size SUV model derivative accounts for the highest amount (28 per cent) of all sales in the segment.

Indeed it drops the entry price of the previously all-wheel drive only Trend by $3900 to $32,990 (+ORCs). The 2.0-litre petrol auto AWD adds $3000 while the 2.0-litre diesel auto AWD tops the Trend line at $38,490.

The Titanium model with 2.0-litre petrol hikes the price up to $44,990 and the 2.0-litre diesel is the most expensive model for the money at $47,490, and both models are loaded with standard features, except for the tech pack.

The standout features (full run-down at end) standard in all Escape models are an 8-inch ‘SYNC3’ infotainment system with SatNav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB, a reversing camera and dual-zone climate control.

The main additions to the Trend are alloys wheels and automatic wipers and headlights.

The Titanium gets extras such as bigger alloys, leather electric seats, parking sensors and assists, hands free electric opening tailgate and a sunroof.

As far as options, the most important is the tech (safety) pack which includes lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking. The pack is only available on the Trend and Titanium. Yes, it’s not standard on the the top spec Titanium model and Ambiente owner’s miss out completely on getting AEB.

What’s it like inside?

The Escape has a better interior than the previous model Kuga but not by much, with a fair bit of the design still prevalent. The most notable change is the removal of the mechanical handbrake for an electronic unit, so the centre console is less cluttered and there’s more storage options (and two USB ports for charging and connectivity). The centrally mounted infotainment area is cleaner too and there’s not an array of clunky buttons anymore. However the screen still sits recessed and it makes touching the home button for Apple CarPlay an annoyance, as well as cutting off some screen space depending on the seating position.

The new vs the old

There’s also a large plastic mound on top of the centre stack for a CD player slot… completely at odds with contemporary infotainment styling. The good news is that the 8-inch infotainment is standard on all models and it works well as a standalone navigation unit or with Apple CarPlay connected. The bulky air vent design and air vent scroll wheel from the Kuga remains, and in combination with the mid-line plastics it all feels a little clunky.

The driver’s seat is comfortable in all models and the Titanium gets electric adjustment. The seating position in the Escape feels quite high but all models have good seat adjustment and the steering wheel is tilt and reach adjustable. All windows are automatic up-and-down and the doors are automatic locking with manual door locking controlled by a button next to the driver’s handle.

Moving into the rear, the seats are again comfortable and there’s good space for an adult or two but the Escape does feel a bit narrow in the rear row with more than one adult around. The seats feature a lever to adjust the seat’s back position and this helps free up some room for those handy food trays. The roof line is good throughout the cabin and didn’t pose an issue for my six foot frame.

Both outer seats have ISOfix for car seats, with anchor straps located near the bottom behind each seat and hidden behind a flap which requires moving the seat forward to access. In practice a rear-facing baby capsule fits in the rear but requires the passenger seat to be moved reasonably far forward, but the capsule can fit into the centre seat using the standard (non-ISOfix) seat belt method and it’s only applicable to newborn babies.

The boot isn’t very large, measuring 830mm from the back of the rear seats to the inside of the tailgate and 130mm from side to side, and we couldn’t quite wrangle a large bassinet style baby pram into it, resorting to folding down one half of the 60:40 split-fold seat. Not ideal but it is a large pram. The Escape’s boot capacity of 406 litres is however 3 litres more than the current CX-5 (also a tight area), and split-fold seats extends it to 1603 litres.

What’s it like on the road?

The Escape drives much like the previous generation Kuga which is not surprising given its underpinnings are very similar. And it’s not a bad thing either, as it’s dynamically as sharp as you’d need in an SUV like this, but that sharpness does compromise some on road comfort. It doesn’t feels perturbed from the average mid-corner bump though and the all-wheel drive system worked well on both tarmac and gravel surfaces.

A highlight when driving is the noise insulation package fitted to Trend and Titanium models which works well. The two models receive double laminated front windows and extra padding in the B and C pillars and around the inside of the rear wheel arch. It achieves a quieter ride and is noticeable, even with low profile tyres fitted to the alloy wheels.

The 2.0-litre petrol is the best of the three engines by a fair shot and it has a good amount of power available early on to get the Escape moving along rather well. In fact it’s one of the better engines available in its segment.

The diesel was also reasonably lively but it wasn’t as enjoyable and smooth to drive as the 2.0-litre petrol, and the 1.5-litre petrol was the least energetic, although it will do its job well as the affordable entry level donk. For our pick we’d certainly have the 2.0-litre petrol over the diesel unless it was needed while the 1.5-litre is a good leg into the Trend’s door.

We were only able to drive the six-speed automatic which comes standard with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and it performed well. The paddles are plastic items, not particularly inspiring, but it is another bit of kit that comes on all models. The automatic isn’t quick to shift gears but it kept up behind the more powerful 2.0-litre petrol model and never felt like it was lagging. There’s a sport mode (which is easily selected without noticing) one click down from drive, and it worked as needed while ascending and descending a steep section of gravel, but it was too eager to drop and hold lower gears on flat roads. If you want to manually shift gears it can only be done via the paddle shifters.

We only had the chance to drive the 2.0-litre petrol all-wheel drive model on a gravel surface and it proved a good driveline, using torque vectoring intelligently to control slip. The all-wheel drive kept the car steady and sure footed and helped prevent understeer – but it will still come if you’re not diligent.

What about safety features?

The 2017 Ford Escape has a 5 star ANCAP rating. ANCAP claim the rating as ‘tested 2017’ but when you look into the detail of the test, the ‘new rating’ is derived from the 2012 Kuga EuroNCAP test result (ANCAP will adhere to Euro NCAP testing methodology from 2018).

The Escape is available with some great safety features, but these are only available in the $1300 optional tech pack* on Trend and Titanium models. It brings:

  • Lane departure Warning (LDW) with Driver Alert
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Auto High Beam
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking up to 50km/h (previously up to 30km/h)
  • Adaptive Cruise with Forward Alert and Enhanced Collision Mitigation
  • Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Rear Cross
  • Traffic Alert
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

*It is not available on the Ambiente model.

Why would you buy one?

The Ford Escape handles well and is sure footed for an SUV, but it does lack the refinement found in rivals such as the CX-5 and locally tuned Tucson.

The improved styling on the previous model appeals more but the interior could have received some better attention. The interior tech is good, and the 8-inch infotainment with SatNav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto across the range is a boon to entry level buyers, but it’s probably the Trend which should be looked at.

The Trend comes with a range of engines, good road insulation and has the tech pack available for those who value safety. It’s also available at a more affordable price, but you’ll have to take the 1.5-litre if you want to scrap in.

Ford Escape Ambiente

  • 1.5L EcoBoost FWD 6-speed manual $28,490+ORC
  • 1.5L EcoBoost FWD 6-speed automatic $29,990+ORC
  • 1.5L EcoBoost AWD 6-speed automatic $32,990+ORC

Standard features

  • 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB.
  • Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents
  • Reverse Camera and rear parking sensors 
  • Cruise Control with speed limiter
  • Daytime running-lights
  • Push-button start
  • Front and rear fog-lamps

Ford Escape Trend

  • 1.5L EcoBoost FWD 6-speed automatic $32,990+ORC
  • 2.0L EcoBoost AWD 6-speed automatic $35,990+ORC
  • 2.0L TDCi AWD 6-speed automatic $38,490+ORC

Standard features (in addition to Ambiente)

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Roof-rails in silver finish
  • Privacy Glass
  • Laminated front side windows
  • Automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers
  • Automatic-dimming rear-vision mirror
  • Automatic on/off headlights

Ford Escape Titanium

  • 2.0L EcoBoost AWD 6-speed automatic $44,990+ORC
  • 2.0L TDCi AWD 6-speed automatic $47,490+ORC

Standard features (in addition to Trend)

  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • Keyless Entry
  • Power folding mirrors
  • LED DRLs
  • Heated front-seating
  • 10-way power-adjustable Driver’s seat
  • Front parking sensors
  • Active Park Assist
  • Panoramic glass roof
  • Hands-free power tailgate
  • Premium Sony nine-speaker audio system

Engine specifications and towing capacities

1.5L EcoBoost (six-speed manual)

  • Power: 110kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1600-5000rpm
  • Fuel consumption: 6.3L/100km (FWD) Towing capacity: 1500 (FWD); 1600kg (AWD)

1.5L EcoBoost (six-speed automatic)

  • Power: 134kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1600-5000rpm
  • Fuel consumption:  7.2L/100km (FWD)
  • Fuel consumption:  7.5L/100km (AWD)
  • Towing capacity: 1500 (FWD); 1600kg (AWD)

2.0L (six-speed automatic)

  • Power: 178kW at 5500rpm and 345Nm at 2000-4500rpm
  • Fuel consumption: 8.6L/100km
  • Towing capacity: 1600kg

2.0L Diesel (six-speed automatic)

  • Power: 132kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm at 2000-2500rpm
  • Fuel consumption: 5.5L/100km
  • Towing capacity: 1800kg

Alex Rae

Alex Rae