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What is it?

The Escape that became a Kuga before becoming an Escape once again is or was Ford’s mid-sized SUV offering.

It’s a little confusing really with the recent arrival of the Endura, a similar sized wagon that Ford describes as a premium offering.

As both SUVs seat five, does that by default make Escape non-premium, in other words the budget offering — for that matter is there room for two of them?

Talk about tunnel vision . . .

If ST-Line model that we tested is any indication, the Escape has plenty to offer — but we’re yet to drive Endura.

It’s a stylish, sophisticated five-seater that competes with the likes of Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander, to name a few — in what is a very busy, very competitive segment of the market.

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What’s it cost?

Escape starts from $28,990 for the 1.5-litre, two-wheel drive Ambiente with a manual change.

Ambiente is followed by the 1.5-litre Trend with an auto at $33,490.

The same car with all-wheel drive is $33,490.

Stepping up to all-wheel drive Trend pushes up the price to $36,490, but also brings with it a more powerful 2.0-litre engine.

Then there’s our 2.0-litre ST-Line for $39,990 and finally top of the line Titanium at $45,840.

If you’d rather a diesel, however, there’s two to choose from: Trend and Titanium for $38,990 and $48,340 respectively — all prices before on-road costs.

The sales strategy seems unnecessarily complicated if you ask me, but what would I know?

Auto emergency braking is now standard across the range, but at the same time works only to 50km/h– faster is optional.

Satellite navigation is also standard, but you get Apple CarPlay/Android Auto too, along with Ford’s own SYNC 3 system with voice activation.

ST-Line also features two-zone climate, smart keyless entry, push button start, auto lights and wipers, auto dimming mirror, electric parking brake, front and rear parking sensors, plus blind spot and rear cross-traffic alerts.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen heads up an audio system with a Sony badge that features a CD player, DAB digital radio and nine speakers.

Enhanced Active Park Assist delivers both automatic parallel and perpendicular parking.

Weirdly, for such a sophisticated vehicle, the daytime running lights are halogen — not LEDs.

Escape is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

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What’s it go like?

ST-Line is designed to deliver sporty dynamics, with chassis enhancements that include 10mm lower suspension, re-tuned steering, and chunkier anti-roll bars — to reduce body roll and provide sharper responses.

It certainly looks the part, with a body kit, twin exhausts and dark 19-inch alloys, shod with expensive 235/45 Continentals.

Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine, that pushes out 178kW of power and 345Nm of torque, and is paired with a 6-speed auto with paddle shifts.

With the assistance of auto engine stop-start, it delivers a claimed 8.6L/100km.

Maximum torque is available in a broad range between 2000 and 4500 revs.

The all-wheel drive system transfers drive to the rear wheels as required, with torque vectoring that draws on the brakes to improve traction in corners.

Most of the time it remains front-wheel drive.

Performance is sharp if a little peaky, with strong, progressive braking.

Put it in D however and the transmission tends to doze off, but engaging sport mode helps bring it back to life and sharpen up the drive experience.

The cabin is remarkably stylish with two deeply recessed analogue dials that flank a centre digital readout.

But like most Euros it is overly dark and could do with some contrasting trim.

A steeply raked windscreen is home to a large sensor cluster that includes the rear vision mirror, and occupies quite a bit of the screen real estate.

The sports seats are an attractive combination of velour and leather with red stitching, but require manual adjustment.

Given its sporty bent, the ride is softer than anticipated and with more body roll too.

None of these points are deal breakers, but fuel consumption is a little on the steep side.

Rated at 8.6L/100m, we were getting 9.8 after 400km but we should add that it was sitting on 10.1 before a final spell on the motorway to return the car.

And, be warned, the 60-litre tank takes premium unleaded.

Front and rear legroom is good, and back seat passengers will be glad to hear they get rear air vents.

Nice touches include a capless fuel filler, auto 000 Emergency Assistance and MyKey that helps lock down things like speed if you give the keys to the kids.

A good sized boot hides a space saver spare and the tow capacity is 1600kg.

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What we like?

  • Stylish
  • Loaded with technology
  • Air vents for rear passengers
  • Impressive brakes
  • Auto up for all four windows

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What we don’t like?

  • Fuel consumption too heavy
  • Could use some contrasting cabin trim
  • Large sensor cluster takes up a lot of windscreen

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The bottom line?

Stylish and sporty, with a steeply raked windscreen and lots of safety features, the Escape has certainly got what it takes to win over customers. But the difficult job will be weaning them away from the CX-5 which is just about owns the segment.

CHECKOUT: Man who save the Ford V8

CHECKOUT: Ford bucks the Trend

Ford Escape 2.0 ST-Line, priced from $39,990
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Safety - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Thirst - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Comfort - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
7.5/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.