FORD is having a second crack at the small SUV segment with the Escape. While the name is new, the car that wears it is somewhat familiar, as it is based on the Ford Kuga launched here in 2012. The change of name brings with it a new exterior look, improvements to the dash, a more hushed cabin, and a new variant – a $32,990 Trend automatic – that was a new car buyer’s black hole in the former Kuga line-up.
- An electric park brake that replaces the old manual one used in the Ford Kuga cause no end of trouble for Ford’s engineering team, trying to find the balance between space for storage and packaging. That area of the centre console that’s in between the front seats is known in the engineering team as “Manhattan” after the district in New York City, a veiled reference to how crowded in-car real estate has become.
- Escape is Ford’s “global” name for its mid-size SUV, and Australia was one of the last markets to drop the Kuga name. But “global” doesn’t mean worldwide: The Kuga is a bestseller in its segment in Europe, so the name will live on there for some time yet.
- Ford’s SUV family is now much easier to remember, because every member starts with the letter “E”. It starts with the Ecosport small SUV, Escape mid-sizer, and the Everest large off-roader. In 2018, we add the Edge large SUV as a Ford Territory replacement.
- Ford’s engineers like the Escape’s Kinetic Design-derived front end over that of the Kuga for one big reason: it allows them to better package the radar system used for active cruise control and automatic city braking systems. It’s also a little more slippery through the air than the Kuga’s snout.
- The Ford Escape has a small lip just inside the bootlid known as the “topple catcher”. Its purpose is to stop things falling out of the boot if the weekly load of shopping has moved around before you open the boot.
- One of the big criticisms with the Kuga was a gear selector fitted as a toggle switch to the side of the gear lever on automatic models. The Escape has dumped it for more user-friendly paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
- The Escape uses Ford’s capless fuel tank lid. Flip open the fuel filler lid, and there’s no need to unscrew a separate cap that keeps fuel from sloshing out of the tank around corners.
- The Escape’s rear doors open to almost a right angle to the body, making the rear seats very easy to get in and out of. The Honda CR-V has a similar wide-opening aperture.
- Ford will review the packaging and pricing of its Escape range twice a year to keep it fresh in the face of rivals. The most important is the all-new Mazda CX-5 that arrives in Australia in about April.