What stands out?
The Ford Escape gives you a choice from three excellent turbocharged engines, among them a diesel that is both powerful and frugal. It is good to steer, with polished cornering manners for a mid-sized SUV. There are front-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, and auto-braking is available. The Ford Kuga was renamed the Escape when it received a facelift in February 2017.
What might bug me?
Paying more for your petrol: Escapes can run on regular unleaded but it is recommended they run on premium.
Driving on the space-saver spare tyre until you can fix your full-sized flat. Every Escape has only a skinny, space-saver spare. It has less grip than the regular tyres, and it limits the recommended top speed to 80km/h.
In a diesel Escape, getting used to the dual-clutch auto transmission. A dual-clutch auto works much like a manual gearbox with robotic control, and can’t match the fluid, elastic take-up from rest that you get from the conventional auto used by petrol Escapes.
What body styles are there?
Five-door wagon only.
Some Escapes drive their front wheels only, but most drive all four wheels.
The Escape is classed as a mid-sized SUV, lower priced.
What features do all Ford Escapes have?
Autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, a reversing camera, and rear parking sensors
A sound system with a CD player, AM/FM and digital radio, USB input, and at least six speakers. Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to wirelessly connect a phone and play music from it.
Satellite navigation, displayed on an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Ford’s excellent SYNC3 connectivity. SYNC3 allows voice control of the sat-nav, the digital radio, and other audio and phone functions.
Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which lets you display apps from compatible smartphones on the touchscreen and control them from there.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel, with buttons for operating cruise, the sound system and your phone.
Dual-zone air-conditioning (which allows different temperatures on either side of the cabin). This too can be controlled by voice. Air-conditioning vents dedicated to rear-seat passengers.
Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid. All new cars must have this feature.
Seven airbags. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Escape safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)
The Escape is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel is the most fuel-efficient of three engines available in an Escape, using as little as 5.5 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).
One reason you might not choose it is that you want to pay less for an Escape. Diesel Escapes cost more than similar petrol Escapes, come only with all-wheel drive and auto transmission, and are available only in the more expensive Trend and Titanium versions.
Another reason might be that you want to use your Escape largely for short trips around town. The diesel’s dual-clutch auto gearbox feels smooth on the highway and saves fuel, but it is less helpful in stop-start traffic than the conventional auto in petrol Escapes. You also need to drive the diesel near highway speeds for a 30-minute stretch every couple of weeks, so that its soot-trapping particulates filter can self-clean.
Of the petrol engines, the turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder that powers Escape Ambientes and the front-wheel drive Trend uses least fuel, consuming 7.2 litres/100km on the test in auto form – about 30 per cent more than the diesel.
An Escape Trend with this engine averaged 10.5 litres/100km in a real-world comparison for the June 2017 issue of Wheels magazine, about the same as an accompanying Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson Active X and Mazda CX-5.
The other petrol engine, available in all-wheel drive Trends and the Titanium, is a turbocharged 2.0-litre that is very responsive and powerful. It provides about as much thrust as the diesel when you first press the accelerator, and generates about 30 per cent more urge than either alternative if you hold your foot down. It consumes 8.6 litres/100km on the official test.
Ford recommends that both petrol engines run on premium unleaded fuel.
Front-wheel drive Escape Ambientes are available with a six-speed manual or six-speed conventional auto gearbox. All other petrol-engined Escapes are available only with the six-speed conventional auto. Diesel escapes come only with a six-speed dual-clutch auto.
(Power outputs and all other Ford Escape specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)
What key features do I get if I spend more?
The least costly Escape, the Ambiente FWD, has the 1.5-litre petrol engine, rolls on 17-inch steel wheels, drives only the wheels at the front, and has cloth seat trim and the equipment in all Escapes. Spend more for an Ambiente AWD and you get drive to all four wheels, which brings you more security on slippery surfaces.
For about what you would pay for an Ambiente AWD you could have instead an Escape Trend FWD. It uses the same engine as the Ambiente and drives only the front wheels, but has more equipment.
The Trend has 18-inch wheels made from aluminium alloy, which look nicer than the steel wheels and don’t need plastic trim. Windows are tinted to reduce sun penetration, and laminated side-windows block out more noise. Wipers operate automatically when it rains, and headlamps switch on automatically in low light.
An AWD version of the Escape Trend uses the more powerful of the petrol engines or the turbocharged diesel.
Spending more on the Escape ST-Line brings sporty exterior and interior styling including unique black 18-inch alloy wheels and leather combination trim sports seats with red stitching. Driver assist features include smart keyless entry, blind spot Information System and rear cross-traffic alert.
The ST-Line also comes with the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and AWD as standard, and receives chassis enhancements including optimised suspension that lowers ride-height by 10mm, re-tuned steering, and thicker anti-roll bars for reduced body roll.
The most expensive Escape, the Titanium, is also available in AWD only. It adds leather trim on all seats, heating for the front seats, and power adjustment for the driver’s seat. There is a power-opened sunroof, which you can operate from outside the car (to release heat before entering). A partial self-parking system automatically steers you into a space. Extremely bright bi-xenon headlights adapt their beam shapes for the driving conditions, shining into corners and dipping only part of high-beam for oncoming drivers. Wheels on the Titanium are bigger again at 19 inches, fitted with tyres of a significantly lower profile than those on the Ambiente – which quicken steering response slightly.
The Titanium also brings you as standard the features of the Hands-Free Pack with smart-key entry and a hands-free tailgate that's an extra cost option in the Trend and ST-Line.
Choosing any Escape Trend, ST-Line or Titanium also brings you the option of spending about $800 more to add a Technology Pack, which brings driver-assistance and crash-avoidance features on top of the standard autonomous emergency braking. They comprise active cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-dipping headlights and a tyre pressure monitor. (For more on Escape safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)
Does any upgrade have a down side?
If you choose a petrol-powered Escape Titanium it will have the more powerful 2.0-litre engine, which uses more fuel than the 1.5 petrol in Ambiente and Trend models.
Headroom in the Titanium is reduced by 40mm because of the sunroof.
All-wheel drive Escapes cost more to service, and diesels cost more again.
The larger, lower profile tyres on the Titanium could cost more to replace and reduce ride comfort slightly (because there is less cushioning air between the wheel and the road).
White and red are the only standard colours, with the other seven costing extra.
How comfortable is the Escape?
It is easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat of an Escape, thanks to good adjustability of the seats and both height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel. Vision is also good.
The front seats are quite supportive around the middle torso, which helps when driving through bends. And there’s enough padding and support for long trips.
Ford has worked hard to reduce the number of buttons and switches on the dash and console. The downside is that most adjustments are now done via the touchscreen, which is difficult to use while driving.
The Escape is quiet at freeway speeds and has well weighted steering. Its suspension does a good job, with enough compliance to ensure good occupant comfort but settling the car quickly after bumps.
The 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the Ambientes and Trend FWD feels punchy around town and is quick to respond to driver inputs. The six-speed auto helps make the most of it, with a good spread of gear ratios. Overtaking feels effortless.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is even more convincing. You might even feel that it has more response than you need.
The diesel is noticeably noisier than either petrol engine, but it is easy to drive around town and maintains speed nicely in the country.
What about safety in a Ford Escape?
The Escape has anti-lock brakes, stability control, and seven airbags. There is a seatbelt warning system for all five passengers, which is reassuring for parents. A reversing camera and rear parking sensors are standard (these were introduced on the Kuga in December 2015).
The Escape also has an Emergency Assist feature, which can automatically call emergency services after a crash, using a paired mobile phone. And every Escape gives you Ford’s My Key feature, which lets you set limits on the top speed and sound volume for someone you might lend the car to (a teenage son or daughter, for example).
The seven airbags are in the usual places: one in front of each front seat occupant; one to protect the driver’s knees; side airbags outside each front seat to protect at chest level from side impacts; and curtain airbags that protect the heads of front and rear occupants from side impacts.
Trend and Titanium versions get auto headlights and wipers, which react quicker than the driver might.
Safety in an Escape Trend or Titanium can be enhanced at extra cost with the Technology Pack.
This option brings adaptive cruise control, which can match your speed to that of a slower car ahead on the highway until you are free to overtake. Paired with this is a highway speed forward collision warning.
A second highway-speed component is lane-drift alert and lane-keeping assistance. The idea is to prevent your drifting dangerously into an adjacent lane, through distraction or fatigue. Should you begin to do so, you get a warning and a tug on the steering wheel.
A third component keeps watch behind you, telling you when another car is out of view near a rear corner. And when you are reversing (say, from a driveway or parking space), it alerts you to vehicles crossing behind.
A fourth component, Enhanced Active City Stop, operates at speeds under 50km/h to diminish the chance of your rear-ending a car ahead. It warns of an impending collision, and initiates an emergency stop automatically if you do not react - from September 2018, Enhanced Active City Stop will become standard equipment across the Escape range, including the Ambiente, rather than as part of the optional Technology Pack.
In addition, your headlamps switch to low beam automatically for oncoming drivers, and a pressure monitor warns you if a tyre is going flat (perhaps giving you more time to get a slow puncture seen to).
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Escape five stars for safety in January 2017. The Escape was scored at 36.3 points from a possible 37.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?
Yes. The Escape is one of the better mid-size SUVs to drive – indeed, arguably it’s the best. It steers fluidly, and feels poised and gloriously precise in bends. That builds confidence.
The ST-Line takes that drive-ability a step further with the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and AWD as standard, and chassis and suspension enhancements including a 10mm lower ride height that give it more car-like handling. The steering also firmer but more responsive and Ford's engineers have added thicker anti-roll bars for reduced body roll. It's an excellent package that helps bust the myth that SUVs can't be fun to drive.
The 1.5-litre petrol engine has plenty of grunt for suburban driving – indeed, if you accelerate hard from low speeds you may feel the steering wheel wriggle slightly in your hands as the front tyres struggle to get power to the road. It feels less perky when you ramp up the pace but at highway speeds a steady stream of oomph remains.
Even the least costly Escape, the Ambiente manual, is a great drive, with that revvy 1.5 engine and a superb, slick shift action. It feels like you’re punting a half-hot hatch.
The 2.0-litre petrol is a ripper too, for those who value performance. It’s great for overtaking, and accelerates very briskly from a standstill. With this engine, it is easy to trigger the Escape’s electronic traction control, particularly when cornering.
The diesel engine has loads of grunt, even if it does not match the 2.0 petrol for outright performance.
All-wheel drive versions of the Escape are designed for only light-duty off-road work, such as dirt tracks and snow-covered roads. If you hole a tyre in rough going, you’ll have only the space-saver spare to fall back on.
How is life in the rear seats?
A central armrest (with two cupholders) makes life more comfortable when there are just two rear passengers, and all Escapes have rear air-conditioning vents (introduced on the Kuga in May 2016). The Titanium also has trays that fold out from the seatbacks in front, much like those on a plane.
With the armrest folded, a central rear passenger sits higher than the outer two. Compensating partly for that is the near-flat shape of the rear floor.
Leg room is generous, and overall the rear compartment feels invitingly airy. Headroom is respectable in all but the Escape Titanium, in which tall people may touch the sunroof.
How is it for carrying stuff?
The boot has a long, wide compartment and a flat floor that’s good for carrying prams and other family gear. There’s even a small compartment in the back right corner for small items.
The retractable luggage blind is a handy addition.
The rear seats fold 60-40. However with both folded there is a big step up at that point from the boot floor.
The Escape offers front-seat passengers more storage options than its predecessor the Kuga. The substitution of an electric parking brake has freed up space, with a pair of cupholders and a covered centre binnacle available for odds and ends.
The waved-foot triggered tailgate of Titanium models – and an extra-cost option on Trends – is great for anybody carrying bulky items back to the car.
The Escape is rated to tow between 1.5 and 1.8 tonnes, which is good for a vehicle of this sort.
Where does Ford make the Escape?
All Escapes are made in Spain.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
Are there plans to update the Escape soon?
The current Escape went on sale in Australia in 2013 as the Ford Kuga, which received an update early in 2015. A light upgrade in January 2016 brought a reversing camera to Ambiente and Trend models, and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with SYNC2 connectivity to Trend and Titanium. The 8.0-inch touchscreen and SYNC2 were extended to the Ambiente in May 2016, along with dual-zone air-conditioning.
About February 2017, Ford facelifted the Kuga and renamed it the Escape (a name it had used previously for its mid-size SUV). As well as a freshened exterior look and mildly revised interior trim, changes included better device connectivity from Ford’s SYNC3 suite, enhanced driver aids, the addition of a two-wheel drive version at the Trend equipment level, and revisions for the 2.0-litre petrol engine (among them a twin-scroll turbocharger) aimed at reducing fuel use.
The Escape received another update in September 2018, which added autonomous emergency braking as standard equipment across the range. Ford also introduced the sporty Escape ST-Line.
Ford extended it's three year/100,000km warranty to five years with unlimited kilometres in May 2018.
A sleeker, new-generation Escape
is set to arrive 2020 with a plug-in hybrid version, and state-of-the-art options including digital dashboards, wifi hotspots and an electronic key operated from your smartphone.
I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?
Our reviewers see value in the front-wheel-drive Escape Trend. It brings alloy wheels and auto headlamps and wipers, is quieter to ride in, and allows you to add auto braking and other very helpful driver aids at reasonable cost. Depending on how and where you want to drive it, you can pay less for a the 1.5-litre version or spend some more for all-wheel drive and the punchy 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol or diesel.
That said if you're going to spend extra on AWD and the 2.0-litre petrol than we recommend the ST-Line, which is a lot more fun to drive without losing any practicality.