Ford's new compact SUV is based on the platform of the Focus small car and will replace the ageing Escape in both Australia and the US, as well as the more current Kuga in Europe.
The Escape was previewed by the Vertrek concept at the 2011 Detroit motor show last January, with the production version carrying over obvious visual links but inevitably toned down for the showroom.
The characteristic sharp lines of Ford’s ‘kinetic’ design language clearly relate the new Escape to the Focus, while the overall shape is an evolution of the outgoing Kuga's silhouette.
Ford says the new Escape will offer more boot space and larger overall cargo space than its predecessor. The Escape will also borrow technology already seen in the new Focus, such as parallel parking assist and blind spot warning system.
The 2013 Ford Escape is also said to offer 11 "convenience" items not offered by any rival vehicle, the most notable of which is a hands-free tailgate that will open automatically if you trigger sensors by aiming a kick under the rear bumper.
Fuel efficiency will also be improved over existing engines, the car maker says.
Engines confirmed initially include two of the company's self-titled 'Ecoboost' four-cylinder engines - in 2.0-litre and 1.6-litre forms - that feature both direct fuel injection and turbocharged four-cylinder and are used elsewhere in the Focus range. The standard engine for the US market Escape will be a normally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder.
Ford Australia says it's too early to determine which engines it will select for the local Escape, which CarAdvice believes will go on sale here in early 2013 while the bigger markets of US and Europe see it in 2012.
At least one of the EcoBoost petrol engines is likely to be chosen, while a 2.0-litre 'TDCi' four-cylinder turbo diesel also seen in the Focus, and Mondeo medium car, is guaranteed to be part of the mix for Europe and a virtual certainty for Australia.
A new four-wheel-drive system is faster-reacting than before, says Ford.
Ford Australia has struggled in the hugely popular compact-SUV category and surprisingly decided against importing the European Kuga despite slow sales of the current, US-centric Escape. The local car maker is confident, however, the new Escape will give it a stronger competitor for rivals such as the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-7.
“That compact SUV segment is huge here [in Australia] – customers are going to that category in droves,” says Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead Phipps. “It’s a segment in which we need to have a vital player in ... and we think this will do a better job for us.”
The Escape is expected to be imported to Australia from a new Thailand plant that will also be a future production source for the Focus, which is currently shipped from Europe.
The model will make its European debut as the Ford Kuga at the Geneva motor show in March 2012. The SUV will also adopt the Kuga name for the Chinese market.