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If you have a growing family and you’re looking for an SUV that will suit your needs, the number of options can be baffling, but, perhaps the 2017 Ford Escape Trend diesel AWD could be for you.
The Ford Escape (nee Kuga, you know that story right?) seems to go a bit unnoticed in the busy medium SUV segment. The re-entry of the more adventurous moniker should certainly help boost sales over the meagre tallies the Kuga managed.
It’s easy to see why it’s hard to stand out in the mid-sized SUV segment, with nearly 20 different models on the market. The Escape, along with a handful of other good SUVs, has its work cut out for it to stand out from the pack.
This review will aim to tell you why the Escape could be the right family SUV for you, because there are elements to this car that give it some real appeal against its rivals.
Consider this: the Escape Trend diesel we have here is one of the most affordable all-wheel drive models on the market in this space.
Pricing starts at $38,490 plus on-road costs – yep, below forty grand for a diesel, auto, all-wheel drive SUV. That’s one of its biggest selling points.
The diesel auto AWD competitive set includes the Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport (from $40,390), Mitsubishi Outlander LS (from $39,500), Holden Captiva LT (from $38,490), Subaru Forester 2.0D-L (from $35,740), Hyundai Tucson Active (from $35,090) and Kia Sportage Si (from $33,990).
There’s a fair bit of competition in the sub-$40K bracket, but none of those rivals can be had with the same levels of safety that the Escape can.
The optional Technology Pack includes an autonomous emergency braking system that works up to 50km/h, adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning and auto high-beam lights. You also get rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.
All that kit comes for $1300. So, you could spend $50 a week on a take-away dinner for half a year, or you could add some technology that may potentially save lives. Easy call, really. But the kids will undoubtedly complain about missing out on their Friday night KFC.
There are other vehicles in the segment with similar tech, though none can have all of that stuff at this price level in the model range. Usually, you have to get into a flagship model to get the full safety suite, pushing the price towards fifty grand in most cases.
Standard safety equipment for the Escape Trend includes a rear-view camera with parking guidelines, rear parking sensors and seven airbags, including a driver’s knee ’bag.
It comes packed with equipment, too.
There’s dual-zone climate control, push-button start, auto lights and wipers, silver roof rails, 18-inch alloy wheels and tinted rear glass.
Controlling the infotainment is the company’s Sync 3 media screen with in-built satellite navigation with live traffic updates, digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming with voice control, and the latest smartphone connectivity – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It is, all told, well kitted for the cash. And on the topic of value, Ford has a servicing program that’s better than many of its mainstream competitors, with capped-price maintenance for the life of the car. So, theoretically, you can budget your visits every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres. The average cost over five years/75,000km is $496 per annum.
We all know how important it can be to budget for those types of costs, particularly if you have kids: school fees, rates, electricity – anything that can add some peace of mind is a benefit.
Just like the Kuga that came before it, the Escape is a good thing to drive – but that’s what we’ve come to expect from Ford.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 132kW of power at 3500rpm and a beefy 400Nm of torque from 2000-2500rpm.
Because of where the engine hits peak torque there can be a bit of low-speed lag from a standstill, and we noted that it could chug quite dramatically when you first start the car up on a cold day.
When you reach that 2000rpm zone, there is a wealth of torque to use if you need to, and its acceleration is strong if you’re applying mid-strength throttle. If you push the throttle too hard it will rev out and feel a bit asthmatic, whereas if you’re too light on the throttle the gearbox will default to the highest gear possible, to keep the revs as low as possible – and all in the name of fuel conservation.
On that topic, it isn’t the most frugal thing: the claim is 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres, but over a few hundred kilometres of highway, urban and country driving, we saw 7.6L/100km.
The drivetrain is perfectly acceptable and gentle driving and the gearbox offers move quick shifts in those situations. It’ll even do a little throttle blip as you’re braking to a standstill.
The Escape’s steering is quick, weighty and accurate, and when you the wheel is on-centre it is quick to react, making it easy to correct, though the lane-keep assist will try and do that for you, too.
The suspension doesn't like sharp-edged bumps much, and cat's-eyes send noise through the cabin: but it isn't upsetting to the drive experience, and it remains taut and controlled, despite feeling a little bit nose heavy in tighter, twisty corners. The grip from the Continental ContiSportContact 5 rubber (in 235/50/18 spec) is good, and so is the on-demand traction from the all-wheel-drive system.
We said at the start that if you’ve got a growing family, the options are plentiful. And unfortunately for the Escape, it has one of the smaller boots in the class. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit stuff in: if you’re children are babies or toddlers, the boot is big enough for their bags and a pram; or if they’re a bit older you can fit a pushbike or two in the boot. The rear seats fold down to give you plenty more space, too.
And speaking of youngsters, the Escape has two ISOFIX child seat attachment points, as well as three top tether hooks. The space in the back seat is suitable for kids, or big teenagers, or even adults, though it’s not as cavernous some other SUVs in this class.
It may not be the absolute benchmark in the class, but at this price point the Kuga makes a lot sense, particularly if you add that safety pack. And even if you do, the list price is still below forty grand – so you’re getting a lot of family car for the money.
Our advice? Check out a petrol Escape before you sign on the dotted line for the diesel. For $35,990 you can get the Trend petrol, and that may well be the best one of the bunch.
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