Ford has gone to great lengths to market the Escape ST-Line as a sporty alternative to the madding SUV crowd. It's got blacked-out wheels and a tougher bodykit on the outside, but given it's where the driver actually spends all their time, the interior is arguably more important.
What's life like from behind the wheel of our long-termer?
By now, the layout of the Escape's interior is pretty familiar. As with the now-replaced Focus, the design team behind the Escape took its inspiration from mobile phones, with more buttons than the average Spotlight store scattered around the dashboard.
With that in mind, I'm curious about who coined the term 'cute as a button'. Buttons are functional at best, after all...
The current model was given a Marie Kondo-inspired (the author/Netflix host famous for minimalism, keep up!) makeover, with a larger touchscreen and fewer buttons, but you still get the sense our ST-Line is an old car dressed up to feel more modern inside.
Perhaps in a nod to Henry Ford, the colour scheme inside is predominately black. The dashboard is covered in a dark, soft-touch rubberised trim, the console and transmission tunnel are finished in soft-touch black plastic, and the garnish designed to set it all off is grey. Not black, sure, but not far off.
Unique ST-Line equipment includes Alcantara-trimmed seats with red contrast stitching, and that's about it. They're very comfortable and good to look at, but manual adjustment and a lack of heating both feel a bit at odds with the car's high-spec billing.
Alright, that's it for the gripes. Now, the good stuff.
The driving position itself is excellent. The steering wheel comes out to meet the driver, and there's ample adjustment in the seat to accommodate taller drivers. You sit high – probably slightly higher than I'd generally like – but a commanding view of your dominion is one of the big draws driving SUV sales.
Slightly dour colour scheme aside, everything feels hard-wearing and functional, and the ergonomics are actually quite good. The climate controls are logically laid out (with proper buttons!) and Ford's now-widespread SYNC 3 infotainment is eminently usable, if lacking a bit of sparkle compared to some of its European rivals.
DAB+ digital radio, smartphone mirroring and Bluetooth audio streaming are all standard, along with factory navigation. Google Maps is always preferable to the inbuilt mapping, but Ford's directions and traffic updates are relatively intuitive as manufacturer systems go. The screen is countersunk, forcing even long-armed drivers to stretch right out, which is rather annoying though.
There's a wealth of information available on the in-dash display, but the crystal-clear speed readout was my go-to. Although the analogue dials are also clear, you can't be too careful around Melbourne's always-on network of cameras.
Bluetooth always connects quickly, and Ford seems better than most at managing the multitude of Bluetooth devices that come with life in the CarAdvice office. Regardless of who's been driving, SYNC always connects to my phone (aka the priority device) within seconds, which isn't always a given.
The transmission tunnel has a deep cupholder/storage bin, the glovebox is spacious, and in-car snackers will be pleased to know the door pockets will happily hold multiple bags of lollies. As with the Focus, the cupholder is a two-stage set-up, allowing you to remove a rubber grommet for safe plastic bottle storage. Clever.
I do miss the bin from my Kodiaq, though.
Boot space is a handy – not class-leading – 406L with the rear seat in place, expanding to 1603L with the rear seats folded. The seats don't fold totally flat, leaving a slight step in the load bay, but the car comfortably swallowed my lanky-person-friendly road bike, wheels and all.
Space in the rear seat is, in keeping with the theme laid out earlier here, slightly down on what's available in some of its mid-sized rivals. Head room is plentiful, but leg room lags behind. The central seat is slightly raised on the outboard ones, too, meaning the kids will be fighting to sit in the left and right pews.
Children and shorter adults won't struggle, but if you have gangly teens, there are comfier cars around. As we said in a recent review, the Hyundai Tucson creams it for second-row roominess.
The fact the Escape is slightly smaller than some of its rivals makes it wieldy around town, which will be worth its weight in gold to some owners – but more on that in future instalments.
2018 Ford Escape ST-Line
- Odometer: 3112km
- Average fuel economy: 9.9L/100km
- Kilometres since last update: 1111km