The 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid has been unveiled in European-specification form – badged overseas as the Ford Kuga Hybrid – but Australia might miss out on the eco-friendly model.
While the plug-in hybrid Escape has been confirmed for an (albeit recently delayed) Australian arrival in late 2021, the conventional hybrid has yet to be confirmed for our shores.
Ford Australia Communications Director, Matt Moran, has told CarAdvice: "While we have no local plans for the Escape/Kuga Hybrid to share today, we always look to the best of our global portfolio for vehicles that suit the emerging needs of Australian customers".
A rival for the strong-selling Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, the Ford Escape Hybrid combines a version of the PHEV's 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated 'Atkinson cycle' four-cylinder engine with a less powerful electric motor and a smaller 1.1kWh battery for a combined power output of 140kW.
While that figure is on par with much of the non-turbo medium SUV class, it falls short of the 160kW quoted by front-wheel-drive Toyota RAV4 Hybrid models, and the 167kW claimed by the Escape Hybrid's plug-in sibling.
Drive is sent to the front or all wheels through a CVT automatic, which in Normal and Sport modes is tuned to simulate a conventional automatic's gear changes for "greater driver engagement" and to minimise the 'rubber-band' effect associated with CVTs.
The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid can complete the 0-100km/h sprint in 9.1 seconds, and offers a maximum braked towing capacity of 1600kg.
Ford claims combined fuel use and CO2 emissions figures on the NEDC test cycle (as used in Australia) of 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres and 118 grams per kilometre respectively, rising to 5.4L/100km and 125g/km on the stricter WLTP cycle now in use in Europe.
The Escape Hybrid's 54-litre fuel tank enables a hybrid driving range of a round 1000 kilometres.
However, thanks to the relatively-diminutive size of its 1.1kWh lithium-ion battery, the Escape Hybrid's all-electric driving range will be much shorter than the 56km claimed by the plug-in hybrid model.
Like the aforementioned RAV4 and other 'self-charging' hybrids, the Escape's hybrid system allows it to start up, pull away and drive for short periods at low speeds on electric power alone, with the petrol engine kicking in at higher speeds or when more power is required.
The 60-cell lithium-ion battery is liquid cooled – eliminating the need for a cooling fan, reducing noise and improving refinement – and is mounted under the car's floor in a way that enables "more than one metre" of headroom for front passengers, and up to 1481 litres of boot space with the second row folded.
An onboard exhaust gas heat exchanger system brings the 2.5-litre engine up to its optimal operating temperature more quickly, allowing the climate control system to warm the cabin quicker and more effectively.
The 140kW hybrid powertrain will be offered on a variety of trim levels in Europe, including Trend, Titanium, Titanium X, ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale.
Above: the Australian-delivered, non-hybrid, turbo-petrol Escape's interior, in flagship Vignale trim.
Available features on certain grades include an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen running Ford's Sync 3 system, support for the FordPass smartphone app, wireless phone charging, a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, and an array of active safety technologies including autonomous emergency braking with support for intersections, adaptive cruise control, lane-centring assist and traffic sign recognition.
The 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid is now in production at the Blue Oval's factory in Valencia, Spain. While Australian-delivered Escape examples originate from the same plant, the sole hybrid variant to reach local shores will be the plug-in hybrid, due to arrive in late 2021, after being delayed by 12 months to resolve battery issues which have caused fires in the US and Europe.