With the likes of the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 occupying the competitive compact SUV segment, you’d have thought it’d be rather difficult to stand out in such esteemed company. However, Ford has found a way to do just that by updating the Escape and making it better aesthetically and packing it with some seriously good kit.
The basic body work doesn’t change but the front and back features the Blue Oval’s latest design language giving it a closer resemblance to the smaller EcoSport and larger Edge. The bigger trapezoidal grille conceals active shutters and is flanked by squintier LED headlights making for a bold and sporty nose replete with stylish new fog lamps, while the rear gets a revised tailgate and restyled taillights. The facelift and tail tweak aren’t the only updates to the exterior — there’s also a new range of 17- 18- and 19in alloy wheels to choose from (and they’re available in a variety of finishes including Luster Nickel) and a redrawn aluminium bonnet to help give the Escape more visual refinement.
The interior has also been refined a offers passengers a more comfortable environment; it’s easy to find a comfy driving position in the re-contoured front bucket seats (they’re not only supportive and keep you locked in place but they’re well-padded too which makes them ideal for long journeys) while the number of buttons and switches on the dash has been reduced giving it a more cleaner look. Most of the controls are buried in the Sync 3’s 8.0in touchscreen which can be a little tricky to control when the car is moving and almost every surface gets a more premium look and feel. The gear lever has been repositioned leaving room for two cup holders and a new USB connection point for integrating and charging mobile devices, along with a more user-friendly multifunction steering wheel and a larger centre armrest. Overall, the cabin isn’t found wanting at all and even at highway speeds, it is well insulated and keeps road and tyre noise at bay. There’s plenty of the standard equipment (including keyless entry and a rear-view camera) and some of the new safety features include lane keep assist, a driver drowsiness monitor, and adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert plus auto brake boost. Our top of the line Titanium tester came with a full leather interior, rear centre armrest, roof rails, automatic headlights, panoramic sunroof, voice-activated navigation, dual power front seats, and a 10-speaker Sony premium audio system. None of which impressed half as much as the Escape’s surprisingly peppy performance.
Packing a twin-scroll turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, it’s smooth, responsive and powerful. It produces 245 horses and 366Nm of torque making mince meat of overtaking manoeuvres and it can accelerate briskly from a standstill. In fact, I’d go as far as saying its acceleration is similar to some luxury SUVs. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic (with paddle shifters) which rarely picks the wrong ratio (even if it did it wouldn’t matter; with so much torque at your disposal at low engine speeds it could probably maintain a taller gear on gentle acceleration) and with Ford’s Intelligent All Wheel Drive which adjusts the amount of torque sent to each wheel to optimise handling and traction along with Torque Vectoring Control which applies a small amount of braking to the inside wheels to assist stability when cornering, the Escape proves rather enjoyable to throw around. In fact, with a finely tuned chassis resulting in competent handling it feels a bit like a hot hatch. It can hit 100kph from rest in 7.6 seconds (leave the gear lever in Sport to hold on to the cogs longer before shifting up to maximise the fun quotient...) and in spite of its newfound zest for life it isn’t thirsty either sipping back just 10.2 litres per 100km.
It isn’t the revised looks or the tech that helps the Escape to, er, escape the rest of the crossover pack, it’s this sublime 2.0-litre EcoBoost motor. If you’re looking for a stylish SUV that can easily accommodate five adults, has some impressive features and can keep up with models blessed with bigger motors, this might just be your ideal travel companion.