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Ford Escape 2020 review: ST-Line

Ford's Escape ST-Line stands out from the crowd thanks to its sporty touches.
EXPERT RATING
7.3
A new-gen Escape is just around the corner, but does Ford's current Escape ST-Line still have what it takes to deliver a winning mid-size SUV?

Aussies are now favouring SUVs much more than sedans and hatchbacks, and no segment is more bountiful than for mainstream mid-sizers.

With cars such as the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 finding success by combining practicality, tech and a high-seating position, for small families looking to haul the kids and some gear over long distances, Ford’s Escape should also be in contention.

However, sales of the Escape have slowly decreased this year (possibly due to a new-generation model around the corner), but is the soon-to-be-superseded model lacking any crucial ingredients that will keep it off your consideration list?

We’ve got the Ford Escape ST-Line to find out if it has what it takes to hang with the best in the mid-size SUV segment.

Ford Escape 2020: ST-LINE (AWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$39,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Aiming to put the ‘sports’ in ‘sports utility vehicle’ (SUV), the Ford Escape ST-Line at least tries to differentiate itself from the usual high-riding fare.

From the outside, the ST-Line scores a sports bodykit and lower suspension, giving this Escape variant a more road-hugging appearance.

Its road presence is also helped by blacked-out (18-inch) wheels, grille, fog light surrounds, roof rails and rear valance. But don’t expect the cosmetic changes to morph the mild-mannered mid-size SUV into a snarling supercar.

From the outside, the ST-Line scores a sports bodykit and lower suspension. From the outside, the ST-Line scores a sports bodykit and lower suspension.

Next to its Ambiente and Trend siblings, there's no doubt the Escape ST-Line stands out, but we’ll leave you to decide if it's the right amount of sporty, or needlessly gawdy.

The sporty touches also apply to the interior, which gains leather and cloth upholstery, front sports seats, and red contrast stitching throughout.

We’re big fans of the interior changes, which elevate all the touch points such as the steering wheel, seats and shifter to feel extra special.

Functionally however, the Escape is starting to show its age, especially the multimedia system, but more on that next...

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Measuring 4524mm long, 1838mm wide, 1749mm tall and with a 2690mm wheelbase, the Ford Escape ST-Line offers enough space for either four adults or small families, but is slightly smaller in size than some of its key rivals.

Up front, there is plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room for passengers, but we couldn’t shake the feeling of the cabin closing in around us.

The rear seats, while usable, suffer from the same failings as the front seats. The rear seats, while usable, suffer from the same failings as the front seats.

Maybe it’s the chunky door trims, ‘phat’ air vents or bulging seat bolsters, but to us, it didn’t feel as capacious or airy as a Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Tucson.

The door pockets are also thin and made up with scratchy hard plastic, though the storage bin between the diver and front passenger is generous and accommodating of larger items such as a big bag of chips.

The rear seats, while usable, suffer from the same failings as the front seats and feel a bit too snug.

The boot offers 406 litres of volume with the all seats upright. The boot offers 406 litres of volume with the all seats upright.

Adults can comfortably sit in the two outboard pews, but the middle seat should be relegated to children or people you just don’t like very much.

Headroom is good, but legroom is somewhat lacking, and we had to reposition the front seats to be comfortable in the second row.

The boot offers 406 litres of volume with the all seats upright, expanding to 1603 with the rear seats folded flat. Both admirable figures that mean the Escape can comfortably fit a stroller, groceries, and more.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

Priced at $39,990, before on-road costs, the ST-Line is available in exclusively with in petrol form, and sits below the petrol and diesel Titanium grade priced at $45,840 and $48,340 respectively.

Inside, sports seats replace the standard items. They're trimmed in a combination of leather (accent) and suede, with contrast red-stitching featured on the armrests, shifter boot and steering wheel.

Nestled between the driver and front passenger is an 8.0-inch 'Sync 3' multimedia touchscreen with features such as satellite navigation, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

While we love Ford’s Sync system, which is intuitive to use on the go thanks to its big, bright screen, implementation in the Escape leaves a little to be desired.

The screen is recessed to avoid unwanted glare, but the CD player (yes, you can get one in 2020!) nestled above is needlessly chunky and cumbersome.

At least the steering wheel-mounted controls are quick and easy to use. At least the steering wheel-mounted controls are quick and easy to use.

The buttons found below the screen are also unnecessary when all functions can be handled by the touchscreen.

Further down the centre stack are the climate controls, which, while useable, feel spongey and are not well laid out.

The switchgear in the Escape ST-Line is average when the competition delivers polished and refined controls.

At least the steering wheel-mounted controls are quick and easy to use for the driver, including highly visible and clearly laid out cruise control functions.

Other standard equipment includes, push-button start, a gesture-operated powered tailgate, keyless entry, and automatic parallel parking. The auto parking function is easy to use, requiring only the push of a button and a dab of throttle.

Those after more advanced features however, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, tyre pressure monitoring and lane-keep assist will have to shell out another $800.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, the Escape ST-Line punches out 178kW/345Nm, making it one of the most potent mainstream mid-size SUVs on the market.

Looking at its rivals, only the Holden Equinox can top the Escape ST-Line’s output with a 188kW/353Nm 2.0-litre four cylinder, while the Jeep Cherokee uses a 3.2-litre V6 to produce 200kW/315Nm.

Drive is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

Though all this might sound mighty on paper, keep in mind the engine is working to haul a 1700kg-plus SUV, which does tend to dull straight-line performance a little.

Drive is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Drive is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

Overall, the Escape ST-Line’s engine is a punchy little unit that will happily rev out to its 6500rpm redline, even if it doesn’t produce the most sonorous noise at the top end.

The automatic transmission is also a good, if not great, one, that quickly up-shifts and manages slow-speed around-town duties just fine.

You will be able to catch it out when applying more throttle, though, with the six-speeder unsure when to change down and slow to do so when it makes up its mind.

And if you aren’t happy leaving the Escape ST-Line in automatic mode, there are always the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to play with.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

Our two weeks with the Escape ST-Line returned a fuel consumption average of 11.7 litres per 100km, while official figures peg the mid-size SUV at 8.2L/100km.

To be fair, we drove the Escape ST-Line exclusively in inner-city conditions, often during peak hour through Melbourne’s CBD.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Thanks to its lowered suspension, thicker anti-roll bars and sharper steering rack, the ST-Line doesn’t flounder and sag like other SUVs when introduced to a corner.

Don’t get us wrong though, the changes don’t turn the Escape into a hot-hatch-scaring corner carver, but the ST-Line certainly feels more planted and put together than the vast majority of mid-size SUVs.

In fact, we’d put it up there as one of the best steering mainstream SUVs on the market, alongside the direct and communicative Mazda CX-5.

The ST-Line certainly feels more planted and put together than the vast majority of mid-size SUVs. The ST-Line certainly feels more planted and put together than the vast majority of mid-size SUVs.

The by-product though is that the Escape ST-Line is a bit firmer over bumps and uneven road surfaces.

Whilst its not enough to take away from its overall polished and likeable dynamics, buyers who have young families that may prioritise comfort over sportiness will be better off looking at other Escape variants.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

Ford has kitted out the Escape ST-Line with all the safety equipment you would want in a new car in this class.

Autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and automatic parking are all standard.

As previously mentioned, buyers can also option in adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist and a tyre pressure monitor for an additional $800.

With a long list of standard safety, the Ford Escape was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was assessed in early 2017, which also applies to the ST-Line that was introduced in mid-2018.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Like all new Ford Australia models, the Escape ST-Line comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, along with five-year anti-corrosion assurance.

Service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, with the first service due in two months/3000km.

The first full service will cost $360, while the second is $495 due to a brake fluid replacement that needs to be done every two years.

The Escape ST-Line comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The Escape ST-Line comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Service number three is back at $360, but the fourth service jumps to $750.

The Escape’s service schedule repeats this pattern until the 150,000km/10-year service, which requires a drive belt and radiator coolant replacement, increasing the cost to $895.

Verdict

Ford’s Escape ST-Line still proves to be a competitive SUV player so late in its lifecycle due its strong foundations.

While the only area it really excels at is its handling performance, thanks to the variant-specific changes, not everyone wants, or even appreciates, a sharper handling family hauler.

Other big letdowns are the in-car controls and in-cabin tightness, which  look like they will be smoothed out in a new-generation model due to launch mid-year. But for now the current Escape is still a solid all-rounder.

Pricing guides

$38,665
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$28,990
Highest Price
$48,340

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
AMBIENTE (AWD) 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $33,490 2020 Ford Escape 2020 AMBIENTE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
AMBIENTE (FWD) 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,490 2020 Ford Escape 2020 AMBIENTE (FWD) Pricing and Specs
ST-LINE (AWD) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $39,990 2020 Ford Escape 2020 ST-LINE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
TITANIUM (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $48,340 2020 Ford Escape 2020 TITANIUM (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features6
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership8