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Ford Escape 2004 Review

The Ford Escape picks up on the Mazda theme with a taut body and neatly structured looks.

If you just arrived on Planet Earth, let me inform you that the Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape are practically the same vehicles.

This may amaze you, but equally, the fact that you're from another planet will guarantee to take my breath away.

But back to 4WDs. Both are soft-roader wagons with similar mechanical bits and a mid-sized body that will seat four adults – but better for two or three kids – and some luggage.

It is, in fact, the EH or HR Holden of the 1960s, but with seatbelts and airbags.

You may add that the latest wagons also have 4WD so they go anywhere. Obviously you never met my father at the wheel of the HR wagon because he made that thing go everywhere.

The Ford Escape picks up on the Mazda theme with a taut body and neatly structured looks, a pleasant and simple cabin and the versatility of folding rear seats.

It adds the welcome feature of a flip-up rear glass window, independent of the lift-up hatch. This trick is also common to the Mazda Tribute and another of my favourites, the Kia Sorento.

What we have now is a compact 4WD with handy ideas suited perfectly to its major buyer, the urban warrior who has duties at school, the shopping centre and the hell of early morning Mitchell Freeway commuting.

Ford and Mazda have been keen to publicise their lusty V6 engine, but this time we're testing the four-cylinder version.

Straight up, I'd buy the 2.3-litre four-cylinder over the V6.

After three hours getting very dirty near York on a gravel off-road track and then coping with city traffic, the 2.3-litre with four-speed automatic gearbox took it all with ease.

The engine – a derivative of that in the Mazda6 and Mazda3 SP23 – boasts strong low-end torque and a free-revving nature.

It also got 9.8-litres/100km which was a lot better than the V6. Everything else in the Escape is similar to the V6 version.

The drivetrain is front drive with a viscous coupling that connects the rear wheels.

If the front wheels lose some grip, this coupling sends power to the rear. It'll do this up to a 50:50 split between front axle and rear axle.

That's pretty much on par with the "soft roader" industry but the Ford Escape gets better by allowing the driver to lock in this 50:50 split merely by pressing a dashboard button. It allows the wagon to drive more confidently on gravel roads and spells some level of assurance in soft sand.

This is one of the best soft-roader compact 4WDs in the sand but I'd temper that by saying that you shouldn't travel without backup. The tyres have to be deflated and the boot needs the addition of recovery gear.

The Escape is appreciated because of its uncluttered simplicity.

It is as easy as a Corolla to drive, has excellent visibility, is very comfortable and even feels sporty through the country road corners.

Pricing guides

Based on 9 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

Limited 3.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,400 – 4,070 2004 Ford Escape 2004 Limited Pricing and Specs
XLS 3.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,400 – 4,180 2004 Ford Escape 2004 XLS Pricing and Specs
XLS Bad Boy 2.3L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,200 – 3,850 2004 Ford Escape 2004 XLS Bad Boy Pricing and Specs
XLT 2.3L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,000 – 3,520 2004 Ford Escape 2004 XLT Pricing and Specs
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