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Ford Escape 2021 review

Ford hopes the new-gen Escape from Europe will win it a piece of the popular mid-sized SUV pie.
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Ford's new-generation Escape hopes to find its way into driveways all over Australia, but is it good enough to take on the likes of the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota's RAV4?

Ford is hoping its new-generation Escape will tempt you away from buying one of the current family favourites, such as a Toyota RAV4 or a Mazda CX-5. 

What we hope to do here is arm you with everything you need to know about the new Escape range so you can decide if this new mid-sized SUV is the right fit for you.

The new Escape looks nothing like the old one, comes in front-wheel drive and all wheel drive, and you'll even be able to choose a plug-in hybrid later in 2021.

Ready to meet the new Escape range? Let's go.

Ford Escape 2021: ST-Line (awd)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$34,500

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The Escape is expensive compared to its rivals – let me show you.

There are three grades in the Escape line-up. The entry grade is simply called the Escape and lists from $35,990 before on-road costs, then above that is the ST-Line from $37,990, and then the Vignale tops out the range from $46,590. The entry grade only comes in front-wheel drive but if you're looking for an all-wheel drive then add $3000 to the prices of the ST-Line and Vignale.

  • The entry grade is simply called the Escape and lists from $35,990 before on-road costs. The entry grade is simply called the Escape and lists from $35,990 before on-road costs.
  • Above that is the ST-Line from $37,990. Above that is the ST-Line from $37,990.
  • The Vignale tops out the range from $46,590. The Vignale tops out the range from $46,590.

In 2021 a plug-in hybrid variant will be offered in the ST-Line grade and will cost $52,940. It too will be front-wheel drive only.

The most affordable new Escape is between $2000 and 5000 more expensive than the entry grades of rivals such as the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5. Given it does offer substantially more power and torque than either, and is well equipped, one could argue it verges on their mid-level grades (GXL and Maxx Sport). The all-wheel drive Vignale, however, costs about the same as the top-of-the-range RAV4 and CX-5 in all-wheel drive, bringing parity back to the Escape line-up.

The value in terms of equipment isn't bad. Coming standard on the entry Escape are 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, silver roof rails, an eight-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless phone charger, sat nav, an embedded modem, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, six-speaker stereo with digital radio, and a reversing camera. There's also a smart key which lets you unlock and lock the doors just by touching the door handle.

The all-wheel drive Vignale costs about the same as the top-of-the-range RAV4 and CX-5. The all-wheel drive Vignale costs about the same as the top-of-the-range RAV4 and CX-5.

The ST-Line has a performance feel to it and adds a menacing-looking black grille, 18-inch alloys, sports suspension, black roof rails, a large rear spoiler and dual exhaust tips. Inside there are sports seats with red stitching, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, a fully digital instrument cluster and metallic pedals.

The Vignale adds matrix LED headlights, leather heated front and rear seats, a Bang and Olufsen stereo, head-up display, a power driver's seat, auto parking and a gesture activated tailgate.

 

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Ooooh, Mumma, this is a good-looking SUV. In the video above I mention how the Escape could maybe even pass for an Aston Martin's DBX SUV (you might have to squint) in the styling of the grille and headlights, and even in profile. Well, Ford did own Aston from 1991 to 2007.

The previous Escape was boxy and full of angular shapes and sharp creases. This new one looks sleek and smooth. Yup, it doesn't have the tough appearance of the old one and has less of an upright, traditional SUV profile, but with its low, long bonnet and set-back cabin the Escape looks slippery and fast.

The new Escape is longer than the old one, too, by about 100mm with the entry grade being 4614mm end-to-end and the ST-Line stretching 4629mm and Vignale 4626mm.

The new Escape is longer than the old one. (ST-Line pictured) The new Escape is longer than the old one. (ST-Line pictured)

The height has also been reduced from a maximum of 1749mm to 1680mm including the roof rails, and it's wider as well at 2178mm with the mirrors folded out.

So wider, lower, longer and sleeker. You're wondering what it's like to drive now aren't you? We'll get there.

There are some big differences in the way each grade looks, starting with the grilles – the entry Escape and top of the range Vignale have the same shaped grille but with different mesh inserts, while the ST-Line has a different grille design and a black honeycomb screen.

The Vignale is the only grade which has 19-inch alloys as standard. The Vignale is the only grade which has 19-inch alloys as standard.

While the entry Escape has a roof-top spoiler, privacy glass and dual exhaust (although it doesn't quite come out of those chrome tailpipes), the ST-Line is fitted with a sports body kit which includes the front and rear bumpers, the side skirts, the large rear wing, a different style alloy wheel to the entry grade, plus proper dual pipes.

The Vignale is the posh one and gets plenty of shiny chrome looking trimmings to the grille and the window surrounds, and it's the only grade which has 19-inch alloys as standard and not 18-inch rims.

Inside, the grades vary as you'd expect, although even the entry Escape has a premium looking cabin with high-quality feeling materials and I'm a fan of the textured pattern on the door trims across the range.

The entry Escape has cloth seats, as does the ST-Line – although they have sporty red stitching. The hybrid has partial leather seats while the Vignale has what Ford calls 'leather accented', which means it's mainly leather but not completely so the legal department has advised them to go with 'accented'.

  • Inside, the grades vary as you’d expect, although even the entry Escape has a premium looking cabin. Inside, the grades vary as you’d expect, although even the entry Escape has a premium looking cabin.
  • The entry Escape has cloth seats, as does the ST-Line (pictured) – although they have sporty red stitching. The entry Escape has cloth seats, as does the ST-Line (pictured) – although they have sporty red stitching.
  • The Vignale has what Ford calls ‘leather accented’, which means it’s mainly leather but not completely. The Vignale has what Ford calls ‘leather accented’, which means it’s mainly leather but not completely.

There are 10 paint colours to choose from (depending on the grade) including Agate Black, Blue Panther, Diffused Silver, Sedona Orange and White Platinum.

All grades comes with an eight-inch media display which looks small compared to those in new rivals and while the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in the ST-Line and Vignale is stunning, the rest of the cabin didn't wow me with the modern tech and styling many new cars do.

Still the Escape scores well for design, thanks mainly to its gorgeous exterior. But how practical is it? You're about to find out.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Escape scores well for practicality.

Rear leg and headroom is excellent. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty or room to move thanks to the 'scooped-out' design of the front seat backs.

That second row rolls on rails and locks into place and this means boot space can be contracted and expanded between 412 litres and 526 litres. This is a rarity in the medium-SUV segment. You can see in the video that I was able to stack all of the CarsGuide luggage in the boot.

  • Rear leg and headroom is excellent. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty or room to move. (Escape pictured) Rear leg and headroom is excellent. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty or room to move. (Escape pictured)
  • Rear leg and headroom is excellent. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty or room to move. (ST-Line pictured) Rear leg and headroom is excellent. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty or room to move. (ST-Line pictured)
  • Rear leg and headroom is excellent. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty or room to move. (Vignale pictured) Rear leg and headroom is excellent. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty or room to move. (Vignale pictured)

Cabin storage is great up front with super-sized door pockets, three cupholders and a big centre console box, while those in the rear have two cupholders, but tiny door pockets.

For phones, tablets and other devices all grades come with four USB ports (two type-A and two type-C). There's also a wireless phone charger up front on all grades and two 12V power outlets.

As a parent who fastens a child into their car seat at least twice a day, I found it frustrating that the Escape's rear doors didn't open anywhere near as wide as a Mazda CX-5's to allow me more space.

  • That second row rolls on rails and locks into place and this means boot space can be contracted and expanded between 412 litres and 526 litres. (Escape pictured) That second row rolls on rails and locks into place and this means boot space can be contracted and expanded between 412 litres and 526 litres. (Escape pictured)
  • This is a rarity in the medium-SUV segment. (Escape pictured) This is a rarity in the medium-SUV segment. (Escape pictured)
  • You can see in the video that I was able to stack all of the CarsGuide luggage in the boot. (Escape pictured) You can see in the video that I was able to stack all of the CarsGuide luggage in the boot. (Escape pictured)

I did like the low load lip on the boot and the gesture tailgate on the Vignale was convenient, if slow.

All grades come with brilliantly practical proximity unlocking, too, which is normally only offered on the higher levels in rivals.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The Escape comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 183W of power and 387Nm of torque, which is more powerful than any engine in the RAV4, CX-5 or everything else in the class for the same money.

This is the only engine on offer for the Escape, apart from the 2.5-litre petrol engine in the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) which will be available in 2021. The power output for the hybrid is 167kW.

The Escape comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 183W of power and 387Nm of torque. (ST-Line pictured) The Escape comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 183W of power and 387Nm of torque. (ST-Line pictured)

The hybrid is front-wheel drive only and so is the entry grade Escape, while the petrol-only ST-Line and Vignale can be had in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations.

The petrol Escapes have an eight-speed automatic transmission while the PHEV features a continuously variable transmission, commonly known as a CVT auto. It's there to help save petrol... which neatly brings us to consumption.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Ford says the all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive Escapes with the 2.0-litre petrol engine should use 8.6L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads. In my own testing I found the difference between the two to also be almost negligible, too, with the FWD's mileage being 9.4L/100km and the AWD's being 9.7L/100km. These were both taken from the trip computer and the test course was identical for both, taking in motorways and urban roads.

The plug-in hybrid is the true fuel super saver with Ford saying it can achieve 1.5L/100km. The hybrid was not available to the Australia motoring media to test, but you can absolutely expect the fuel economy to be outstanding.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Escape was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2020, but this was under 2019 standards from the otherwise-identical European Kuga-badged version tested that year. This shouldn't put you off, as all grades come with an outstanding level of standard safety tech such as AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning with cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.

Front and rear parking sensors are also standard across the range, so is a reversing camera and auto headlights.

For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the second row.

A space-saver spare wheel is under the boot floor.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

The Escape is covered a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

Services are recommended at 15,000km/12month intervals and are capped at $299 for four years.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The plugin-in hybrid wasn't available to drive at the Australian launch of the Escape, but I tested all grades with the petrol engine. The entry level Escape and ST-Line I drove were front-wheel drive and the Vignale was all-wheel drive.

There are good things to report, but also a few-could-be-better points, too.

First the good. That 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine is truly responsive, with almost zero turbo lag and stacks of oomph and you'll be hard pressed to find another SUV in the size and price bracket that has this much grunt.

There are good things to report, but also a few-could-be-better points, too. (Vignale pictured) There are good things to report, but also a few-could-be-better points, too. (Vignale pictured)

Plenty of SUVs out there can feel breathless when it comes to overtaking or needing to move quickly, and if anything there were times in all the Escapes I drove where it was more a case of 'whooah' slow down there. Sport mode was for the most part unnecessary.

The transmission is a regular eight-speed automatic, which was good for acceleration, whereas the CVTs found in some other SUVs can have a lacklustre effect on getting you moving, while dual-clutch autos aren't known for their smoothness at low speeds.

That said, the automatic in the Escape seemed to 'clunk' at low speeds sometimes as I accelerated away in traffic.

The transmission is a regular eight-speed automatic, which was good for acceleration. (ST-Line pictured) The transmission is a regular eight-speed automatic, which was good for acceleration. (ST-Line pictured)

Steering is one of the parts which could be better. I found the steering in all three of the Escapes I drove to be overly direct and quick, meaning the wheel only needed to be turned slightly for a fairly sudden change in direction. That, in turn, would unsettle the car causing a 'wobble'. It's not unsafe, but passengers might turn green in the back.

But the more I drove the Escape the more I adjusted to its sporty characteristics and the ride was comfortable.

The all-wheel drive Escape felt more planted and stable to drive, particularly in the wet where I found the front-wheel drives spun their wheels under acceleration due to all that torque, with a hint of understeer at times.

Visibility was great, the reversing camera was clear and the auto parking feature on the Vignale worked well apart from that one time it tired do a perpendicular park in a parallel spot.

The more I drove the Escape the more I adjusted to its sporty characteristics and the ride was comfortable. (Escape pictured) The more I drove the Escape the more I adjusted to its sporty characteristics and the ride was comfortable. (Escape pictured)

Verdict

The Escape is one of the best-looking medium SUVs on the market, and more practical than its sleek lines would suggest. The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine makes it one of the most powerful among its rivals, although not the best to drive thanks to overly sharp steering – which may in turn unsettle the body at times if you're not expecting such directness. While the standard features list is hardly missing anything even in the entry grade, the Escape range could do with a lower priced grade to make the model more accessible. Maybe something like the smaller-engined 1.5-litre turbo as in the previous Escape Ambiente.

The sweet spot in the range is the entry grade Escape. Yes, you miss out on the digital instrument cluster and heated seats, but you're getting most of the upper grades' equipment at a lower price.

Pricing guides

$39,990
Based on 26 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$37,500
Highest Price
$45,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ST-Line (awd) 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $34,500 – 44,660 2021 Ford Escape 2021 ST-Line (awd) Pricing and Specs
(FWD) 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $28,500 – 37,730 2021 Ford Escape 2021 (FWD) Pricing and Specs
ST-Line Phev (fwd) 2.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $43,900 – 55,550 2021 Ford Escape 2021 ST-Line Phev (fwd) Pricing and Specs
Vignale (fwd) 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $37,800 – 48,950 2021 Ford Escape 2021 Vignale (fwd) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership8
Driving7
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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