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Ford Escape 2022 review: ST-Line PHEV (Plug-in hybrid)

The Ford Escape PHEV model is available in ST-Line trim only, and attracts a $15K premium! (image credit Matt Campbell)
  • Drivetrain2.5L PHEV
  • Battery Capacity14.4kWh
  • Battery typeLithium-ion
  • Electric range56km WLTP
  • Plug TypeType 2
  • AC charge rate2.3kW (10-amp home charging) / 3.7kW (public charging)
  • Electric motor output96kW
  • Combustion engine output112W
  • Combined output167kW
  • Petrol efficiency1.5L/100km (official combined)
  • Electric efficiency14.8kWh/100km to 15.6kWh/100km (claimed)
Complete Guide to Ford Escape

We might have been excited to see the new generation Ford Ranger and Ford Everest models in 2022, but the real star of the show for the Blue Oval brand could well be this - its first electrified model to make it to Australia, the new Ford Escape PHEV.

If you’ve seen the letters PHEV before and not understood what it meant, don’t stress - you’re not alone. It stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. And what that means is that this car comes with a battery bank and electric motor, a port to plug it in and recharge it to drive on EV power only, and it also has a petrol engine to make sure you’re not stuck when you run out of charge.

I’ll run through all the details on the drivetrain below, but think of it this way - if you want a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid but want the possibility to drive on dedicated electric power for up to (and in excess of) 50 kilometres on a charge, this could be the right car for you…

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

It’s hard to consider the Ford Escape ST-Line PHEV to be tremendous value with a price tag of $53,440 (MSRP), especially considering it attracts a circa-$15k premium over the equivalent petrol-powered ST-Line version of the Escape. And that price will rise once more from July 1, to $54,440, as Ford says it will increase the ask due to “continued material and freight cost increases”. 

But it does offer a few little extras over that petrol model in terms of standard gear, including partial-leather seat trim, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a 10-speaker sound system. That’s in addition to the standard kit you’d find on any ST-Line Escape, which includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, sporty-looking front and rear bumpers, lower suspension, keyless entry and push-button start, wireless phone charging, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, flat-bottom steering wheel, Ford’s 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with sat nav, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and also a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.

The ST-Line wears 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The ST-Line wears 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

There are plenty of other safety inclusions that you’d expect at this price point - check the safety breakdown below for more info.

If you need additional gear to make your ST-Line feel even more special, you can choose the ST-Line Pack option, which adds a power tailgate, heated front seats and matrix-style adaptive LED headlights. That pack costs $1950. Really, it shouldn’t be an option on this top-dollar Escape.

Up front are LED headlights. (image credit: Matt Campbell) Up front are LED headlights. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Other plug-in hybrid models close to the Escape PHEV include the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Plug-in Hybrid EV (starting from $46,990), but it’s a fair bit smaller, and so is the Kia Niro PHEV (from $46,590). 

In the same size bracket as the Escape, there’s only the still-to-arrive Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (likely to be $60,000 or more) and the MG HS Plus EV, which kicks off at $46,990 drive-away. Soon there’ll be the Mazda CX-60 PHEV, but it’ll likely play closer to the Kia Sorento PHEV (which kicks off at $80,330).

The Escape ST-Line PHEV wears a price tag of $53,440 (MSRP). (image credit: Matt Campbell) The Escape ST-Line PHEV wears a price tag of $53,440 (MSRP). (image credit: Matt Campbell)

In short, there’s not too much competition, and that could play to the Escape’s advantage. But does it deliver real-world fuel economy savings that you can’t get with, say, a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (from $36,900)? More on that below.

If your curious about colours, there are three no-cost options - Frozen White, Blazer Blue and Agate Black - while the optional premium paint options include Blue Metallic, Magnetic grey, Solar Silver, White Platinum and Rapid Red, as seen in this review, all of which will add $650 to the bill.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

I haven’t really warmed to the “I wish I was a hatchback” styling of the Escape, which has a softer-edged look to it than most of its rivals. I mean, compared to a Hyundai Tucson or Toyota RAV4, the Escape looks like a blob.

That mightn’t be an issue for you, and it’s hardly a reason not to buy the car, but I was also a bit disappointed that there’s no real specific highlights to make you realise you’re buying the PHEV model, which - at $15,000 more than the equivalent petrol version - should have something to differentiate it other than the addition of a small badge and the additional filler cap on the front quarter panel for the plug.

The Escape has a softer-edged look to it than most of its rivals. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The Escape has a softer-edged look to it than most of its rivals. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Even a different set of wheels would have sufficed. Alas, it’s an identical looking Escape to the petrol. That means the ST-Line trimmings, such as black highlights on the grille and bumper, side skirts, a rear spoiler, and those 18-inch wheels and lowered sports suspension.

The interior, as mentioned in the pricing section, does have a few changes over the petrol version, but they’re hardly game-changing additions.

Inside, the ST-Lien scores partial-leather seat trim. (image credit: Matt Campbell) Inside, the ST-Lien scores partial-leather seat trim. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

The Ford Escape looks like it has all the bits to make a midsize SUV buyer happy. And while a fair few of the boxes are ticked, there are some elements that could be better. 

The big party trick is that the second row is on rails, so you can slide it forwards or backwards to improve the space for receipt occupants or improve your boot space. The maximised cargo area is 556 litres to the ceiling, while if prioritise second-row occupant space there is easily enough room for a 182cm / 6’0” adult to fit behind someone of a similar size.

In the boot there are remote levers for the second row seats to fold down, a 12 V outlet, and a soft parcel shelf which is easy to remove, too.

  • Boot space is rated at 556 litres. (image credit: Matt Campbell) Boot space is rated at 556 litres. (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • The second row is on rails, allowing people to increase the cargo capacity for large items. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The second row is on rails, allowing people to increase the cargo capacity for large items. (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare wheel. (image credit: Matt Campbell) Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare wheel. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

During my time with the car I had the seats slid back as far as they go to maximise cabin space, though I did test out whether it was worth having them forward and the boot space was appreciably better especially for a pram and some baby stuff.

The second-row is a 60:40 split for the backrest, with the smaller portion on the driver’s side. That may sound trivial, but we had our baby seat set up behind the passenger, and had to move it to the driver’s side when we picked up a large parcel as it wouldn’t fit with the smaller portion folded down. There are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points for the outboard positions, and three top-tether hooks.

There's easily enough room for a 182cm / 6’0” adult to fit behind someone of a similar size. (image credit: Matt Campbell) There's easily enough room for a 182cm / 6’0” adult to fit behind someone of a similar size. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

The boot space is good too, considering it has some extra hardware to contend with under the body, there is also a space-saver spare wheel under there which is nice. However, there is no dedicated hidey hole for the charge cable, and it doesn’t come in a nice stowable bag either - just a plastic ziplock thing. 

Perhaps the biggest letdown of the interior is the fact that you still get the tiny little tablet-style 8.0-inch touchscreen media display, despite there being a big 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The two screens almost look at odds with one another, and what’s even more frustrating is that the driver information screen cannot be configured to include the energy flow screen that you see on the smaller tablet style unit. 

Inside is a big 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. (image credit: Matt Campbell) Inside is a big 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

That means you can’t watch what’s happening between engine, electric motor and battery, or a combination where you might expect to see that - instead it can only be seen in illustrative form on the smaller central screen. Big issue? Maybe not, but if you’re an eco-conscious customer who wants to know what their car’s high-tech powertrain is doing, while also wanting to use sat nav, or Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, or change the radio station… Well, you’re out of luck.

There is a much more basic and rudimentary display on the driver info screen that shows a small icon of an engine and battery and illuminates them when each part is in use, but really, Ford should have used the real-estate of the big driver info screen better. Toyota, Kia and Hyundai know how to do it better.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen can display the energy flow. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The 8.0-inch touchscreen can display the energy flow. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

The material quality is okay, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a very special environment.There are rubberised liners on the doors which don’t look terrific or feel fantastic, and why there are soft plastic elbow pads, and up high on the dashboard, it is not of the most pristine quality. 

Storage is pretty good. There are bottle holders in the doors and two cupholders in the centre console, and the storage nook in front of the shift dial houses a wireless phone charger and two USB ports, plus a 12-volt plug. There is a strange little shelf section in front of the centre console bin, which is not fantastic in terms of size. There are rear bottle holders in the doors, map pockets and a flip-down arm-rest with cup holders.

That rotary dial shifter which does take a little bit of getting used to. Unlike some others, there is no ‘P’ for park button - instead you have to dial it all the way left. 

Drivetrain - What are the key stats for the drivetrain?

The Escape PHEV is the only model in the range to get a 2.5-litre petrol engine, which runs on the more efficient Atkinson cycle, and has a continuously variable transmission feeding power to the front wheels - that’s right, this Escape is 2WD/FWD.

The tricky bit is that it also houses a clever electric motor and generator, which is teamed to a 14.4kWh battery pack - which is big for a plug-in hybrid car. 

The 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with the electric motor has a total output of 167kW. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with the electric motor has a total output of 167kW. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

The electric motor is capable of 96kW of power, while the petrol engine can produce up to 112kW. All told, the combined system output is pegged at 167kW, though there is no peak torque output figure. Even so, that amount of power is a sizeable number for any midsize SUV, even if this particular one weighs in at more than 1800kg.

Speaking of weight, the PHEV is the least capable towing vehicle in the Escape range. It has a maximum braked towing capacity of 1200kg, where all the others can tow up to 1800kg. Unbraked capacity is unchanged, at 750kg.

Energy consumption - How much does it consume? What’s the range like, and what it’s like to recharge/refuel?

Beware the PHEV fuel consumption figure. That’s a great thing to keep in mind if you’re shopping for one of these cars.

That’s because the combined cycle official figure only takes into account a mix of conditions across 100km of driving. That’s right - only the first 100km. So the best case scenario, for a car that is designed to use its battery to run emissions free until it runs out, before sparingly using the petrol engine to keep going.

As such, it is no surprise that the official combined cycle fuel consumption is just 1.5 litres per 100 kilometres, with CO2 emissions claimed at just 33g/km. That takes into account the WLTP battery range of 56 kilometres stated on Ford’s website.

For reference, I completed my test of the car with a total of 462.7 kilometres travelled, of which, the trip computer stated 292.3km was fully electric. Meaning the remaining 170.4km was driving using petrol.

The Escape is capable of traveling 56km in EV mode. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The Escape is capable of traveling 56km in EV mode. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

The indicated energy efficiency was 20.0kWh/100km, which isn’t great against a claimed EV driving efficiency figure supplied by Ford, of 14.8kWh/100km to 15.6kWh/100km. 

While the indicated fuel consumption average was 3.1L/100km, so more than double the windscreen sticker’s indicated economy. 

However, when I did the maths, I used a real-world average of 3.9L/100km of petrol ($36.15 worth of petrol) and 43.2kWh of electricity (meaning a cost of $9.82 based on the NSW average energy price of $0.2274c/kWh).

So, to do 462.7km I paid $45.97. I think that’s okay, but bear in mind I included several longer trips (Sydney to Glenbrook, Glenbrook to the Southern Highlands and back, and Glenbrook to Sydney and back). 

Ford claims EV efficiency figures of 14.8kWh/100km to 15.6kWh/100km. Ford claims EV efficiency figures of 14.8kWh/100km to 15.6kWh/100km.

As is always the case, if your intended operation for a PHEV is to use it primarily for urban running within its EV range capabilities, you will be better off than if you push it beyond and use the petrol engine excessively.

For reference, the fuel tank size is 45 litres, which is 12L less than the petrol-only versions. It can run on E10, but only if you can find E10 that is also 95RON premium unleaded.

If you wish, there’s also an app called Ford Pass Connect, which allows you to monitor your car’s state of charge, adjust its start and finish times for recharging and even works as a key for the car to allow remote access, too.

Worth noting the maximum charge rate on a 10-amp plug at home is 2.3kW, while on public charging (which typically runs a higher amperage rate) the max rate is 3.7kW.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Standard safety equipment for the Escape PHEV is on par with the majority of rivals in the class.

It has front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (not cyclist detection, though), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, driver fatigue monitoring, traffic sign recognition and a rear-seat occupant reminder system that’ll chime in to tell you to check the back seat before you get out.

There are six airbags - dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags, but unlike some newer rivals there is no front centre airbag to prevent head clashes.

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

As with the rest of the Ford range, you get a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty on the car, while the battery pack has its own eight-year/160,000km warranty plan.

And just like most other models in Ford’s range, there is a lifetime capped-price servicing plan, with the first four maintenance visits (due every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first) incurring a $299 fee, which is cheap for the class.

You also get up to seven years of roadside assist if you service your car with Ford’s dealers.

Driving - What's it like to drive?

Being the ST-Line grade, you - like it or not - have to deal with the lowered ride and sportier suspension, which makes this car ride a bit more firmly than you might want.

I found the suspension to be the biggest detracting element in terms of the drive experience – the suspension picked up a lot of the small inconsistencies in the road surface and transmitted them into the cabin. It was fidgety a lot of the time, and on road surfaces with very poor quality, it could be a bit uncomfortable.

The steering was also bit too tuned for sportiness for a car that doesn’t really need to be quite so aggressively angled that way. It took a bit of getting used to – it was somehow both twitchy on centre but not quite as responsive across the radius of lock to lock as I’d thought it might be, given the initial steering response.

Having said all that, I threw it through a couple of twisty corners and there was a nice handling balance from the chassis and decent grip from the tyres, but I did notice that - being front-wheel drive, with all that power going through the front tyres, there were some instances of it scrabbling for traction, notably on wet roads and looser surfaces but also out of offset driveways.

Other gripes included brake pedal response that was quite abrupt and very sensitive to stopping inputs.

Now, let’s consider the driving modes.

There are different drivetrain setups depending on what you plan to do. EV Auto does the thinking for you, dipping between EV, hybrid and petrol modes. EV Now prioritises electric driving. EV Later saves your battery charge for when you think you’ll need it. And EV Charge means you’ll use petrol power to drive, and also to replenish the battery pack.

The throttle response was decent in EV mode, and in hybrid mode it is nice and quiet, and it drives in a very smooth way unless you really plant your foot hard, then it can be a bit vocal - but less raucous than a RAV4 under full throttle. 

The transition between the different drive modes was relatively seamless, as it will readily go between petrol or electric as required, and the four-cylinder is mostly hushed enough so that you won’t hear it too much, especially if you’re driving at higher speeds when it does.

Indeed it was relatively quiet for the most part, though the tyre noise was quite excessive at higher speeds on very coarse-chip surfaces. And in those instances I noticed I could feel the road surface through the steering wheel and the suspension, as it was quite jittery at times.

There is a low speed warning sound that is omitted below about 25km/h and it was quite handy while driving in enclosed car parks - no more accusations of creeping around silently at the shops.

Further, there are multiple drive modes, including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Snow/Sand Assist, all of which are designed to make different situations easier to deal with. They will adjust engine transmission and steering response as well as stability and traction control limitations. I kept it in Normal, though a dabble in Sport showed that you’re allowed a bit more aggression from the powertrain in terms of acceleration.

  • Drivetrain2.5L PHEV
  • Battery Capacity14.4kWh
  • Battery typeLithium-ion
  • Electric range56km WLTP
  • Plug TypeType 2
  • AC charge rate2.3kW (10-amp home charging) / 3.7kW (public charging)
  • Electric motor output96kW
  • Combustion engine output112W
  • Combined output167kW
  • Petrol efficiency1.5L/100km (official combined)
  • Electric efficiency14.8kWh/100km to 15.6kWh/100km (claimed)
Complete Guide to Ford Escape

The Ford Escape PHEV is a good option for a customer who knows they’ll live within the parameters set by the car. That’s the case with any plug-in hybrid, really, so in that regard, this new model is hardly a standout.

And it isn’t particularly outstanding in any other way either. I personally would have appreciated it if Ford had decided to add the plug-in powertrain to the Vignale flagship model instead - that model is more about luxury than sportiness, and would better fit the character of this powertrain in my opinion.

It’s a decent addition to the brand’s SUV range, and a welcome one to the segment, though it won’t be on its own for long.

$53,440

Based on new car retail price

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Score

3.9/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.