Renault Captur VS Ford Escape
- Sporty styling
- Plenty of standard features across range
- Grunty 2.0-litre petrol engine
- Overly direct steering
- Unsettled body control
The Renault Captur is stupendously, ridiculously popular… in Europe.
So popular, in fact, that it’s not quite enough to have just one Renault Captur, to they sell another one - a de-specified, Dacia-based Renault Kaptur – that looks exactly the same.
Bizarre. But then, the Captur is a bit bizarre. It’s as if it comes from an alternate dimension where style trumps practicality, and vibrant colours and tight dimensions are more important than, say, a cupholder.
The point is, in Australia at least, buying a French car tends to be a deliberate and not necessarily value-based choice. With so many keenly priced and well-specified Japanese and Korean competitors, a car like this requires a buyer who wants something genuinely different.
So, can the recently updated Captur appeal to buyers wanting something a little left of centre in one of Australia’s most hotly contested market segments, or does it play second-fiddle to the small SUV market leaders? I spent a week in one to find out.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
Ready to meet the new Escape range? Let's go.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Captur might be one of Europe’s strongest-selling small SUVs, but what it offers doesn’t translate well into Australia’s market, where the sheer number of highly specified and keenly priced competitors puts a strain on its value.
The powerful new engine is welcome, and it continues to serve up plenty of that unique French style, it’s just a shame to see those things come first over today’s advanced safety items and a truly slick drive experience.
Do you think the Captur still has what it takes to duke it out with the small SUV segment leaders in Australia? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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.
This is one of the Captur’s strong suits. At least, on the outside. It comes with oodles of euro charm. I like its same-but-different approach to the Clio’s styling formula. The light fittings and grille insert are familiar but toughened up a little with SUV-specific flair. LED light fittings look the business, with their blue tinge contrasting the car’s orange and black, and the way the DRLs clasp the lower vents and echo into the bodywork is oh-so satisfying.
The black bumpers that ride over the wheelarches and expand around the sides of the car are a nice touch. Contrast chrome and silver plastics are applied tastefully. I’m not as keen on the rear of this car as I am on the front, but everything remains proportional, and the little spoiler that runs off the roof rounds the package out nicely.
Inside, things aren’t as great. It looks okay from a distance, as you’re hopping in, but once you’re there its easy to see this car’s flaws.
You’re confronted with this huge expanse of dashboard reaching out to the front of the car, void of any particular aesthetic treatment, and a swathe of boring, grey, hollow plastics off-set by chromes and silvers that look okay, but are not great to touch.
The dash cluster has a big chunky look, the same as the Clio, but it's still on an off-putting angle, with old-school, chunky red dials. The leather trim on the steering wheel is nice but doesn’t make up for the switchgear, which all feels a little more Fisher-Price than Fisher&Paykel.
Is there really an excuse for dials, switches and even a gearknob that have far too much movement in them, even when locked in position? It feels lazy. Those who have driven this car’s Korean and Japanese rivals will be accustomed to superior interior finishes by now.
I have to say, this criticism does not apply to the Captur’s seats, which are finished in a lovely, plush leather trim. They have good side-bolstering and a commanding position with great visibility. The same applies to the second row.
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 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.
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'.
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.
Those front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of room, but what’s up with the French and neglecting cabin storage? The Captur is a bit better in this regard compared to the Peugeot 208 I had the week before – which had poor excuses for cupholders and next to nothing in the doorcards – but still, it trails behind its rivals.
Front passengers get small cupholders in each door, a trench under the climate controls, a glovebox and a centre top-box tethered to the driver’s seat, which has possibly the smallest storage area inside it I’ve ever seen. You can fit maybe a slim wallet in there. I was a little frustrated by the clunky manual front-seat controls, which were hard to reach and operate. The Intens is a top-spec model, at least give the driver electric sliding adjust.
In the back you’ll get the same great seats as you do in the front, but rear passengers get even less useful bottle holders in the doors, some netting on the back of the front seats, and a neat trench in the middle that even has a 12V power supply, at the cost of legroom for the middle passenger.
There are no air vents back there, either. Legroom is okay for an SUV this size, but nothing impressive, while headroom was more than ample for my 182cm tall frame, despite the sunroof eating some of the ceiling.
Boot space comes in at a fairly decent 377L – comparing well to the 350L of the Fiat 500X, but not so well to the 410L boot of the Peugeot 2008. The Captur’s rear load space has a removable floor, so you can either boost the space to 455L, or a have flat floor with the second row folded flat, your choice.
In that second-row-down configuration, the Captur grants 1235L of space.
While Renault has made some significant improvements to its multimedia offering in the last few years, I found the Intens’ native system a bit clunky to use, and without the option for Apple CarPlay I was stuck with it.
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.
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.
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.
Price and features
The Captur comes with some great features, some not-so great features, and a few notable omissions. Let’s have a look.
Our Intens is the top of a two-variant range. Coming in at $29,990 (MSRP), you’ll get 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with Android Auto, but oddly no Apple CarPlay…), built-in sat-nav, auto LED lights front and rear with cornering fog lights, a fixed panoramic sunroof, leather-trimmed seats, with heated front ones, leather-trimmed steering wheel, 360-degree parking sensors, a reversing camera, ‘park assist’ auto parking, keyless entry with push-start, single-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
Not a bad set of equipment, but it’s also hardly a top-spec CX-3 or Hyundai Kona, which come with much more, albeit at a marginally higher price. It would be nice to at least see the inclusion of power-adjustable front seats.
Also, it’s incredibly confusing that this car doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay. It’s hardly excusable when it does come with Android Auto and, get this, the base model Zen gets a slightly different media system that does support Apple CarPlay at the cost of ‘enhanced’ built-in sat nav. Weird.
In its favour, the style items that the Captur comes with look fantastic. The two-tone colour scheme is standard on every car, even at Zen level (you can option a solid scheme if you really want) and the 17-inch alloys and little design touches on the exterior really add to this car’s appeal. Our car’s ‘Atacama Orange’ scheme is a $1000 option. The leather seat trim is excellent and well above average for this segment.
For the same money as the Captur Intens you can hop into similarly equipped and style focused euro rivals like the Fiat 500X Pop Star ($29,990) and Peugeot 2008 Allure ($29,990). The Volkswagen T-Roc and T-Cross are on their way to shake up this segment soon, so look out for those.
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.
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 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.
Engine & trans
In this incarnation, which Renault calls the ‘150 TCe’ – you’ll get 110kW/250Nm. This engine is leagues better than the slightly hopeless 88kW 1.2L engine that came before it and actually boosts the Captur’s outputs way ahead of its euro competition.
The Intens drives the front wheels only via a six-speed ‘EDC’ dual-clutch automatic transmission, which I wasn’t a fan of. Find out why in the driving segment of this review.
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 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.
The Captur Intens with its new engine carries a claimed/combined fuel consumption number of 5.4L/100km. Usually I struggle to hit anything below six without hybrid-assistance tech, although it was worth a shot given that this Renault also has stop-start technology and hardly weighs anything.
After a week of driving, though, the best I could muster was 7.2L/100km. The Captur’s on-board computer has a ‘Trip Report’ feature, which gives you an eco-score and analyses your driving behaviour. It’s kind of neat. I’m sure if you made a game out of it you could get this number down closer to 6.0L/100km.
You’ll need to fill the Captur’s 45-litre tank with at least 95RON mid-grade petrol.
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.
Okay, so the new engine is great. The Captur has plenty of punch now, some might say almost too much punch, as stomping on the accelerator will result in wheelspin and aggressive torque steer, thanks to peak torque availability from just 1600rpm. Still, it’s a welcome experience to drive a Captur that doesn’t feel breathless.
What lets down the experience is the transmission. I was genuinely surprised to find that the Captur is now equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch, as for most of my drive week it behaved with the clumsiness of a single-clutch automated manual. I thought these transmissions were a thing of the past, but despite its modern dual-clutch moniker, it was far too easy to catch the Captur in the wrong gear or, worse still, searching for the right one for far too long.
Even when driving in a straight line, shifts seemed slow compared with contemporary VW dual clutches; you could feel the Captur’s frame lurch forward slightly as it worked its way through each gear in a rather mechanical fashion.
Aside from the transmission marring the experience, the rest of the Captur offers a decent drive experience. The suspension feels just right up front, giving the small SUV a compliant ride, although it was a little stiff with its simple torsion-bar rear. It was easy to get the back dancing around over road imperfections.
That being said, driver and passenger comfort were decent, no matter what you heard the rear suspension getting up to, partially thanks to those great seats.
Steering was fast, but almost too light in some situations, and noise intrusion in the cabin was at acceptable levels, with the engine making itself largely unknown.
It’s tough for the little French SUV because there are significantly more popular and very good rivals in Australia’s market compared to Europe’s.
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.
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.
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.
In terms of more advanced features, the Captur Intens gets Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and… that’s it.
You get the regular suite of electronic stability aids, a reversing camera, and just four airbags.
Despite that, three-cylinder versions of the Captur carried maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings from 2013. This four-cylinder model has yet to be tested, but it’s hard to see how it can get close to a five-star rating with no additional active safety.
The now-expected auto emergency braking (AEB), Rear-Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane departure warning (LDW), Lane Keep Assist (LKAS), and active cruise features are all missing, even from the options list.
The Captur has two ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the two outboard rear seats and three top-tether mounts across the second row.
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.
Each of the three years the service cost is set at $349, with the addition of an air filter ($52) and a pollen filter ($60) every 24 months. That service cost is not terribly expensive, but also not cheap. You’re on your own after the three years of fixed pricing is up.