The Ford Escape falls into the compact crossover range and sits below the larger and more expensive Ford Explorer within that market. It came to market in 2001 and received a mild facelift in 2006 and 2008. The overall design was right with the times when it was first released, though there is a feeling with subsequent models that it has been left behind somewhat by the competition.
The Escape is built on the Ford CD2 platform – which is based on the Mazda 626 platform. As a result, the Escape, perhaps unsurprisingly, shares much in common with the Mazda Tribute, which was on sale here until 2006 before it was replaced by the superior CX-7.
The interior styling of the Escape is rather simple compared to some of its competitors. A luxury offering this is not, though it does what it needs to perfectly well.
The Escape is not the largest of 4x4s and, therefore, not the heaviest either, but this doesn’t detract from its handling on a decent range of challenging terrains. The high-profile tyres result in a relatively relaxed ride, assisted by a decently powerful engine. Later models include a 2.3L petrol, delivering a rather disappointing 109kW of power. However, their lack of poke is offset somewhat by their superior ride and handling when compared to the first-generation models. Transmission is via a 4-speed automatic gearbox. There is more power available for the taking in the higher-spec models, however. A 3.0L V6 engine produces 152kW at 6000rpm and 276Nm of torque at 4750rpm.
The Escape is driven via the front wheels on its standard setting and automatically engages four-wheel drive if it detects traction loss at the front. Four-wheel drive can also be set manually at the touch of a button.
Following the arrival of the Ford Kuga to take the place of the second-generation Escape, 2013 saw the release of a third-generation model with a number of new additions, including turbocharged EcoBoost technology, which delivers greatly improved fuel economy. This heralded the end of the hybrid Escape, which had been on the market between 2005 and 2012.
The Escape has plenty of ground clearance, at 215mm, meaning it has no troubles on some pretty tough terrain, faring better on this front than its competitors, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol. That’s not to say that the Escape is the sprightliest over the rocks – there are heavier duty vehicles than this – but it certainly holds its own within its niche. Fuel economy for the 2.3L model is a respectable combined 10.5L/100km. Official figures from Ford put the 3.0L V6’s economy at 12.2L/100km, though tests have reported this coming in closer to the 14.5L/100km mark and upwards.
Overall, the build is good and the interior strong, if relatively simple. The driving position is high and comfortable in the Escape, providing excellent visibility thanks to intelligent positioning of both the seating and mirrors. There is plenty of legroom up front but less so in the rear, especially when the front seats are pushed back. Three small children will fit in the rear comfortably – older and larger, and it’s best to stick with two.
Anti-lock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution both come as standard along with side and head thorax airbags The Escape rates well for front and side impact tests, as well as for rear crash protection, and it ranks decently overall for safety other than receiving a marginal to poor rating for roof strength tests.
Competition to the Escape comes from Ford’s own stable in the form of the larger and better-known Ford Territory and Expedition. It also has much in common with the Mazda Tribute, its sibling car that was another product of the Ford-Mazda collaboration. Other competition comes in the form of the Nissan Patrol and Toyota Land Cruiser, both of which are topped by the Escape in terms of ground clearance and consequent ability to handle tougher terrain with relative ease.