Success, in the 2015 Ford Escape’s case. In fact, the Ford Escape has been the best selling compact ute nearly since its arrival in 2000 as a 2001. The funny thing is that the Escape has never really made it on anyone’s recommended buy list, yet it’s crushed its competitors repeatedly -- and continues to do so.
In fact, it’s been on the receiving end of numerous service bulletins and recalls, but the fact remains that what it does well (when it’s doing it) is being a good family-do-anything hauler. Despite its checkered recent past, the completely revamped for 2013 Escape delivers on styling, performance, and amenities. But don’t be thinking that it’s the bargain it once was.
I’d not driven the Escape since 2013, and my memory had not failed me. The Ford Escape is a better-than-decent way to get around with family or friends. This compact utility vehicle poses no specific shortcomings nor does it excel at anything in particular. This might be its greatest strength as its limited-compromise nature makes it immensely appealing. And although I tried to fault it, I could not point the finger at anything in particular.
Because you really don’t have much of a choice. If AWD is on your list of must-haves, the base 2.5L 4-cylinder becomes unavailable. On paper, its fuel consumption numbers are high and the 1.6L EcoBoost SE FWD is $2,500 more at $26,299 for a little less gas and more power. For another $2,200, the SE 1.6L AWD is the model to opt for.
The 1.6L generates 178 horsepower (on premium fuel) and 184 lb-ft of torque, which is more than reasonable. The build-up here leads to the turbocharged 2.0L engine that is optionally available on the SE with AWD for $29,699. At 240 horsepower (with Super) and 270 lb-ft of torque, moving forward with vigour is easy to do. Or so it should be.
My tested Titanium AWD Escape including Technology and Canadian Touring packages and other options retailed for $40,099. This is a princely sum, but the fact is that this compact utility vehicle is decked to the nines. By comparison, a previously thought to be unattainable Volkswagen Tiguan Highline with options retails for $41,565.
The Escape’s 2.0L is lovely once underway. The standard-for-all 6-speed automatic transmission operates smoothly except from a standstill where it resists throttle inputs for a brief moment. This “lag” is very temporary and once engine speed encroaches on 3,000 rpm, torque does its job and the CUV gets going. The slushbox does have manual controls located on the shifter should that be a purchase criteria.
The Ford’s not quick, more like brisk or at least not as exciting as the engine’s stats would suggest. Midrange is where the mill is happiest and just part of the power band is brief. If you’re into towing stuff, the Escape will haul up to 3,500 lbs if properly prepared for the task.
On the road, the electric power-assisted steering feels disconnected from the front wheels, but precision and response are suitable. The brakes are up to the task for the daily grind including daycare and groceries. Where fuel consumption is concerned, I was mildly disappointed with my 12.5L/100km average.
Also virtuous are the Escape’s ride and handling. It’s a good bit sportier than what you’ll find in the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and the Chevrolet Equinox. The Mazda CX-5 currently holds the title of Sportiest of the Sporty. In essence, the Escape holds the middle ground that’s pretty much what the average consumer is looking for. Lean into corners is controlled; all in all, it feels firmly stuck to the tarmac.
On the subject of looks, the Ford is certainly handsome and very European in design. The higher the trim, the more attractive it gets, as well. Its optional 19” wheels, chrome, gloss black and specific body-colour accents give the Titanium a distinguished appearance over that of the S and SE trims.
The cabin’s layout is all about design and function. Some of the switchgear requires more attention than others such as the ones behind the shifter that control the HVAC. Instruments are clear and legible and the redundant buttons on the steering wheel are straightforward.
The partial leather/cloth seats are supportive and plenty comfortable. The rear bench is roomy and the trunk, with 971 litres of available volume with the rear seats up, is very large. Throwing the seats down increases the capacity to 1,920 litres.
Ford’s SYNC technology (one of the better systems after FCA’s Uconnect) remains user-friendly and is easy to adapt to.
Escape to your Ford dealership
Should you choose to do so, stop by your local Mazda dealer to look into the CX-5. Its shortcoming is its small-ish trunk; otherwise it’s equal or better than the Ford. The new 2016 Hyundai Tucson could also fit the bill. There are many options in this segment so don’t necessarily be swayed by what all your neighbours are driving.