Pat Devereux 10 July 2012

First drive: the US Ford Escape

Hold on, isn’t that a Ford Kuga? Yes, but not in America... Pat Devereux reports

Ford Escape

Ford Escape? Looks like a Ford Kuga?

Well spotted. It’s called the Escape in the US, but this car will be the new 2013 Kuga too. It’s all part of the company’s One Ford policy that calls for as much product sharing around the world as possible. It might look like a subtle update for the European market, but it’s a huge update for the US market. The last Escape was introduced in 2008 and is almost 80s Volvo-esque in its boxy design. It’s still popular though, with over 25,000 sold each month in the US. So the new car has plenty to do saleswise in the US and the UK.

So what are the main differences between this and the current Kuga?

Apart from the revised looks, this new car is lower, narrower and longer than the current car. The wheelbase remains the same. There’s more interior space, particularly in the second row and rear. And the quality of the interior has taken a step up.

Sounds good. It needs more room in the back. Any other new bits?

A few. There’s the clever rear door opener. You just have to swipe your foot under the tailgate and, as long as you have the key fob in your pocket, the rear door opens. Also works to close it too when you’ve got your hands full. There’s also an automatic parking system which was less successful on the pre-production car we drove. Out of six attempts it parked the car successfully, ie parallel to the kerb, twice. The other four times it ended up facing into the road.

Probably won’t bother with that, then. What about the engines?

No, we wouldn’t either unless it gets much better quickly. As for the engines, there will be the trusty 2.0-litre turbodiesel from the current Kuga with a few tweaks. Plus a new 1.6-litre Ecoboost petrol unit. We haven’t tried the latter but know that the diesel is a great motor, so think that’ll probably still be the one to go for.

And how does it drive?

Very well. It now feels more like a mini MPV than a small SUV. It’s lost some of the Kuga’s friskiness, but none of its control. The wind noise is less than on the current Kuga, too. The central info screen feels a little far away from your fingertips, but voice control works well enough to make that not an issue. We didn’t event try taking our 4WD test car off-road – and suggest that it might be wise to leave it that way. Unless we lived in an area with bad weather we’d opt for the 2WD. Lighter, cheaper and better.

Should I buy one then?

If you want a small SUV with MPV style flexibility and a first class cabin, yes. There will be cheaper alternatives but few better ones. 

The cost

$36,000 (as tested in top Titanium 2.0-litre AWD trim)

The numbers

2,000cc, 4cyl, AWD, 240bhp, 270lb-ft, 26mpg, CO2 n/a, 0-60mph (est) 7.5secs, 120mph (est), 1590kg


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