The US market Ford Escape hints at what Europe can expect from the Kuga next year. It offers more style and driving fun than its predecessor, but is just as functional

What is it?

The compact SUV segment is one of the biggest and most competitive in the market, with entries ranging from the Toyota RAV4 to the Chevrolet Equinox in the US. Ford's Escape has always been a solid and reliable performer, but one trading charm and comfort for yeoman functionality.

The redesigned Escape, virtually identical to the Kuga that Europeans will get, is a very different animal. As the latest model to be transformed by the company's 'One Ford' product strategy, it now shares the same platform as the Focus and C-Max, albeit stretched by four inches.

What's it like?

Compared with the previous, truck-like Escape, the new SUV is a bit lower, permitting Ford designers to sculpt a much more appealing body, more in line with the firm's current car range. Nose on, it is now more hot hatch than bluff 4x4, with a sweeping, almost coupé-like curve to the roofline while still maintaining good visibility. 

Even more impressive is the way Ford has reworked the cabin. That's particularly noteworthy for Europeans used to the drab and somewhat confined cabin of the old Kuga. The new model is not only more spacious but also decidedly upmarket; our Titanium edition was finished in leather, with accents of chrome and piano black, making it easy to forget this is a 'utility' vehicle.

The new model gets a largely new powertrain line-up. In the US, the V6 and hybrid vanish, replaced by the two Ecoboost alternatives: a 1.6-litre unit delivering 176bhp and 184lb ft, and a 2.0-litre version bumping that to 237bhp and 270lb ft. Europeans will initially get 138bhp and 161bhp versions of Ford's 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which will have the option of a Powershift dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and a 148bhp 1.6-litre Ecoboost. 

The bigger of the Ecoboost engines in our all-wheel-drive Escape Titanium proved smooth, quiet and capable, with a nice hint of throaty rumble under full acceleration. The overall drive experience is markedly improved when compared with both the old, truck-like Escape and the outgoing Kuga. It's markedly more fun to drive, with surprisingly nimble manners that belie our test version's kerb weight of 1720kg.

Should I buy one?

The new Escape/Kuga twins should give buyers a reason to place a Ford on their shopping list.

It's a giant leap for the Blue Oval that rises above most of the competition. The downside? There's a hefty premium for the fully loaded Escape, but considering what you're getting, it's hard to quibble with the price. 

Paul Eistenstein

Ford Escape

Price: £29,000 (est); 0-62mph: 7.0sec (est); Top speed: 135mph (est); Economy: 29.0mpg (combined, est); CO2: 230g/km (set); Kerb weight: 1720kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1999cc, turbo, petrol; Power: 237bhp; Torque: 270lb ft; Gearbox: 6-spd automatic


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Lee23404 24 May 2012

Quite like the exterior but

Quite like the exterior but that interior, wow what a mess.

Some people complain that German interiors are boring, often siting the Golf as an example. That may be right, but they are easy to live with an use. I'd bet that the dash on this car is anything but easy to use, or live with day to day.

TegTypeR 24 May 2012

Not as bigger compromise as it could have been.

This model has clearly been designed to fit the "One Ford" banner but on the whole I think it is a good job and certainly no worse than a lot of competitor products out there.

The first Kuga (I would guess) was conceived to be like the original RAV4 - compact, sporting and good fun.  The package was a little compromised in the boot department but other than that it was / is a good product.

In fact there is a house near me that has a white Evoque and a white Kuga and the Ford does not look like the poor relation.

This new one certainly wouldn't fair as well in the same situation, it is too big and bloated to my eyes compared to the old one but it looks interesting without being awkward (read Grand C-Max) and the cabin doesn't seem as bigger mess as the Focus.

EssexFish 24 May 2012

Quite like it.

I quite like it, just goes to show people don't like somehting that is a little different syling wise.., unless it's got a German badge on it of course! The German premium cars may have better quality materials in them, doesn't stop them from breaking down and being less reliable than Ford's or Hyundi's for example.

I'm proabably Bias but I have one of the new C-Max's and apart from some lower quality plastics on the lower cabin the interior is nice, it's a lot more interesting place to be than the drab Golf! Hired one for a weekned and though I was going to kill my self by the end of it. So dull so grey, so characterless!