Ford has announced its new midsized SUV will revert to the Escape name previously worn by the model-sharing project with Mazda, and the name used in international markets.
That means the Escape will effectively replace the Ford Kuga, which currently flies the flag for the Blue Oval in the medium SUV market in Australia.
Along with the new name comes a new lower starting price, with customers now requiring at least $28,490 plus on-road costs to get into the new Ford SUV.
That amount will secure the entry-level Escape Ambiente manual variant, powered by a 110kW/240Nm 1.5 litre EcoBoost four-cylinder petrol engine (running on 95 RON premium fuel - and boosted to 134kW/240Nm with the automatic transmission) sending power to the front wheels.
Matched with stop-start technology and a six-speed manual, the Ambiente carries an official fuel figure of 6.3 l/100km. The Ambiente is also available with a six-speed auto in both front- and all-wheel-drive.
Above the Ambiente sits the Escape Trend. For 2017, a new Trend variant will offer the additional fruit of the mid-spec model with the powertrain of the entry-level offering, priced from $32,990 plus on-roads.
That means buyers can now opt for the Trend at a lower price, provided they are happy with the 134kW/240Nm 1.5 litre engine and FWD only. Ford says this new Trend variant will appeal to around one third of customers shopping in the midsized SUV segment.
Other Trend models are powered by a 178kW/345Nm 2.0 litre EcoBoost petrol engine or a 132kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo-diesel, both matched with a six-speed automatic, with power going to all four wheels.
The same 2.0 litre powerplants (both petrol and diesel) are available in the range-topping Escape Titanium, which is only available in AWD with the six-speed automatic transmission and priced from $44,990 plus on-roads.
Changes for the Escape over the Kuga include an updated look inside and out, paddle shifters for auto-equipped models and improved fuel economy for 2.0 litre petrol models - which now have standard stop-start technology.
Other features, depending on the model, include folding rear tray tables, rear air vents, electronic park brake, hands-free powered tailgate, keyless entry and up to 1603 litres of storage space.
Like much of Ford’s fleet in Australia, the SYNC 3 infotainment system with Ford Applink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be standard in the new Escape as Ford looks to fast-track SYNC 3’s rollout across the local range.
Standard safety features include seven airbags, electronic stability control, ISOFIX anchor points, reversing camera, rollover mitigation, and parking sensors. Ford describes the Escape’s safety credentials as “5-star” - which matches the outgoing Kuga’s rating from ANCAP - although ANCAP is yet to rate the new model.
Ford’s Active City Stop (autonomous emergency braking) in the Escape works at speeds of up to 50km/h - up from 30km/h in the Kuga.
“The Escape will follow the formula set by the Ford Kuga as a family friendly, fuel-efficient and five-star safety rated SUV,” Ford Australia CEO, Graeme Whickman, said.
“We’ve responded to calls for a broader line-up, with the front-wheel-drive Trend giving consumers an even more compelling SUV offering, and with sharpened [pricing] across the range.”
As the final Territory has already rolled down the production line, the carmaker looks all but certain to introduce the Ford Edge to fill the void in its local line-up.
NOTE: Overseas model pictured, Australian images to follow
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
2017 FORD ESCAPE (all models six-speed automatic unless stated otherwise)
- 1.5L FWD six-speed manual - $28,490
- 1.5L FWD - $29,990
- 1.5L AWD - $32,990
- 1.5L FWD - $32,990
- 2.0L EcoBoost AWD - $35,990
- 2.0L TDCi AWD - $38,490
- 2.0L EcoBoost AWD - $44,990
- 2.0L TDCi AWD - $47,490