Home' Open Road North Shore : OR0117 Contents WITH SALES of its mid-sized SUV only
accounting for about 3-4 per cent of the
market in Australia, Ford has decided to
rebadge the all-new Kuga as an Escape
in the hope that nostalgia will make
Australians think of it more favourably.
It’s a smart marketing move, backed up
with an excellent product that has broad
appeal and a cheaper starting price
than the outgoing Kuga.
This is the first Ford Escape since 2012
and it has four turbocharged engine
options: two 1.5 -litre four-cylinder petrol
engines, a 2.0 -litre petrol and a 2.0 -litre
diesel. We tested all bar the base 1.5-litre
in a short drive loop around the Yarra
Valley and all three were impressive.
The diesel (132kW/400Nm) is quiet,
powerful and has no lag, the 2.0 -litre
petrol (178kW/345Nm) is beefy and
smooth, and the 1.5 -litre unit
(134kW/240Nm) offers unexpectedly
good performance, although it sounds
thrashy under hard acceleration.
Exterior styling updates include a new
bonnet, bumpers and wheel designs and
it looks sharp without being too
geometric or overdesigned. The interior
is another matter; it’s all edges and
weird angles and has a gloomy,
industrial atmosphere. The light blue
needles on the analogue gauges are
pretty, though, and it’s hard to stop
squeezing the padded steering wheel.
The entry-level Ambiente gets a
110kW/240Nm 1.5 -litre engine with
manual transmission and front-wheel-
drive. Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment
system, sat nav and dual-zone climate
control are standard across the range.
The SYNC system has been calibrated
to better understand Australian accents
and is compatible with Apple CarPlay
and Android Auto. The only really
disappointing thing on the Ambiente is
its scratchy cloth upholstery.
Moving up the range adds leather
seats, all-wheel-drive and automatic
transmission. Handling, especially in the
all-wheel-drive versions, is close to best
in class, but bump absorption is also
good. The seats don’t disappoint, either
– even the back ones are well shaped for
comfort. Up-spec models also get
airline-style foldaway trays.
Underbody clearance remains good in
this Escape, although the approach angle
will set how adventurous it can get off-
road. A sloping roof, wheel arches and
the rear seats limit cargo space to 406
litres, which is one of the few drawbacks
in an otherwise fine SUV. – Kris Ashton
Pros: Three superb engines; top-class
ride and handling; decent value
Cons: Cheap upholstery on base model;
limited cargo space; ugly dashboard
One of the best-selling SUVs from the noughties is making a comeback
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder Transmission:
six-speed manual Power: 110kW Torque: 240Nm
Fuel consumption: 6.3L/100km (claimed) ANCAP:
Not yet tested Price: From $28,490 (plus ORC)
DNA. For me, that’s to its detriment as it
doesn’t really gel with the new rear.
The interior’s makeover is most
obvious in the tidier centre console
stack, where the MyLink system replaces
the myriad of buttons. Materials remain
mostly black, but chrome accents and
glossy surfaces are now more prevalent.
The plastic steering wheel in the base
model is not as awful as the one in the
Cruze of bygone years, but no one is
going to mistake it for faux leather.
Front seat comfort is excellent and
finding a comfortable driving position is
no trouble. The controls are intuitive and,
even though it’s a German-designed car,
the indicator stalk is on the right (hurrah!).
The Astra’s 360-litre cargo space
expands to 1210 litres with the seats
down. It has unusually good rearward
vision, which reflects a clever element of
the Astra’s new design: a ‘gap’ between
the C-pillar and the roof suggests
rakishness while retaining practicality.
The all-aluminium 1.4-litre is a zippy
thing with enough high range torque to
fill its lungs for rolling acceleration. The
1.6 is a genuine performance engine (it
now develops 300Nm on overboost) and
has a meatier feel underfoot than the 1.4 .
In auto form, however, both engines
are laggy off the line and upon hard
acceleration, yet paddle shifters aren’t
offered. Those seeking a sporty drive
should opt for the manual.
The car does offer an enviable
compromise between sporty ride and
bump absorption, but the steering is less
convincing. It’s very light off centre and
that robs it of some immediacy on twisty
roads. Torque vectoring also adds an
artificial feel in corners. It’s far from a
terrible setup, but it’s like Holden was
trying to please everyone and ended up
with something neither here nor there.
While the Astra is perhaps not as
premium as Holden is trying to make out
(some customers might also baulk at the
starting price), it’s more desirable than a
Hyundai i30 or a Toyota Corolla and
better value than a Mazda3 or VW Golf.
It’s safe to say the Astra is back with a
vengeance. – Kris Ashton
The dash has lots of
function but little form.
Pros: Two good engines; sporty and
practical; lots of goodies on base model
Cons: Not quite as refined as best in
class; plastic steering wheel on base
model; rear seats unsuited to long drives
13/12/2016 6:10 pm
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