FORD Australia has confirmed it will double its marketing spend for its Escape
mid-size SUV compared with the under-performing Kuga it replaces, while
insisting it will become a more aggressive player in the fast-growing segment.
Despite being only a facelifted – and renamed – version of the model it
replaces, Ford has tagged the Escape as its most significant launch of the year
thanks primarily to an expanded line-up that it claims will reach 92 per cent
of medium SUV customers compared with 76 per cent previously.
The Escape mostly mirrors the three-tier line-up of its predecessor, however
above the $28,490 (plus on-road costs) manual and $29,990 automatic Ambiente
front-wheel-drive versions sits a new $32,990 Trend front-wheel-drive auto.
It wears an identical sticker price to the carry-over Kuga Ambiente
all-wheel-drive auto, but Ford argues the increased specification of the Trend
model grade will appeal to a greater number of buyers than fewer standard items
with four-wheel traction.
The $35,990 Trend and $44,990 Titanium all-wheel drive both also remain, with
diesel continuing as a $2500 option on each.
“From our perspective, it’s an aggressive approach in terms of the pricing, the
specification change and the exterior differentiation,” Ford Australia
marketing manager Danni Winter told GoAuto at the national media launch of the
Escape in Melbourne last week.
“(There is) a significant marketing spend behind it. We have never invested as
heavily in Kuga as we’re planning to for Escape, which we see as part of our
broad future, focusing on SUVs and commercial vehicles as a corporate strategy.
“I’ll be investing double what I did in the old model, but for us we have a job
to do in awareness.”
Ms Winter confessed that there were consumer awareness failings with the Kuga
in Australia, with some medium SUV buyers having not even realised that Ford
offered an entrant in the segment.
“We’re looking to grow our share within the segment, but we’re not targeting to
get to (number) one, two or three in the short term, it’s going to take time as
we build awareness of our nameplate in the market,” Ms Winter continued.
“There’s 28 competitors in the segment, and we’ve not been a significant
entrant in that segment for well over 10 years. The market is not necessarily
aware we have an entrant there (so) we need to get on the shopping list first,
and then the consumer can decide whether they like our product or a competitor
“But primarily we need to make consumers aware that we offer a (medium) SUV.
What we are planning for is continued and steady growth of the Escape nameplate
as we move forward from this year into outward years.”
Ms Winter declined to nominate why awareness of the Kuga was lacking, but she
added that “a new name will help (in) freshening our appearance to the market”.
Ford Australia has said that its name-switch from Kuga, as used in Europe, to
Escape used in the US, was primarily designed to align its global SUV naming
convention with the letter ‘E’ – adding to EcoSport, Edge (due 2018) and
However, Ms Winter conceded that the popularity of the Kuga in Europe meant it
would not be smart for that market to make the name switch.
Locally, the medium SUV segment soared by 11.6 per cent in 2016 to record
142,622 annual units. However, the Kuga’s 4395 sales were just 1.2 per cent
higher than 2015 and amounted to a 3.1 per cent segment share – well behind the
Mazda CX-5 (24,564 sales and 17.2 per cent share) and Toyota RAV4 (19,526 sales
and 13.7 per cent share) class leaders.
Despite the significant sales catch-up job, Ms Winters maintained it would not
heavily discount the new Escape or increase its fleet sales, insisting that
growth for its medium SUV offering would come from retail sales.
“We’re expecting sales to grow over time (so) we’re not going to invest heavily
in discounting the car, we’re looking for a good growth trajectory in terms of
our volume and share,” she said.
“We’re not going to get into discount games with fleet customers, our product
stands on its own and we’ll continue to price it appropriately as the market
Ford Australia said that in addition to the name change and revised line-up,
the Escape benefits most from renewed styling that adopts a new front-end
fascia with sharper headlight and grille treatments, and narrower tail-lights.
It also has spruiked the across-the-range inclusion of its 8.0-inch colour
touchscreen with Sync3 software including digital radio, an Apple
CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring feature and integrated satellite
navigation as a major selling feature in addition to other safety technology.
However, just one month after Ford was heavily criticised by industry safety
body ANCAP for failing to offer active cruise control, low-speed autonomous
emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor or lane-keep assistance on its
Mustang coupe, it has again not included these features as standard on any
The above list continues to only be available on Trend and Titanium as part of
a Technology Pack previously offered for $1600 but now a $1300 extra. Compared
with the Kuga’s Technology Pack, the AEB now works to 50km/h (previously
30km/h) while rear cross-traffic alert has also been added.
The Escape also retains the Kuga’s five-star ANCAP safety rating.
There are no major chassis changes over the existing MacPherson strut front and
multi-link independent rear suspension setup, and only a single
efficiency-enhancing engine change.
The Ambiente manual continues to utilise a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder engine
with the same 110kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm between 1600rpm and 5000rpm, weighing
1559kg and claiming carry-over combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.3 litres
per 100 kilometres.
The six-speed automatic version produces 134kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm between
1600rpm and 5000rpm, weighing 1550kg and claiming 7.2L/100km. All-wheel-drive
kerb weight rises to 1668kg, with consumption of 7.5L/100km.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel, front and rear foglights, cruise control,
dual-zone climate control and 8.0-inch touchscreen with digital radio,
satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring
technology are standard. The 17-inch steel wheels with hubcaps signify this as
the base SUV.
The 1607kg Trend front-wheel drive auto is also rated at 7.5L/100km with the
same 1.5-litre turbo, and it adds 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights
and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and leather-trimmed gearshifter. An
automatic hands-free tailgate is bundled with keyless auto-entry with
push-button start as a $1200 option.
The 1719kg Trend all-wheel drive upgrades to a significantly revised (with new
block, pistons and twin-scroll turbocharger) 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
petrol engine, yet it makes the same 178kW at 5500rpm and 345Nm from 2000rpm to
4500rpm as before. Its 8.6L/100km consumption is down 0.2L.
The 1746kg Trend all-wheel drive includes a carry-over 2.0-litre turbo-diesel
four-cylinder with 132kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm between 2000rpm and 2500rpm and a
The same petrol and diesel duo are available for $44,990 and $47,490 in
flagship Titanium specification respectively.
Additional equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, front parking sensors with
automatic reverse-park assistance, swiveling bi-Xenon headlights, power-fold
door mirrors, LED tail-lights, hands-free electric tailgate, panoramic glass
roof, keyless auto-entry, ambient interior lighting, nine-speaker Sony audio
system, and leather trim with heated front seats and a power adjustable driver’
As with the Kuga, all Escapes include a 406-litre boot that can be expanded to
1603L with the rear-seat folded.