1 Feb 2001
By CHRIS HARRIS
THIS was Ford’s response to the growing compact 4WD/SUV market personified by the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
Ford-controlled Mazda developed it, although the Escape was primarily designed for the SUV-crazy North American market.
The Mazda Tribute is the Escape’s fraternal twin, and is built alongside it by Mazda in Japan. However the Ford differed visually from its cousin, and was a V6-only vehicle at a time when the Tribute was also offered in a 2.0-litre four-cylinder manual model.
It was essentially a transverse engine front-wheel drive four-door compact wagon with unitary body construction, five seats and some interior versatility.
Three models were offered initially – base XLS, mid-range XLT and luxury Limited – and all were powered by a 3.0-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 mated solely to a column-shift four-speed electronically controlled automatic gearbox.
Every Escape featured dual front airbags, air-conditioning, power windows, power steering, remote central locking and roof racks.
From early ’03 the BA Escape was changed to ZA Escape – presumably to avoid confusion with the then-new BA Falcon – while the base XLS gained anti-lock brakes, power mirrors, improved seats, 16-inch wheels and new colours, as well as a host of minor trim alterations.
The XLS now boasts power mirrors, full cloth trim, driver's seat lumbar support, driver's seat height adjustment, 16-inch wheels and H-rated 235/70 R16 tyres.
The ZA upgrade sees the addition of ABS anti-lock braking as standard on the XLS and the introduction of two new colours – Mediterranean Blue and Island White.
When it was new