AUSTRALIANS are buying medium-sized SUVs in record numbers. Many of the new owners are refugees from large cars and youngish families looking for more flexibility.
There looks to be something for everyone in the class, from China's Haval price fighter through to the full luxury Porsche Macan.
So where does the Ford Escape sit and how does it rate after a revamp and update this year?
Ali: Are you sure this is a new car? It reminds me a lot of something else we've had.
Paul: That would be the Kuga. This is the updated model, with a new name but much like it was last year. Escape is actually an older name, brought back.
Ali: That's right, the one in the ad with the giant sprinkler. Well, my first impression is that it's pretty big, and gunmetal grey like the undercoat for army tanks.
Paul: That's not very flattering for a car that competes against the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Ali: So we're the target market for this one, the three of us in our family? I like that it's five-star safety and the starting price seems pretty good, less than $30,000, compared to the other two. It must be deliberate that it's just a little under the Mazda, and a lot less than the Tiguan, but who leaves the showroom without picking up some sort of extras?
Paul: This one is the Trend, which means $34,990 drive-away, with an EcoBoost engine and front-wheel drive.
Ali: I don't care what sort of drive it has but I'm guessing the EcoBoost means it's one of those baby turbos that give good economy but can also haul a family wagon around.
Ali: This thing is much bigger than I thought. I'm saying it again but it's a bit of a tank. It feels more like a Toyota Kluger to me than a CX-5.
Paul: But isn't that a good thing, because we're really rattling around with only three of us? Even with Eli's bike and skateboard in the back it's got plenty of extra space.
Eli: Yes, I like it.
Ali: You could definitely fit a baby's Mountain Buggy pram in the back without any trouble.
Paul: But I'm not loving the dashboard or the controls. It's big and chunky and aggressive, yet all the buttons are tiny.
Ali: It's only got cloth seats but I suppose that's down to the price. I like the big plastic floor mats but I bet they cost extra.
Paul: Actually, they don't.
Paul: It's surprisingly brisk with only a 1.5-litre engine but the fuel consumption really drops if you put your foot down. And that's you.
Ali: Ha-ha. But what about the turning circle, it's terrible. No wonder it has parking assistance. The audio is pretty good and it has standard satnav, it's got a big screen, and any car with Apple Carplay scores a point from me. And it's got a CD player, which is good with some of Eli's educational things.
Paul: It's fairly quiet but the suspension thumps on potholes and the steering is vague.
Ali: It's a functional vehicle and that shows in the daily chores. The boot is big and easy to load, the rear camera is good but I notice there are no front parking sensors.
Paul: And Ford makes a big deal about the hands-free tailgate - swipe your foot under the bumper and it's "open sesame” - but it's an option. While we're at it, I don't like that the really good safety gear - auto safety braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control - is also optional, even if the package has been cut from $1600 to $1300.
Ali: It's not my pick for a relaxing drive in the country but it would be good to take camping.
Paul: We'd have to stick close to the bitumen with the front-wheel drive. The towing capacity is all right and the economy is better when you get away from the stop-start traffic.
Ali: And it has enough space for a couple of Eli's friends, with all their toys.
Eli: I like that my scooter fits in the back, not alongside me in those baby cars, and it doesn't whack me in the head.
Paul: It seems to have all the stuff we need but it's a bit bland for me.
Ali: It feels like a car you would buy to run for 10 years. It's functional for a family but it's not as nice as a Tiguan.
Ali: Yes. For the family market and people who just want a car to be a car, it works.
Paul: It's not my favourite but it gets over the line. So it's The Tick for me too.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $34,990 drive-away (not the cheapest).
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km (on par).
SERVICING $1155, 3 years (on par).
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 132kW/400Nm (above avg).
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags (basic - more gear in $1300 option pack).
THIRST 7.2L/100km (not bad).
SPARE Space-saver (not ideal).
BOOT SPACE 406L/1603L (ample).