Ford Escape ST-Line X FHEV car review
One week living with the Ford Escape FHEV.
The Ford Escape is medium-sized SUV that comes in hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Ford let us take the highest spec model, the ST-Line X, in hybrid form to use as a daily driver for the week.
First impressions - what’s the difference between a PHEV and FHEV?
First things first, the term FHEV sounds the same as PHEV (plug-in hybrid) when it rolls off the tongue. Make no mistake though, this model is a hybrid and you don’t need to plug it in to recharge the battery. FHEV stands for Full Hybrid Electric Vehicle; it’s the latest tech that some car companies are across with their latest and greatest versions of hybrid cars (though it may be named differently). In practice, this means that FHEVs can tackle more electric-only driving than you’d typically expect, that’s if you’ve experienced driving mild hybrids before. Temper your expectations though, it’s not the 40-60km you can get from a PHEV – you just notice it.
The main advantage of the Ford Escape FHEV over the PHEV is that you can buy this version in all-wheel drive (AWD) whereas the PHEV only comes in 2WD. Not that makes too much of a difference though, most of the time, the AWD will power you around in 2WD through the front wheels until it detects that you need it elsewhere. Anyway, that’s enough acronyms for now.
The car itself appears more compact from the outside than it feels on the inside. The main thing contributing to that feeling of space is the panoramic sunroof. I insisted on having the sunshade open at all times because I really like the natural light pouring in. The cabin is nice, modern and feels well put together. The stereo is also very good, as you’d expect from the top model.
The ST-Line X badge means it’s the highest spec and costs $60,000. It can qualify for a $1975 rebate until 1 July 2023, after that, it will neither attract a rebate or a fee.
How we test
Each vehicle we trial gets given the same treatment – a week of commuting in rush hour from Lower Hutt to Consumer HQ (28km round trip), a trip to the supermarket and a drive over the Remutaka hill and back to see how it goes on a longer weekend trip. In total makes for about 270km of motoring.
We record fuel use, both actual and on the trip computer, and measure electricity usage where appropriate with PHEVs and EVs. The actual fuel use is measured by filling the tank to the brim at the start of the trial and then again at the end and comparing numbers – it’s an inexact science that we use as a check, but it’s also a real-world test.
Ford do a great suite of driver aids to make commuting a doddle. The lane centring and adaptive cruise control almost reduces you to more passenger than driver. Sharper corners or very heavy rain will cancel the system however, so you can’t relax entirely. Still, I feel like I have to work particularly hard in my daily driver (a 2018 Holden Commodore) now that I’ve returned the Escape.
I connected my phone up via Bluetooth but wondered if most people should just use the wired Apple CarPlay or Android Auto instead. Why? Because the car automatically started playing music from my library when I jumped in the car and started it. This mightn’t be an issue for some, but I only have one song in mine. When I first got a credit card in my university days, I purchased “Now you’re gone” by Basshunter on my iTunes as it was an absolute banger. It still is, but the Escape played it every time I hopped in the car, and most would agree 7am is an inappropriate time for Basshunter on repeat. I’d forget the Bluetooth if I owned it.
After a week of commuting, the trip computer gave me a readout of 6.4L/100km.
The FHEV is a great one for carting around all the grocery store items you need for the week with a boot that’s plenty big enough, and an auto tailgate for hands-free operation. It feels compact when parking it, and the car will park itself if you don’t have the confidence to do it yourself.
A hybrid usually has more room in the boot than the PHEV equivalent and the Escape is no exception. That said, it isn’t drastic – the FHEV boot has an extra 39L of volume (claimed 556L) when compared with the PHEV (claimed 517L).
Since this wasn’t my first rodeo in an Escape, I knew I’d enjoy the ride on a longer trip, and it was very pleasant indeed. I did pay more attention to other areas though. Namely, I noticed I couldn’t really stretch out my legs for a rest when driving. You sit more upright, like an armchair with your legs only slightly extended to reach the pedals. The trip was an hour each way, and I didn’t have any comfort issues, but think about it if you have very long pins and go on big journeys.
I’d previously tested a white PHEV and had an issue viewing the white font on the heads-up display (HUD) unit. This is probably more of a me problem – something to do with my height resulting in steeper angle when looking at the screen, so the bonnet was the backdrop to the HUD. This time, my Escape was in “‘Rapid Red”’ and the text was easier to see. Something to bear in mind if you’re very tall but probably not an issue for 99% of buyers.
The open road was where the Escape FHEV was at its most economical, returning 5.7L/100km on the trip computer.
Just like the PHEV, I really liked my time in the FHEV Escape. It’s not as quiet and serene as the other model I drove – you know you’re in a car with a petrol engine – but it’s still a smooth ride that does everything you need it to do in comfort with a nice cabin. I personally prefer the PHEV, but if you can’t charge your car each night, or can’t be bothered with all the faff (hybrids are just easy), or couldn’t fathom a car without AWD, then this one is worth a look.
Ford claims 5.6L/100km for the FHEV. The trip computer said we got 6.0L, our actual fuel usage suggested 6.2L/100km. Up until the longer trip, the trip computer was reading at 6.4L/100km so the roadie brought down the average.
The vehicle was kindly lent to us by Ford NZ
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