Ford has used the 2000 Sydney International Motor Show as the launch platform to introduce its new Escape SUV to Australian buyers.

Available to US buyers since August, the small all-terrain Escape 'wagon' will go on sale in Australia in March 2001 with Ford's 3.0 litre 'Duratec' V6 engine and automatic transmission as standard.

Australians will be offered the chance to Escape with the choice of two trim levels. The base XLS has standard air conditioning, power locks and windows and fold-flat rear seating. The XLT adds such features as a large centre console, anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette and 60/40 split rear seating.

"Escape is going to appeal to a wide variety of customers, including those who would never have thought of purchasing a four-wheel-drive style vehicle before," Ford Australia manager of small cars and all-terrain wagons, Stephen Kruk said.