By Eric Peters- Ford made headlines recently when it announced it was going to stop making cars — except for a few, like the Mustang — and focus instead on trucks and SUVs.
There is a reason for this.
Pick-ups and SUVs make Ford lots money. The cars didn’t. In fact, Ford sells almost as many Escapes — the blue oval’s compact SUV — as it does F-150 pickups, which is the bestselling vehicle on the market.
So there’s a lot tied up in the success of the Escape — which is new from the wheels up for the 2020 model year.
What It Is
The Escape is Ford’s very popular compact crossover SUV. It seats five in two rows and — unusual for the class — is available with your pick of four different drivetrains, including three- and four-cylinder engines paired with either FWD or AWD — and two hybrid gas-electric drivetrains, one plug-in and one not.
Also unusual is the Escape’s available all-wheel-drive system — which can be disconnected (to save fuel as well as reduce wear and tear) by the driver, via a switch. Almost all other AWD-equipped crossovers are full-time AWD — which means the system is always engaged, even when it’s not needed and so always using energy (gas) as well as always being used (wear and tear).
Prices start at $24,855 for the base S trim with front-wheel-drive and a 1.5 liter three-cylinder engine (turbocharged) paired with an eight speed automatic transmission. You can add AWD — without moving up a trim.
So equipped, the S stickers for $26,385.
A top-of-the-line Titanium with a 250 horsepower 2.0 liter (also turbocharged) and with standard AWD stickers for $36,685.
In the middle is the hybrid — which comes with a larger (but not turbocharged) 2.5 liter engine paired with an electric motor and battery. Your pick of FWD ($28,555) or AWD ($29,755).
The plug-in version ($34,900 to start) comes only with AWD.
The Escape has been completely redesigned for the 2020 model year.
Hybrid averages almost 40 MPG.
AWD is available with the standard engine.
Available 250 horsepower 2.0 liter engine is the most powerful engine you can get in this class.
What’s Not So Good
Gas prices are going down — making hybrids a harder sell.
Plug-in not available with AWD.
Under the Hood
Base Escapes come with an unusual engine — a three-cylinder engine. Just 1.5 liters — but it makes a solid 180 horsepower (more than most fours) because it’s turbocharged. This adds parts — and complexity — but there’s no denying the upside of very high output for the size of the engine — with the appetite of a much smaller engine.
Official mileage figures for the 2020 Escape 1.5 liter weren’t available when this review was written, but the FWD version should deliver 35 on the highway; possibly more.
An eight-speed automatic is standard with this engine — as well as the optional 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine — which gets the Escape to 60 in just over 7 seconds.
This engine is automatically paired with AWD.
If speed is less your need, there’s the hybrid — both of them.
Ford offers a standard hybrid — it has a smaller electric motor/battery pack to supplement the IC engine — and a plug-in hybrid with a larger/stronger battery and motor that can travel about 30 miles without using the IC engine at all.
On the Road
The Escape is technically a crossover SUV but the new model looks — and drives — very much like a car. Which is probably sound policy given Ford hasn’t got many cars left in its lineup.
But the crossover concept has always been about car-like driving feel with more versatility, ground clearance and snow-day capability.
The Escape offers all of that, plus your pick of high-mileage, high-performance — or something in between.
At the Curb
The new Escape is very car-like in looks but not in term of cargo capacity; 33.5 cubic feet of space behind its second row and 65.4 cubic feet with the back seats folded down.
The back seats are also exceptionally roomy, with 40.7 cubic feet of legroom. This is as much as some small crossovers have up front.
The democratization of luxury proceeds apace. You can get a 12.3-inch LCD main gauge cluster in this “entry-level” crossover, as well as voice control, adaptive cruise control and an automated parallel parking system.
The Bottom Line
Having one Escape is functionally like having two vehicles — a car and an SUV. This is why crossovers are replacing cars — and not just Fords.