Ford Escape Hybrid — Stylish and efficient

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Ford Escape has been one of the best-selling sport utility vehicles in the country since its introduction in 2000 as a 2001 model. It moved away from the bigger body-on-frame SUV that dominated the market at the turn of the century with smaller car-based unibody construction to compete with such relatively new models as the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.

It was an instant hit and has been one of Ford's best-selling vehicles for the past 20 years selling between 250,000 and 300,000 annually. Even though the third-generation vehicle was in its seventh year of production in 2019, sales were will still solid. But it was past time for the fourth generation.

The 2020 Escape takes the brand in a new direction with a much sportier and modern look, new engine choices including a hybrid drivetrain, more car-like driving and handling traits, and a full slate of new safety and infotainment technology. photo

We weren't more than five minutes down the road in our first encounter with the Escape and it felt like we were driving a hatchback car rather than a sport utility — that’s how easy it was to drive. We think Ford may have imbued its redesigned crossover with more car-like traits on purpose to win over owners of the Focus and other discontinued car brands to retain those who no longer have the option of buying a traditional car at Ford dealerships.

The philosophy in developing the new Escape seemed to be "create something for everyone." There is a model for nearly every taste including a lower-priced turbocharged three-cylinder that starts around 25 grand, an extremely fuel efficient hybrid that promises 40 miles per gallon, and a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4 making 250 horsepower with 0-to-60 time in the five second range. photo

The redesigned Escape offers more interior room than before, especially in the rear seat where two adults can live comfortably on long trips. A sliding second-row seat helps open up a massive 40.7 inches of legroom. Folding the rear seats yields 65.4 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, a useful amount for a two-row crossover.

Highlights of the new Escape include an eight-inch free-standing touchscreen, a head-up display, and a bundle of driver safety aids (rearview camera, automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning among them) called Ford Co-Pilot360.

The Escape comes in five trim levels — S, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Titanium starting at $25,980 including a $1,095 destination fee. Prices run up to $37,780 for the Titanium trim with the 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel drive.

Engine choices start with a turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. If you are shaking your head in disbelief over "3-cylinders," know that this is not your ordinary three-banger. It comes with a rather impressive 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque and it is capable — according to a popular automotive magazine — to accomplish a 0-to-60 run in a very adequate 7.7 seconds. And for those people needing all-wheel drive it can be added to the 1.5-liter engine.

On the other end of the spectrum is the turbocharged 2.0-liter making 250-horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It's available on the SEL AWD ($34,040) and Titanium Hybrid AWD trims (both of which we drove). This engine is responsive — if not the best in its segment. Need for speed is not the only reason to choose the 2.0-liter engine — it has a very useable 3,500-pounds of towing capacity. Gas mileage is EPA-rated at 23 city, 31 highway and 26 overall. Premium gas is recommended, but regular is acceptable according to Ford.

We think the real star of the Escape lineup is the new hybrid model that has very acceptable performance along with outstanding gas mileage for a compact crossover. It's powered by a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with an electric motor mated to a continuously variable transmission making a combined 209 horsepower in the Titanium trim such as our test car. The hybrid can accomplish 0-to-60 in around 7.5 seconds, and never felt underpowered in any situation including merging and passing.

The hybrid model can be purchased in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive configurations. AWD is available in all but the base S trim. Here's the biggie with the hybrid — it has a gas mileage rating of 44 city, 37 highway, and 41 combined in front-wheel drive and 43/37/40 with all-wheel drive. In 300 miles of mixed city and rural driving in an AWD model we averaged 40.3 mpg.

The SE Sport hybrid trim starts at $29,350 including destination charge. Our AWD Titanium hybrid test car carried a bottom line of $37,990 including such options as a panoramic sunroof and 19-inch wheels.

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid


Base price, $25,980; as driven, $37,780
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, electric motor
Horsepower: 209
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.7 inches
Length: 180.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,884 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 30.7 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 60.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 43/37/40
0-60: 7.5 seconds
Also consider: Toyota RAV4 hybrid

The Good
• A very stylish crossover
• Improved power, acceleration
• Excellent fuel economy with hybrid
• Long list of standard safety

The Bad
• Not as much SUV as outgoing model

The Ugly
• Sloping roof compromises cargo space