Ford may not have been the first to occupy the compact SUV segment, but they have sold more than enough of them to keep it within our conscious.
Since its debut twenty years ago, Ford sold 4.27 million Escapes in the USA alone. You may find many of those still on the road.
Last year saw the introduction of the fourth-generation Escape for 2020. It has undergone some major changes from the original OneFord model that has seen plenty of action worldwide. The new Escape will remain a global vehicle, with its roots firmly planted here in North America.
For this generation, Ford brought back the Escape Hybrid after an eight-year absence. On top of that, they doubled down on electrifying the Escape with a plug-in model coming later this year.
With the 2020 Ford Escape SE Sport Hybrid in my care, I was wondering if this new Escape will still attract customers in an ever-growing and highly competitive segment that has become the bread-and-butter for the automotive industry.
Before I dive into the design of the new Escape, I had someone comment on social media that my tester reminded that person of a Porsche Macan. I am not entirely sure if that was a compliment or not. What do you think?
I can see where this social media follower was going with that summation. My tester was in Agate Black, which is a cool color. Then, I realized that on the SE Sport package that every trim piece on the exterior is black. The monochrome effect may appear to confuse anyone for this Escape with a Macan.
Maybe, this would be in Ford's advantage. The design alone stands out from its competition. It is also quite functional with good sightlines and a handsome contemporary shape. The doors open wide for easy access and exit, as does the liftgate.
Ford is also employing a new generation interior design language. I will say that the Escape's new interior is miles better than the last generation. The controls are logical, the 12.3-inch TFT digital instrument binnacle is very cool, and I like where the center stack and console flows from the tablet-like infotainment screen to the drive mode button.
Seats were also quite supportive and comfortable, even with the ActiveX sustainable faux leather upholstery. The front seats offer plenty of space to find a comfortable place. Rear seat space is quite good with plenty of headroom for taller people. Legroom is ample, as well. In terms of cargo space, if you get a non-Hybrid model, you get to enjoy up to 65.4 cubic feet of cargo space with rear seats folded down. However, the battery in the Hybrid model takes up some of that space, leaving you with a maximum of 60.8 cubic feet available to bring home the goods.
Did you miss the last Escape Hybrid? Ford was one of the first to use a hybrid driveline in a compact SUV, but they stopped offering it in 2012. Now, it's back. This time around, there is a new Continuously Variable Transmission connected to the 2.5-liter Atkinson-Cycle four-cylinder engine and the electric motor. In total, this driveline is good for 200 horsepower. I also had all-wheel-drive on top of this.
Driveline performance was pretty decent if you discount the times when it felt a bit tight at highway speeds. That's the best way to describe it, I suppose. I wanted some freedom to pass, keep with traffic, and go up on-ramps. Maybe the new 1.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost three-cylinder engine could do that? They do offer the powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost as an option. On the Hybrid side, a plug-in version is coming later this year.
There was another thing that I found that didn't seem right about the Escape Hybrid – it's fuel economy. Ford said that I would average around 41 MPG. I ended up averaging 36.5 MPG. Maybe we could excuse the lower figure due to Minnesota's cold climate and wintry conditions.
I mentioned the drive mode button on the center console. One mode that came in handy was its Deep Snow and Sand mode. We had some snowy conditions to deal with in my time with this Escape Hybrid. Let me say that this mode proved that you can master unplowed roads like a boss. The Slippery mode came in handy, as well, as it handled the plowed surfaces which can mix compacted snow into ice. The Bridgestone Ecopia tires actually worked just fine in these situations. Winter tires would dial this up a few notches.
The ride quality is best described as simply OK. It is neither silky smooth nor absolutely bouncy. The suspension does its best to manage the bumps from the road. Cornering response is decent, it offers some roll, but not enough to alarm drivers at moderate speeds. Otherwise, the Escape is pretty composed around town and on the highway.
The steering action is very good. I can do tight turns and it tracks very well. The on-center feel is a bit soft, but an adjustment to the drive mode to Sport will do the trick. The braking system offers great stopping power and the anti-lock system is precise. Pedal feel is good. A nifty feature on the Hybrid model is a pop-up screen in the instrument binnacle giving you feedback on how well you used the brakes in relation to recovering energy back to the battery.
How much does this vehicle cost? My 2020 Ford Escape SE Sport Hybrid AWD tester came out to $34,245. You can get a non-hybrid Escape starting from $24,885 with a choice of four trim levels, plus various upgrades available from the SE model and up.
On the most basic level, the new 2020 Ford Escape is primed for a run at the pack. But, I am concerned that it would end up running with it. This segment is highly competitive, especially when you now have two other Hybrids competing against the Escape SE Sport Hybrid. The plug-in model might help its cause. In all, Ford lovers are going to love the new Escape – and that's all that matters, really.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by the Ford Motor Company
All photos by Randy Stern