The 2013 Ford Escape brings to mind the final scenes of “Beauty and the Beast,” when the brutish monster is spectacularly transformed into a suave, refined, handsome prince. The previous Escape was no beast, but it had lingered in the middle of our small-SUV Ratings with a so-so score of 66. With its redesign, the Escape has jumped into the top tier, competing well with the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V.
The new Escape is solid, sophisticated, and fun to drive. It delivers agile handling and a taut yet impressively supple, composed ride. And its cabin is one of the quietest in the class. We bought two versions, the popular midlevel SE, with a 173-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the high-end Titanium, with a 231-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. Both deliver responsive performance and a good 22 mpg overall.
Among the shortcomings are a narrow driving position, a low rear seat that lacks support, and unintuitive controls. The base radio in the SE is complicated, but the Titanium’s frustrating MyFord Touch system is even more cumbersome and distracting. The Escape is also expensive for what you get. Our $28,040 SE lacked a sunroof, a power driver seat, and a backup camera, features commonly found on similar SUVs. In higher trims, a backup camera was available only as part of a $995 option package.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine with the headline "Fod Escape."