Product Reviews

Welcome to Consumer Reports.

We’re so glad to have you as a member. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed.
Although classified as a small SUV, Escape's relatively spacious interior stretches the definition of small. Offering a strong V6 and good handling, Escape delivers good ride quality Developed side-by-side with the Mazda Tribute, differences in ride quality plus certain differences in interior trim led us to rate the Escape slightly higher than the Tribute.
Alerts
There are 9 recalls on this vehicle. Learn More.

Road Test Results

Performance
Acceleration Acceleration Acceleration tests are conducted on a smooth, flat pavement straightaway at the track. Time, speed, and distance measurements are taken with a precise GPS-based device that’s hooked to a data-logging computer.
0 to 60 mph 0 to 60 mph (sec.) The time in seconds that a vehicle takes to reach 60 mph from a standstill with the engine idling.
Transmission Transmission Transmission performance is determined by shifting smoothness, response, shifter action, and clutch actuation for manual transmissions.
Fuel Economy Fuel Economy We perform our own fuel-economy tests, independent of the government's often-quoted EPA figures and the manufacturers' claims. Using a precise fuel-flow measuring device spliced into the fuel line, we run two separate circuits to represent city and highway consumption.
CR's Overall Mileage CR's Overall Mileage CR's overall mileage is a composite of measured fuel usage on a prescribed city course and highway cruising; and CR's 150-mile test trip of mixed driving, if tested. In recent road tests, we've discontinued the 150-mile trip test.
CR's City Mileage CR's City Mileage Measured fuel usage on a prescribed city course.
CR's Highway Mileage CR's Highway Mileage Measured fuel usage on a prescribed highway cruising.
Annual Fuel Cost Annual Fuel Cost The cost and amount of fuel used in 12,000 miles and is calculated from CR's overall mileage.
Braking Braking The braking rating is a composite of wet and dry stopping distances and pedal feel. Braking distance is from 60 mph, with no wheels locked.
Emergency Handling Emergency Handling Several factors go into the rating, including the avoidance maneuver speed and confidence, as well as how the vehicle behaves when pushed to its limit,
Comfort / Convenience
Ride Ride Our expert judgment of how well the suspension isolates and absorbs road imperfections and how steady it keeps the body on various road surfaces.
Noise Noise Our expert judgment of the vehicle's interior noise level in everyday driving.
Front Seat Comfort Front Seat Comfort Our judgment of how comfortable the front seat is for drivers of various heights.
Rear Seat Comfort Rear Seat Comfort Our judgment of how comfortable the rear seat is for two passengers to sit across.
Interior Fit and Finish Interior Fit and Finish An expert evaluation of the interior quality and craftsmanship.
Trunk/Cargo Area Trunk/Cargo Area Our rating is based on the amount of luggage or cargo space that a vehicle has in the trunk or cargo area.

Owner Reports

Worse Better
Reliability History Reliability History The reliability charts are based on responses on hundreds of thousands of vehicles from our latest Annual Auto Survey. Consumer Reports subscribers reported on any serious problems they had with their vehicles during the past 12 months that they considered serious because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime, in any of the trouble spots included in the table below. The results are presented relative to the average model that year. Extra weight is given to the more serious areas such as major engine or transmission problems. Based on this data and further analysis, we predict reliability for the latest year. N/A indicates that we did not receive a large enough sample size to provide data for a specific year. An X indicates that the vehicle was not manufactured for a specific year.
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Reliability Trouble Spots
Engine Major Engine Major Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or timing belt.
Engine Minor Engine Minor Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.
Engine Cooling Engine Cooling Radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.
Transmission Major Transmission Major Transmission rebuild or replacement, torque converter, clutch replacement.
Owner Satisfaction Owner Satisfaction To learn about satisfaction, CR has collected survey data from our annual survey on more than half a million vehicles. Our subscribers provide great insights into their satisfaction by answering one simple question: If they had it to do all over again, would they definitely buy or lease the same model? In addition, respondents also rate their cars in six categories: driving experience, comfort, value, styling, audio, and climate systems. N/A indicates that we did not receive a large enough sample size to provide data for a specific year. An X indicates that the vehicle was not manufactured for a specific year.
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Driving Experience Driving Experience Includes acceleration and handling
Comfort Comfort Includes seats, climate control, noise, and ride
Value Value Did you get what you wanted relative to the price you paid?
Styling Styling How it looks inside and out
Safety Equipment
ABS available, standard from 2005. Side and head protection air bags available, standard from 2008. ESC available from 2008, standard from 2009.
Road Test

Although classified as a small SUV, Escape's relatively spacious interior stretches the definition of small. Offering a strong V6 and good handling, Escape delivers good ride quality Developed side-by-side with the Mazda Tribute, differences in ride quality plus certain differences in interior trim led us to rate the Escape slightly higher than the Tribute.

Seating
2 front, 3 rear
Drive Wheels
4WD , Front
Warranty

In most cases, automotive warranties are based on the vehicle identification number (VIN), and the warranty will be valid regardless of ownership. The dealership can tell you exactly how much warranty is left.

Read more about extended warranties
Body Styles
4-door SUV
Transmissions Available
  • 5-speed Manual
  • 4-speed Automatic
Engines Available
  • 2-liter 4 (127 hp)
  • 3-liter V6 (201 hp)

Owner Reported Trouble Spots

The Reliability score is based on our latest subscriber survey of 2003 Ford Escape owners. The owner comments describe problems respondents experienced with this vehicle.

Paint/Trim

Paint (fading, chalking, cracking, or peeling), loose interior and exterior trim or moldings, rust.

What Owners Say

Loose interior trim or moldings

“The material used to trim all four doors loosened and fell off. The material on the driver's sun visor has tears and the padding under it has disintegrated; both on the side that faces the sun”

Anonymous, MO (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Paint is peeling off hood and getting down to the primer, starting to peel off the fenders and tailgate”

R R., OK (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“Paint peeling on hood and tailgate”

Anonymous, VA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“medium large patch paint fail on rear hatch - is not/had not been damaged any other way. Paint is peeling”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 2.0-L 4 Cyl)

“No garage to protect it from seabreeze fog!!”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“Paint started peeling off of the car about a year ago”

Anonymous, NJ (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“The paint clear coat is cracking and peeling. However this is not the original paint job. It is only peeling on a door and rear fender where someone other than Ford had done body work”

Ruth V., WA (2003 Ford Escape Unsure 3.0-L V6)

“clear coat peeling off hood resulting in color fading”

Anonymous, IL (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)
Rust

“The driver's side rear wheel well started with bubbled paint which had rust under the paint. Not under warranty. Had it repaired 5 years ago. Recently noticed bubbled paint and rust in the same area”

Anonymous, IN (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Real wheel wells on both sides have rust going through the outside fenders that has shown up in the last 10 months. No other rust problems on the car”

Anonymous, VA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Rust rear wheel section.$2000 to repair!Years ago had 2001 Mazda Es V6 rusted same area.Friends have E$scape 2012 rusted same way.Fixed under warranty.Real ford problem. note Rust checked regularly!”

Fraser K., NS (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“The drivers side rear inside door has rusted terribly. The back rocker panel also deteriorated. It is almost like this area has a inferior quality of metal. Also there is no weather stripping on the rear doors. Disappointed on these items”

Ev M., MB (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Rusting where paint has peeled off”

Anonymous, NJ (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“Body of vehicle started rusting years ago in a spot over the rear wheel well on drivers side. This was spontaneous and no reason for rust. Had this fixed by a body professional, and it sotarted again years later. Recently, both sides of the body on the rear wheel well have been rusting at an alarming rate out of nowhere! It is now dangerous for me every time I load something into my car in the back seat, because the doors do not open very wide (design defect), and I risk brushing against the ru”

Anonymous, IL (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“I have driven Ford/Mercury for years. Never had the problem of excessive rust mostly in the rear doors. This started just after warranty expired. It seems an inferior product was used on the 2 side door frames. Very disappointed only for the rust reason. I am looking at other manufacturers for my next vehicle. I have a 21 yr old Mercury Villager LS with very little rust. Never had rust on any of the Ford vehicles like this one”

Ev M., MB (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Both rear wheel wells were rusting through inner and outer fenders.Had my body shop use replacement patch panels .Paint and metal look brand new for not a lot of money”

Anonymous, IL (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Engine Minor

Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.

What Owners Say

Oil leaks

“Rear differential pinion seal leaking. Replaced”

D L., MA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“oil pan started to leak oil. Sent it into Ford dealer. They replaced pan gasket. All is well”

Duane D., AB (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Engine oilpan seal needed replacing”

Janet P., GA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“engine oil pan leak”

Anonymous, CO (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Head gasket leaks, but considering age of car, it was kind of expected. This was the only really expensive repair to date”

Deborah W., OR (2003 Ford Escape XLS 2.0-L 4 Cyl)

“Oil pan and timing belt gaskets. 12000 miles”

Anonymous, FL (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Pan gasket needs replacing, minor oil leak - 1 oz per fortnight”

Anonymous, WA (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“Oil was leaking into the spark plug bay causing misfires. had to replace the head gasket”

Kyle B., MO (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“There was an oil leak in the gasket between the head and block and it was dripping onto some part of the exhaust system. Although it was never even a minor oil leak, the burnt oil smell was atrocious”

Ed B., FL (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“engine has an oil leak but i cannot find it”

Anonymous, MI (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“After getting an oil change, I was informed that the valve cover gaskets were leaking. Not enough to be an immediate danger-but check oil often”

Janet P., GA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Replaced valve cover gaskets in 2017. In 2015 replaced oil pan gasket. Still need to replace timing cover gasket”

Gary Q., CO (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“I had multiple problems with oil leaking from this car. Multiple repairs on different parts of the car, things like the oil pan, seal, and engine gasket, valve cover gasket etc”

Anonymous, IL (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Power Equipment

Cruise control, clock, warning lights, body control module, keyless entry, wiper motor or washer, tire pressure monitor, interior or exterior lights, horn, gauges, 12V power plug, remote engine start, alarm or security system

What Owners Say

“Had to replace it”

Anonymous, TX (2003 Ford Escape Unsure 3.0-L V6)

“Needed Replaced with low miles”

Steven S., OK (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“The idiot that placed it on the bottom under the passengers feet . You have to remove wheel and drop suspension to access alternator. Replaced 5 times in 12 years”

Anonymous, NB (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“I have had to get the alternator replaced twice in the past 5 years”

Janet P., GA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“We had to replace the battery, for about the fifth time late last year. We went with an Autozone instead of the Walmart brand, which didn't seem to last very long”

Ed B., FL (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)
Coil

“Engine has multiple (3?) ignition coils; one failed, causing "check engine" light to come on and engine to miss. Had to be replaced”

Anonymous, IN (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“Misfire in # 4 cyc. Dealer wanted $600 to replace all coils. Purchased replacement for $35”

F G., NJ (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“I had to replace 2 coils in 2013 and 2 other coils in 2014. $400 each time. Although I guess it is not so bad for a 10 year old auto”

Richard P., NJ (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“coil number 1 go bad, replace all 3 in the back”

Anonymous, PA (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“This engine has a coil for each spark plug. Three coils cracked causing misfires”

Anonymous, IL (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“Engine running rough in wet weather. had to replace 3 ignition coils and gasket. Also replaced all spark plugs, but looks like they were the original spark plugs, so should have been replaced a long time ago”

Anonymous, KS (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“replaced coils about a year ago, 2 in the back failed”

Anonymous, MI (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

Brakes

Antilock system (ABS), parking brake, master cylinder, calipers, rotors, pulsation or vibration, squeaking, brake failure or wear.

What Owners Say

“Tone ring on front axel broke. Dealer wanted $900 for new front axel and labor. Purchased new tone ring and replaced for $4”

F G., NJ (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“abs sensor”

Anonymous, PA (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“Failed sensor had to be replaced”

Anonymous, NJ (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Bleeders rusted in place, snapped off during removal requiring replacement of calipers”

Anonymous, NJ (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)
Normal routine brake wear

“No real problems. Just normal wear”

Charles L., MI (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Parking brake broke upon release”

Anonymous, NY (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Brake line leak and replacement of rear brake drums”

Anonymous, WI (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Suspension

Shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, alignment, steering linkage (includes rack and pinion), power steering (pumps and hoses, leaks), wheel balance, springs or torsion bars, bushings, electronic or air suspension.

What Owners Say

Ball joints

“No really a problem so much as they just wore out”

Charles L., MI (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Excessive play in front suspension. Replaced all sway bar links”

D L., MA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Lower control arm bushings worn. Replaced both lower control arms when struts were replaced”

Anonymous, NY (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“Power Steering hose had major leaks and needed to be replaced”

Andrew D., WY (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“Shocks failed as a result of standard wear and tear”

Anonymous, WI (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)
Springs or torsion bars

“Broken front spring. No known cause. Both front struts were replaced (spring/shocks)”

Anonymous, NY (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

Transmission Major

Transmission rebuild or replacement, torque converter, clutch replacement.

What Owners Say

Clutch replacement

“Master/slave cylinder failed after having them replaced in 2012, had to have them replaced again”

Matt H., OH (2003 Ford Escape XLS 2.0-L 4 Cyl)

“Transmission went out. Need to replace”

Daniel W., CA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Just expensive. it cost about $4000, and was done at 125K”

Steve D., PA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“it quit without warning”

Anonymous, AB (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“It was replace”

David C., KY (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Body Integrity

Squeaks, rattles, wind noises, loose or cracked seals and/or weather-stripping, air and water leaks.

What Owners Say

Air or water leaks

“radiator hose failure”

Nancy E., NC (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“Steering wheel squeaks when you turn - diagnosed as internal and several hundred dollars to fix. I live with the squeak”

Anonymous, FL (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“There wind noise, and road noise, has increased tremendously even though there are no discernible leaks”

Anonymous, MO (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Again, considering age of car, it's no surprise it's gotten noiser”

Deborah W., OR (2003 Ford Escape XLS 2.0-L 4 Cyl)

Climate System

Blower (fan) motor, A/C compressor, condenser, evaporator, heater system, automatic climate control, refrigerant leakage, electrical failure.

What Owners Say

“wouldn't get cold”

SUSn M., CA (2003 Ford Escape)

“the A/C system is leaking from an unidentified source”

Kyle B., MO (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Will not blow air from dash. Will only blow air from top and bottom”

Joel C., SC (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)
Condenser

“The condenser had to be replaced”

Anonymous, MO (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Fuel System

Check engine light, sensors (includes O2 or oxygen sensor), emission control devices (includes EGR), engine computer, engine computer, fuel cap, fuel gauge/sender, fuel injection system, fuel pump, fuel leaks, stalling or hesitation.

What Owners Say

Emission control devices (includes EGR)

“EGR struck open because of tiny piece metal”

Anonymous, NJ (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“Catalytic converter failure”

Anonymous, VA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“Engine light was on”

Anonymous, AZ (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)
Fuel pump

“Failure was intermittent, occurring 4 times, leaving me stranded for 30 minutes before resuming normal operations. After about 24 months it completely failed”

Dale W., TX (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Transmission Minor

Gear selector or linkage, leaks, transmission computer, transmission sensor or solenoid, clutch adjustment, rough shifting, slipping transmission.

What Owners Say

“It would shift fro 1st to 3rd”

David C., KY (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

“My daughter overheated the reverse gear getting stuck in the winter.Had it repaired along with updating other worn trans parts”

Anonymous, IL (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)
Transmission leaks

“Took the vehicle into the dealer for the routine 3000 mile oil change and service. The dealer contacted me regarding a fluid leak the mechanic found on the undercarriage. There was an add'l $99 charge to find the origin. the repair would cost $ 2500”

Anonymous, IN (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

In-car Electronics

CD or DVD players, radio, speakers, GPS, communication system (e.g., OnStar), display screen freezes or goes blank, phone pairing (e.g. Bluetooth), voice control commands, steering wheel controls, portable music device interface (e.g., iPod/MP3 player), backup or other camera/sensors.

What Owners Say

CD player

“It completely locked up. We cannot play or even eject the cd's that are currently in the player”

Anonymous, OR (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

“Display shows either no CD or CD error. Plays a few tracks then ejects CD and displays error message”

Anonymous, IN (2003 Ford Escape XLS 3.0-L V6)

“The volume was going up and down on its own”

Anonymous, NY (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Engine Major

Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or timing belt.

What Owners Say

Cylinder head

“One of the spark plugs blew out and had to be re set and replaced”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)
Head gasket

“Several oil leaks, have replaced gaskets at oil pan, timing cover, valve covers, intake plenum and crankshaft seal; to fix remaining leak mechanic says engine has to be removed & inverted because it is a non-gasketed engine seal”

Anonymous, IN (2003 Ford Escape Limited 3.0-L V6)

Exhaust

Muffler, pipes, catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, leaks.

What Owners Say

“The exhaust manifold bolts broke. That was a major job getting it replaced. And it cost $1300”

Steve D., PA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Drive System

Driveshaft or axle, CV joint, differential, transfer case, 4WD/AWD components, driveline vibration, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), electrical failure.

What Owners Say

Electrical failure

“The alternator failed. This is the second time since we have had it”

Janet P., GA (2003 Ford Escape XLT 3.0-L V6)

Electric System

Alternator, starter, hybrid battery and related systems, regular battery, battery cables, engine harness, coil, ignition switch, electronic ignition, distributor or rotor failure, spark plugs and wires failure.

Body Hardware

Power or manual windows, locks and latches, tailgate, hatch or trunk, doors or sliding doors, mirrors, seat controls, safety belts, sunroof, convertible top.

Engine Cooling

Radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.

Change Vehicle