Solid, sophisticated, and athletic, the fun-to-drive Ford Escape delivers agile handling and a taut, yet supple ride. Its cabin is one of the quietest in the class. Overall, this small SUV feels more substantial than most of the competition. With its long list of desirable and high-tech options, a well-equipped Escape feels like a competitor to some luxury-branded small SUVs. Just keep in mind that it's not the roomiest in the class, and that the refinement comes with a hefty sticker price.
A recent freshening brought easier-to-use controls and enhanced crash protection.
The sporty character shines within the first few miles, with handling agility that's reminiscent of a well-honed European car. The ride is firm, yet composed. Low noise levels give it an edge over the competition and lend an upscale air. The most popular powertrain, a 1.5-liter turbo and six-speed automatic transmission, makes for pleasant and smooth power delivery. However, taking about 10 seconds to go from 0-60 mph and returning just 23 mpg overall puts the Escape behind its peers.
The cabin is a blend of upscale and cheap touches. Soft touch points and chrome bits give it a classy appearance, but the experience is hurt by some details, such as cloth seats that are short on support. Other interior faults include a narrow driving position, and the low rear seat is too short and flat. In terms of rear-seat accommodations, the Escape is not in the same league as the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, or Toyota RAV4.
Controls improved considerably with the addition of Ford's optional Sync 3 infotainment system, which is clear, responsive, and versatile. Even more basic controls like those for the climate system were improved with the 2017 update.
Three different engines are available for the Escape. The most basic Escape has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and comes with front-wheel drive only. Most versions have either a 1.5-liter or a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo. Both get similar fuel economy, but the 245 hp 2.0-liter turbo has more oomph and a higher towing capacity.
Reflecting its premium feel, the Escape is relatively expensive next to its direct peers. A typically equipped mid-level SE all-wheel-drive lacks a sunroof or a power rear gate -- features found on competitors.
A long list of features and options, including a hands-free liftgate and self-steering parking assist, can make the top-level Titanium trim a credible competitor for upscale small SUVs such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.
Advanced safety equipment such as forward-collision warning is only available on top Titanium versions, and automatic emergency braking is not available at all.
The Escape is the right car for those who value sporty driving and a semi-upscale ambience and for whom interior room and price are less critical.