Solid, sophisticated, and athletic, the fun-to-drive Ford Escape delivers agile handling and a taut, yet supple ride. Its cabin is among the quietest in the class. Overall, this small SUV feels more substantial than most of the competition. Just keep in mind that it's not the roomiest in the class or among the most efficient in terms of fuel economy.
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 optional 2.0-liter turbo is more potent.
The cabin is a blend of upscale and cheap touches. Soft touch points and chrome bits give it a classy appearance. But the standard cloth seats are short on support and the driving position is narrow. 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 are well designed, provided the Escape has the optional Sync 3 infotainment system, which is clear, responsive, and versatile.
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 turbo. Both get similar fuel economy, but the 245 hp 2.0-liter turbo has more oomph and a higher towing capacity.
A long list of features and options, including a hands-free liftgate and self-steering parking assist, can make the top-level Titanium trim an alternative for an upscale small SUV such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. However, the top Escape's price can easily crest $35,000.
Advanced safety equipment such as forward-collision warning is available in an optional package; automatic emergency braking is not available at all, which is odd.
The Escape is the right car for those who value sporty driving and a semi-upscale experience and are willing to compromise on interior room and forgo auto emergency braking.