First Drive: 2020 Ford Escape Looks to Impress With Sleek Redesign

Consumer Reports' initial review of this new SUV is based on hours of test driving by our experts

2020 Ford Escape front 3/4 view

Since this first drive was originally published in October 2019, we finished testing the Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid. 

See the complete Ford Escape road test

With the redesigned 2020 Escape, Ford abandoned the upright, boxy styling of traditional SUVs and wrapped its new model in sleek sheet metal with an outwardly sportier look.

It’s a showroom-floor pitch to consumers looking for more style—and maybe even more performance—in this SUV segment that teems with competitor vehicles that are marketed more as practical family cars.

You can access our test drive-based assessment of the new Ford Escape by becoming a CR member, which also gives you full access to exclusive ratings on all the products we evaluate.


The Escape is available in five trim lines; we just bought an SE version, which will be the most available. It has all-wheel drive; a turbocharged 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine; and an eight-speed automatic transmission. In addition, we rented a top-trim Titanium version from Ford, so we could get impressions of its more powerful 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. 

Ford has great name recognition with the Escape. It first went on sale as a 2001 model, and a hybrid version arrived in 2005 as one of the few small SUVs with a gas-electric powertrain. In the 2013 redesign, the Escape gained some sporty handling that made it enjoyable to drive.

With this new fourth-generation Escape, Ford is continuing its attempts to win more converts away from its competitors, including the Honda CR-VMazda CX-5Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4.

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CR's Take

The 2020 Ford Escape makes a good first impression, with nimble handling, a solid feel, and a roomy and versatile interior. We particularly like that it comes standard with forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB), and blind spot warning (BSW)—features that are optional on some competitors. So far, it appears to match up well to its competitors, including the CR-V, CX-5, Forester, and RAV4.

The previous generation Escape had average or better reliability for its final three years. In terms of owner satisfaction, when looking at 3- and 5-year-old models, the Escape was always middle of the road, with just about half of CR members saying they would definitely buy it again.