Driven: 2020 Ford Escape Review
  • Car Review

Driven: 2020 Ford Escape Review

By Chris Teague | March 20, 2020

Editor's note: This review is for the gas version of the 2020 Ford Escape. We have a Quick Spin review of the 2020 Escape Hybrid here.

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Yep!
Price range: $26,080 - $34,595, including destination but before options

Key takeaways

  • The Escape is all-new from the ground up for the 2020 model year.
  • New standard safety features and optional tech make their way into the Escape lineup for the first time.
  • Two brand new turbo powertrain options are available.
  • Cabin materials are upscale and interior space is plentiful in all trims.
  • The new Escape has sleeker styling than previous generations.

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What is it?

The Ford Escape is a compact crossover that has been around for nearly twenty years. Originally sold alongside the now-discontinued Mazda Tribute, the Escape outlasted its twin and has become Ford’s most popular non-truck vehicle.

Within Ford’s lineup, the Escape is larger than the subcompact EcoSport but smaller than the premium Edge and the three-row Explorer and Expedition SUVs.

The 2020 Escape is aimed at new car buyers wanting advanced technologies and a spacious interior in a still-compact SUV. It competes against the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Subaru Forester.

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The Escape is available in five trim levels: S, SE, SE Sport, SEL, and Titanium. The all-new 2020 model has a sportier and sleeker look that is inspired by Ford’s high-performance cars, the Mustang and GT. The new Escape is lower, wider, and longer than the outgoing model. The grille and front fascia are prominently shaped and help the Escape stand out in a crowd.

Two gas engines are available: a 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine that has 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, or a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.

Both engines’ power output is rated using 93 octane (premium) fuel. When properly equipped, the Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds as well.

These engines are both paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission; on the 2.0-liter turbo, the gearbox also has paddle shifters for manual control.

Front-wheel-drive is standard on the base engine, while all-wheel-drive is optional. AWD comes standard on the larger, 2.0-liter engine.

The new Escape comes with selectable drive modes and all trims come standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 advanced driver assistance technology.

A head-up display is available for the first time, as is a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster. The Escape can also be equipped with active parking assist and evasive steering assist, both of which Ford says are first-in-class features.

What’s good?

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TLDR: Spacious and comfy, with generous standard safety and assistance technology.

Roomy: The new Escape has sliding rear seats and up to 37.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is enough for a full-size dog crate or four large golf bags. The interior feels spacious and airy, with plenty of head and legroom for four full-size adults. Headroom is generous, and with the available panoramic roof, the cabin seems much larger than it actually is. The rear seat will present no problems loading and unloading child seats as well, made even easier by large rear door openings.

Smart: Standard advanced driver assist systems like Ford’s Co-Pilot360 are a welcome addition to any vehicle, especially when they’re included in every trim level. The system includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, lane-keep assist, post-collision braking, automatic high beams, and a backup camera. In our testing with the Titanium trim’s available features, the lane centering and stop-and-go traffic assist worked well, helping us navigate rush hour traffic on a busy highway with relative ease. Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is also one of the best in the business, with responsive actions, colorful menus, and an intuitive setup. We only wish adaptive cruise control was made available on all trim levels, as is the case with many of the Escape’s competitors.

Comfort: The Escape was designed for comfort, not performance, and that’s a good thing for its target audience. The seats are wide and soft, almost to a fault, and the interior has soft-touch materials where it matters. The suspension does its job well, soaking up all but the worst of what the road has to offer, and the choice to go with a slightly smaller wheel with more tire improves the ride even more.

What’s bad?

TLDR: Gets pricey in higher trims, is a little noisy inside and a little hard to see out of.

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Noise Level: This is a small fault, but one worth mentioning. At highway speeds, there’s a noticeable amount of wind noise that seeps into the cabin, and small bumps make themselves known. Though you’ll be comfortable, you’ll still hear too many of the road’s imperfections. It’s not unbearable by any means, but it’s there.

Outward visibility: Depending on the driver’s height, there may be issues with side and rear visibility. In our testing, taller drivers found that the B-pillar (the one between the front and rear doors) was no problem, but that the sloping roof reduced rear visibility slightly. Shorter drivers remarked that the rear visibility was not an issue, but that the B-pillar obstructed their side views when the seat was adjusted to their driving position.

Costly: In higher trim levels, the Escape can hit the $40,000 mark. That number puts it awfully close to many premium brands’ starting prices, which could push many buyers toward a more luxurious choice. It’s true that many competitors’ vehicles reach similar prices, but at that level the value proposition starts to become cloudy.

5 stars of execution:

Safety Features? YES

  • Standard advanced driver assistance systems. This alone makes the Escape worth a look. The inclusion of automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, lane-keep assist, post-collision braking, auto high beams, and a backup camera in every vehicle is a big deal.
  • Available goodies like stop-and-go traffic assist and lane centering rival features of luxury vehicles costing much more. They aren’t on the level of Cadillac’s Super Cruise or Tesla’s Autopilot, but the Escape is far less expensive than those vehicles.
  • The 2020 Escape hasn’t yet been rated by the IIHS or NHTSA.
  • Our only (minor) gripe is the aforementioned lack of standard adaptive cruise control.

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Value? NO

  • Though you can buy an Escape for under $30,000, the “good stuff” like leather and a panoramic sunroof doesn’t start showing up until you step up trim levels, which adds to the price significantly.
  • It’s possible to configure a similar Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V with nearly the same price tag, but at this level buyers could opt for larger vehicles like the Honda Passport that have more space and standard features.

Efficiency? YES

  • The EPA hasn’t rated the new Escape yet, but the 1.5-liter engine comes with cylinder deactivation to conserve fuel and the crossover’s weight reduction should help as well.

Driving experience? YES

  • The Escape excels at its core purpose: Providing a smooth and enjoyable ride for families and commuters with plenty of creature comforts. The ride and feel are almost car-like, and handling is compliant.
  • The 2.0-liter Ecoboost engine has 250 horsepower, which is more than enough to give the Escape lively acceleration, and even the smaller engine’s 180 horsepower feels substantial.
  • The brand-new eight-speed transmission offered in the Escape lineup is perfectly matched with the new engines and is far more engaging to use than a CVT.

Execution? YES

  • The build and materials quality feel solid, and the new sportier styling helps the Escape stand out.
  • Despite the price, the packaging of advanced tech and upscale features in higher trim levels will make the new Escape a compelling vehicle for many buyers.

Total Rating: 4 stars

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What’s it gonna cost me?

The base Escape S has a starting price of $26,080 including destination, and comes with a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, rotary gear shifter, Co-Pilot360 safety systems, two USB ports, selectable drive modes, Ford SYNC infotainment, a 4G LTE hotspot, LED taillights, chrome exhaust tips, and sliding second-row seats.

The Escape SE starts at $28,290 including destination, and adds an eight-inch touchscreen, SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, stop-and-go assist with adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, 17-inch wheels, LED lighting, heated front seats, automatic climate controls, and keyless entry.

The Escape SEL starts at $30,450 including destination and includes a hands-free liftgate with foot activation, 18-inch wheels, memory seats and mirrors, a reverse sensing system, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote start, and fog lights.

The Escape Titanium starts at $34,595 including destination and comes with active park assist, 19-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a B&O sound system, voice-activated navigation, dual-zone climate controls, leather upholstery, a universal garage door opener, ambient lighting, and LED fog lights.

If it were our money, we would buy the Escape SEL, which brings a long list of convenience features without a sky-high price tag.

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Also consider:

The compact crossover segment is full of strong competition for the Escape since it’s one of the most popular segments in the industry. Many brands are moving toward making only crossovers, trucks, and SUVs, so all automakers have focused on improving their offerings in those segments.

The Toyota RAV4 was all-new for 2019 with stronger styling and updated tech. The new Adventure trim also makes the RAV4 a compelling choice for people wanting a somewhat off-road-ready crossover.

The Honda CR-V stacks up well against all competitors and has won many critics’ top-buy award. It’s spacious, well-equipped, and has excellent reliability ratings.

The Mazda CX-5 benefits from the company’s move toward upscale design and features for all of its vehicles. The interior is top-notch and is extremely comfortable. The CX-5 is also one of the most engaging compact crossovers to drive, with excellent handling, strong acceleration, and decent fuel economy.

The Subaru Forester was new for 2019, and though many might overlook it as a quirky niche vehicle, there’s plenty going for it. Subaru’s EyeSight safety tech is standard, as is all-wheel drive, which makes the Forester a great choice for buyers in colder climates.

See more 2020 Ford Escape photos here.