Tuesday, February 27, 2024
First Reviews 2020 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Headed Back Up

2020 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Headed Back Up

The Ford Escape been a dominant force in the popular and growing compact SUV market for a long time, but its popularity has been shrinking. The 2020 Escape is hoping to reach the top once more.

Looking at the sales numbers in the compact SUV segment so far, the Ford Escape sits third behind the redesigned Toyota RAV4 and fairly new Honda CR-V. Not bad, except sales are falling whereas the other two are improving compared to last year. The 2020 Ford Escape will surely help Ford stop the fall and give Toyota and Honda sport utility vehicles in the segment a run for consumers’ money.

The new 2020 Ford Escape improves where it matters. It’s more spacious, more efficient, and safer. The design has changed significantly which is important because many buyers tend to like when others know they have a new vehicle in the driveway.

Interior is Bland But There’s Plenty of Space

Where the Escape hasn’t really improved is the interior design and layout. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t look as new or modern as some of the other options in the segment. It does feel quite a bit less heavy and cluttered inside compared to the previous Escape, and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster available in Titanium models adds a nice touch of luxury, but the overall layout is a bit bland. That’s a personal feeling, however. I just wish Ford designers would go a little crazy with their cars’ interior sometimes.

2020 Ford Escape Interior
2020 Ford Escape Interior

2020 Ford Escape Interior
2020 Ford Escape Interior

On the other hand, no one can ever fault the 2020 Escape’s versatility. There’s more space for rear seat passengers than in any other compact SUV currently offered. The rear bench can actually slide 6 inches front and back to either increase cargo capacity or comfort for your kids or friends back there. The rear seat sliding feature is divided as well which means that you can move just a portion of the seat forward.

Ford showed us that you can fit up to 6 golf bags in the back of the Escape if you push the bench as far forward as possible, and there was still decent leg room. Why six golf bags? That’s beyond the point. Buyers tend to buy a compact SUV because they want space in the cargo area and in the rear seats. The 2020 Ford Escape has a ton of it. That fact alone means we can expect to see quite a few Escapes out on the road.

2020 Ford Escape Interior Sliding seat
2020 Ford Escape | Photo: Ford

Back to the front for a second, the new Escape now benefits from 4G LTE Wi-Fi in every version. Buyers will also note a new rotary shift dial has replaced the traditional gearbox lever.

Plenty of Power, Fuel Economy, or Both

This gearbox now has 8 speeds and it’s a traditional automatic, not a CVT. It is connected out of the gate to a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder engine with 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. Despite having just three cylinders, this engine is actually more powerful than many four-cylinders offered on other compact SUVs. It beats the Nissan Rogue as well as the base Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5 powertrains.

We didn’t get too much seat time behind the wheel of a 1.5-litre Escape, mostly driving around the city and on a few urban boulevards, but it was just long enough to confirm that you would never know the engine’s one cylinder down from the competition. It’s peppy enough for what most buyers will want, and it never struggles to get up to speed.

Obviously, the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is the way to go if power is a concern for you. With 250 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, the 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo is among the most powerful in the segment and feels very fast. That said, it’s the engine’s linearity that really makes it stand out. Power build up is smooth and it’s easy to gauge your speed and control the accelerator. There’s power across the entire RPM range and the engine barely hesitates from the line.

2020 Ford Escape Interior
2020 Ford Escape

It’s not cheap with a starting price of $37,049, but it’s worth every dollar. It also posts an average fuel economy rating of just over 9.0 litres per 100 kilometres which is impressive given the amount of power. The entry-level 1.5-litre 3-cylinder averages under 8.0 l/100 km in FWD and under 9.0 l/100 km with AWD. The 2.0-litre turbo is only available with all-wheel drive. There’s also a hybrid, but we will talk about it in a separate text.

Every version of the Escape gets Ford’s Co-Pilot360 system which includes blind spot monitoring, pre-collision alert with automatic braking, lane departure warning and prevention, and automatic headlights. Mid-range versions add adaptive cruise control while top-of-the-line Titanium models get Lane Centering and Evasive Steering. Essentially, all the driver assistance and active safety tech are included in the Escape family, with some features like Evasive Steering which can steer you around an obstacle if you can’t stop in time being exclusive to the Escape In the segment.

2020 Ford Escape
2020 Ford Escape

The 2020 Ford Escape SE is the Best Option

The Ford Escape always rode that line between comfort and sportiness, and it rode it well. The Escape’s problem was that it didn’t have the tech or the interior space to rival the newer models in the segment. That’s not a problem anymore. Some buyers may be concerned about reliability, but Ford knows some Escapes have been hit or miss and the technology they use in the new generation has been proven in previous Ford models.

The 2020 Ford Escape drives very well, feels good on the road, and has quite a bit of power with much better fuel economy than past Escape models. The versatility has considerably improved as well. The base S model has jumped up in price by about $2,000 while the Titanium has increased by $2,500, but you should still feel like you are getting your money’s worth. I would, however, stay away from the base S version.

The Escape SE is starts at $30,549 with FWD and $32,049 with AWD and adds heated front seats (which should be standard, but whatever), the 8-inch centre screen with SYNC3, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Automatic Climate and SiriusXM.

Other Compact SUV Reviews

2019 Toyota RAV4 First Drive: The Corolla of SUVs
2019 Subaru Forester First Drive: Versatility Can be Fun
2020 Ford Escape vs. 2019 Honda CR-V Spec Comparison

2020 Ford Escape Images

2020 Ford Escape | Photo: Ford

2020 Ford Escape | Photo: Ford

2020 Ford Escape


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Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur was studying to be a CPA when he decided to drop everything and launch a car website in 2012. Don't ask. The journey has been an interesting one, but today he has co-founded and manages 8 websites including EcoloAuto.com and MotorIllustrated.com as General Manager of NetMedia360. He also sits on the board of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. Send me an email


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