The Ford Escape, since its introduction in the very early 2000s, has undergone quite an evolution. What started out as a boxy, robust-looking large-compact SUV has become little more than a Ford Focus station wagon with a raised ride height. This design strategy, I think, will work quite well.
There are two opposing design directions currently evolving in the SUV business today. Obviously, not all SUVs are either or, but there are those that are embracing the traditional SUV style. Case in point, the new Toyota RAV4 and the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLB. On the other hand, consider the upcoming VW ID.4 and the subject of this review, the all-new 2020 Ford Escape.
This is Ford’s new “car”
As well all know, Ford’s product strategy going forward will be nothing less than all SUV. With the Mustang name now diluted, in North America, Ford no longer sells cars. This wise short-term plan means that other than styling, every one of the Blue Oval’s nameplates must deliver on all points. Be it technology, efficiency, comfort, or styling, Ford still needs to cater to its habitual hundreds and hundreds of thousands of annual customers.
The all-new 2020 Ford Escape is an enormously important key player in the “car” company’s future. Despite SUVs being constantly gaining momentum, the new Escape’s tall car-like styling is no mistake – millions of regular cars are still sold very year. My sole comment on the styling however is that the Escape looks extremely bland – it’s the Dove bar of compact SUVs.
Large and comfortable cabin
A better interpretation of understated design is the Escape’s cabin. The dashboard’s layout is simple and straightforward, very intuitive and easy to navigate. Same goes for the available SYNC 3 infotainment system – The menus require little to no time to adopt. The tested unit’s 8-inch screen sit at the top of the center stack. Ideally, it should be integrated into the dash panel but otherwise, all manners of switchgear are well in place. The standard 4.2-inch display between the gauges is lovely.
The cabin is generally pleasant with comfortable seats, a reclining rear bench and an impressively capacious boot. The downside, especially in my $37,649 AWD SEL with options tester, are some very unfortunate and cheap plastics and less than impressive fit and finish.
Three is regretful company
With that aside, to drive the all-new 2020 Ford Escape is a mix of highs and one low. I’ll address the low right away: the EcoBoost turbocharged 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engine. From an output perspective, the mill’s 181-horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque is impressive. Mated to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission, urban commutes are quite entertaining. This much torque, at 3,000 rpm, makes short work of inertia and delivers brisk acceleration. As well, combined fuel economy is a modest 8.3L/100km. Yeah, so about the low…
A three-cylinder engine is never smooth, never. At idle, the 3-pot vibrates especially when cold and barely settles when warm. When leaving the confines of your immediate neighbourhood, the engine-transmission combo works to save fuel but, between 80 and 90km/h when in 8th gear, the engine’s drone and vibrations right around 1,500 rpm are intolerable. Getting away from 80km/h to merge onto the highway, or pass, requires time and some patience as the engine begins to run out of breath as of 4,500 rpm.
The main issue I have with the three is that I suspect real-world fuel consumption will be far greater than the stated 8.3L. I’m also concerned about reliability, but that’s another topic. As an alternative to the three, Ford offers a 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine which I’m convinced will be the better purchase in the long run despite its $2,000 extra cost. Its 250-horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque will be very pleasant and its combined 9.1L/100km fuel average will be closer to real life, and to that of the 1.5L.
Superb driver otherwise
With that out of the way, I can say that the 2020 Ford Escape is fabulous to drive. The revised C2 platform, shared with the Ford Focus (not for us!) and the new Lincoln Corsair, is solid. Thanks to its stiffness, the Escape is endowed with a chassis that is tuned for comfort, ideal for the city, and for handling.
Its level of refinement, however, can’t mask the 3-cylinder’s “bad vibes” unfortunately. Brakes are superbly well adapted and steering, although entirely devoid of any kind of feedback, is suitable for the task. Quite plainly, the new Ford Escape is one of the best-driving compact SUVs in the segment. With the 2.0T, it could be one of the most entertaining, and then some.
My advice to you all, however, would be to wait a year or so before opting for the new Escape. Past EcoBoost engine reliability and the rare-nowadays questionable interior fit have me worried.
In this segment, you do have numerous options and, in my book, the Toyota RAV4 sits at the top for all the right reasons. The Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 are two excellent plans Bs.