Car Reviews SUV of the Year

Is the 2020 Ford Escape Better Than the Honda CR-V? We Reveal 2020 Escape Pros and Cons

This 2020 SUV of the Year contender is a long time coming

This 2020 SUV of the Year contender is a long time coming

Pros:

  1. Hybrid variants
  2. Light and tossable
  3. Standard safety tech

Cons:

  1. Buzzy three-cylinder
  2. Cheap interior
  3. Start-button placement

After an interminable wait, Ford has graced us with a new Escape. Once a MotorTrend favorite, the Escape in its 2020 garb bursts back into the compact crossover class to battle the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. And what makes the Escape so intriguing is the way it doesn’t try to ape those two sales leaders’ strategies move for move.

Read about other SUV of the Year contenders—including models from BMW, Cadillac, and JeepHERE.

Three and four are the most important Escape numbers—only three cylinders sit under the hood of base models, and a startling four engine options are available across the entire lineup.

After popularizing the idea of a small hybrid crossover years ago, the Escape ceded ground to the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid once Ford shifted its hybrid focus to the C-Max tall hatchback. With the C-Max gone, the Escape hybrid returns with a new plug-in hybrid variant, too.

About that turbo-three Escape: Don’t be afraid of it. Actually, its 179 horsepower propel it with more authority than you’d expect. In fact, the Ford feels slightly swifter than some competitors’ four-cylinder base-engine models. Where those four-cylinders leave the three-cylinder Escape behind is with low-speed refinement (at least compared to our tester). Given its buzzy nature, however, we wonder how the three-cylinder will feel at 50,000 miles (80,467 km) instead of just 5,000.

The Escape earns back our respect with its tossable feel. The crossover moves with a lightness that reminds us of fun Fords we’ve favored in the past for their nimbleness. The heavier hybrid trades a little of that playful nature for improved fuel economy and a quieter drive around town. The ride is OK, though the suspension has trouble absorbing more jarring impacts. We give Ford credit for brake feel that’s excellent for a hybrid—and for even offering a plug-in hybrid at all. EV range before the gas engine helps out is expected to be at least 30 miles (48 km), which compares well to the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in’s 22 miles (35 km).

The Escape’s biggest issues are inside. Even giving the benefit of the doubt to the provided pre-production models, Ford should have done a better job hiding the harder plastics, or at least keeping more of them out of arms’ and fingers’ reach. We get it—TANSTAAFL—we can’t expect a Lincoln or Lexus interior at a Ford price, but other mainstream brands make this compromise more effectively.

“The interior really falls short,” said MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina, who also was disappointed by the relative value of our nearly $40,000 USD loaded 2.0T tester.

More on the Escape’s insides: A couple judges found the driver’s seat uncomfortable, with editor-in-chief Ed Loh calling them flat and unsupportive. Especially curious was the ergonomically poor start-button placement, which requires an awkward reach around the steering wheel column.

The rear seats are spacious enough, and unless you’re as tall as I am (just over 6-foot-4), you’ll have plenty of headroom even when the Escape is equipped with a giant glass roof. The rear-seat recline lever also deserves a shout-out for being easy to find and use, but we wish those rear seats were foldable from the cargo area. Speaking of which, the Escape’s 33.5 to 37.5 cubic feet of cargo space is decent—how much space you have depends on whether you’ve moved the rear seats all the way forward, about 6 inches. Go for the hybrid or plug-in hybrid, and cargo space is a still-respectable though not class-leading 30.7 to 34.4 cubic feet.

Respectable though not class-leading is where the 2020 Escape’s journey ends with SUV of the Year. Even so, the Escape will be compelling to buyers who can overlook its sprinkling of issues and are OK with a crossover that can’t match the class leader in interior spaciousness.

2020 Ford Escape SE 1.5T 2020 Ford Escape SE Hybrid AWD 2020 Ford Escape Titanium AWD 2.0T
Base Price/As Tested $28,190/$28,885 $30,850/$34,840 $37,780/$39,775
Power (SAE net) 181 hp @ 6,000 rpm 163 hp @ 6,250 rpm + elec motor; 221 hp comb 250 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 190 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm 155 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm + elec motor 280 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 8.4 sec 8.7 sec 6.9 sec
Quarter Mile 16.6 sec @ 84.5 mph 16.7 sec @ 84.7 mph 15.3 sec @ 89.3 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 128 ft 122 ft 123 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.78 g (avg) 0.77 g (avg) 0.76 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.2 sec @ 0.62 g (avg) 28.3 sec @ 0.60 g (avg) 27.7 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 27/33/30 mpg (est) N/A 23/31/26 mpg (est)