- Rakish, sport-wagon look
- Taut ride and handling
- Useful, versatile cargo capacity
- Awkward front end
- Dash robs front knee room
- Are seats too firm?
With authentically athletic looks and performance balancing out good passenger space, cargo versatility, and loads of high-tech features, the 2014 Ford Escape is attractive to a wide range of buyers.
Just last year, the Ford Escape fled its boxy, SUV-influenced past and became a rakish, sporty, more carlike crossover with crisp handling, potent engines, and even a little more passenger space. The 2014 Escape latches onto that well-received transformation, carrying into 2014 mostly unchanged, although the Escape SEL trim has been dropped.
And there's certainly no need for any change on this model yet. Americans are just noticing—and getting used to—the look of the new Escape. From 2001 to 2012, you'll remember, the Escape did its best impression of the first-generation Explorer, down to the grille and window shapes and even the outdated graining of its interior plastics. This current 2014 Escape is everything but that—a rakish profile and aggressive road-going stance on the outside; sporty, almost cockpit-like layout inside.
The new athletic look of the 2014 Ford Escape is authenticated in its road manners. Outside of the Mazda CX-5, we can't think of a compact crossover in this class that handles as well. And there's plenty of choice in what you want under the hood: Ford turns to a trio of four-cylinders to replace its former four- and six-cylinder engines and the much-loved but discontinued Ford Escape Hybrid. The base engine's a carryover 2.5-liter four meant for fleets, while the mainstream choice is a 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo four with straight-line acceleration competitive with its chief rivals, the Honda CR-V and four-cylinder Toyota RAV4. A 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder leads the charge and can dash to 60 mph in less than eight seconds (making the most of the excellent handling, too). All versions come with a six-speed automatic.
You might think that the sleeker look might mean less passenger space, but that's not the case. Front seats are slim and rather firm, and there's just enough space for adults—just two of them, due to width—to sit in back. The cargo hold's larger, and the back seat folds and flips down its own headrests for better storage space. And you can simply swing your foot below the bumper and a hands-free tailgate option opens and closes the hatch.
Ride quality in the Escape is taut, but not too harsh or busy. Cabin appointments rank high in look and feel compared to most other crossovers in this price range, although not everyone will warm to the somewhat plasticky interior, with its cockpit-like instrument panel that robs a bit of space in front and may be seen as overstyled by some.The Escape has been quite impressive for safety, but it's quite class-leading. It's earned Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as four-star overall ratings (with five stars for side impact) from the federal government, but it earned only a 'poor' rating in the new IIHS small overlap test. For 2014 the list of safety features gets better, with a rear backup camera system standard across the Ford Escape lineup.
Last year's SEL is discontinued, but the top Escape Titanium is even more of a top-of-the-line luxury model than before. For 2014, a Titanium Technology Package is now optional and adds HID Headlamps, a blind-spot system, park assist, and rain-sensing wipers. Other noteworthy features offered in the Escape include an improved but still complex MyFord Touch; a navigation system; HD and satellite radio; Bluetooth with audio streaming; pushbutton start; leather seating; all-wheel drive, with or without a 3,500-pound-rated towing package; and a panoramic sunroof.