It's grown in overall length, wheelbase, and in cargo space, and the interior feels much more carlike, too. The 2013 Ford Escape doesn't net much more usable room for passengers, though, which leaves it quite comfortable, if a bit less open and airy, than the benchmark Honda CR-V.
This year's edition of the Escape checks in at 178.1 inches overall, with a 105.9-inch wheelbase. That's up 3.4 inches in length and 2.8 inches in wheelbase--and against the just-refreshed CR-V, it's marginally shorter, but has a wheelbase 2.8 inches longer. Versus some other new and noteworthy competitors, the new Escape's roughly the size of the upcoming 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and not much larger than Hyundai's Tucson.
That additional wheelbase shifts some space around inside the Escape from the prior version, moving a little more than an inch of leg room from the front seats to the rear seats. It still nets less in this vital spec than the current Honda CR-V: the Escape's 40.4 inches of front leg room measure up against the CR-V's 41.3 inches, and in back, the Escape's 36.8 inches of space line up against the Honda's 38.3 inches.
It's still spacious enough to outpace smaller crossovers like the Tucson, Sportage and Rogue, more so in the back seats than in the front. In front, the dash structure tends to nibble away at knee room in the front seats, and in the front passenger seat, the footwells taper narrowly between the dash and the wheel well. The CR-V has more space here, and its seats are more thickly upholstered. Sitting on the Escape's back bench, knee room is no problem, and two adults will find ample comfort. Headroom is exceptional front or back, without the panoramic sunroof.
We like the Escape Titanium's very firm leather seats, which wouldn't feel out of place in a sport sedan. From the side, they have a very slim profile, and clearly were engineered to preserve as much passenger space as possible. Still, some passengers may just think they're too hard. While the driver can option up to 10-way passenger seats, the front passenger seat is manual-adjust only, even on Titanium models. The rear bench seatbacks recline for a comfortable long-distance riding position.
The rear seats also split and fold, with a clever mechanism that requires just a tug of a fabric loop to flip down the headrests and allow the seats to fold flat. The CR-V's rear bench goes a step further, with a lever that flips up the bottom cushions and tucks the headrests, making the best use of every cubic foot of its cargo hold--which at 70.9 cubic feet, nips the Escape's 68.1-cubic-foot hold by a slim margin.
What we appreciate about the new Escape's cargo area--aside from an optional two-position load floor that gives a choice between a flat floor and maximum storage space--is its regular shape. The enclosed cargo bin has grown taller and squarer, which means 34.3 cubic feet of unattended bags and goodies can fit inside, under sheetmetal and cargo cover. Conversely, it's not as pet-friendly as before, since the tall sides and smaller glass areas won't give any view to animals riding in crates in back.