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2020 Ford Escape

Consumer Reviews
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2020
The Car Connection
Best Car to Buy Nominee

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
June 19, 2020

Buying tip

The 2020 Escape maths out best below $30,000, but we’re eager to see if the plug-in hybrid’s range is worth a premium beyond that.

features & specs

S AWD
S FWD
SE AWD
MPG
26 city / 31 hwy
MPG
27 city / 33 hwy
MPG
26 city / 31 hwy
MSRP
$26,385
MSRP
$24,885
MSRP
$28,605

The 2020 Ford Escape takes a more refined tack, and brings its hybrid edition back into vogue.

The 2020 Ford Escape crossover SUV whistles into a new model year with three distinct personalities. There’s the thrifty turbo-3 model, an engaging turbo-4 hustler, and a hybrid (and plug-in hybrid) for anyone with strong feelings about visiting the Wawa more than once a week (we recommend the donuts).

This Escape flips and reverses its recent past: The hybrid’s back, the ride’s better than the steering, and the overall package is more than the sum of its parts.

We give it 7.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Review continues below

The 2020 Escape arrives in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL, and Titanium trim levels, and if counted in just the right way, comes in seven different configurations, between its turbo and hybrid drivetrains and its choice of front- or all-wheel drive.

With the latest Escape, Ford’s softened the hot-hatchback lines of the most recent version into something more organic and more friendly. Some very Mazda moments echo in the exterior with a little Model 3 thrown in for good measure. The sweetly rendered body could teach the cabin a few things: The cabin reads somber in basic black, and some plastic trim distracts.

Base models pair a turbo-3 and an 8-speed automatic, while rorty cars get a much stronger turbo-4 and all-wheel drive. This Escape’s less tuned for carving up two-lane roads than its predecessor, but a redesigned suspension endows it with ride control beyond its size, even with 19-inch wheels. It’s a fluid, energetic performer that’s traded some sizzle for finer moves.

The Escape Hybrid’s back, and so much better, too. With a hybrid drivetrain that can tap its lithium-ion battery to maximize efficiency, it doles out better-than-average acceleration without disrupting the fine ride much. We saw sky-high fuel-economy numbers on a controlled test route; Ford’s estimates put it higher than Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid—even before the plug-in Escape arrives next year with about 30 miles of electric range on tap.

The Escape’s cabin suffers from some plasticky trim; while they’re at it, designers need to spec out new front seats. Sized for smaller passengers, the Escape’s front buckets have short bottom cushions without much leg support. The second-row seat’s better, especially in lower-cost cloth—and it slides on a track to flex passenger and cargo space. Adults slip easily into the back seat and have excellent leg room, even while the Escape maintains nearly 40 cubic feet of cargo space. It’s a bit smaller than CR-V and Forester, but it’s extremely useful.

Every Escape comes with automatic emergency braking; no crash-test data is in but the Escape also offers blind-spot monitors, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control and automatic parking assist.

The base $26,080 2020 Escape S lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but has power features and Bluetooth. Compare that to a 2019 Honda CR-V LX at $25,395 or a 2019 Subaru Forester at $25,270. Our pick, the $28,290 Escape SE, gets a power driver seat, an 8.0-inch touchscreen and satellite radio, and CarPlay/Android compatibility. The $29,450 SE Sport Hybrid adds a power tailgate, navigation, a panoramic roof, and adaptive cruise control. Beyond those, the more expensive Escapes add B&O audio, turbo-4 power, a power passenger seat, and leather upholstery—but top out just over $40,00

7

2020 Ford Escape

Styling

Bubbly and svelte on the outside, the 2020 Escape hits a somber note inside.

The 2020 Ford Escape looks the part of an ingenue, all bubbly and svelte and adorned with just the right amount of jewelry. It’s a lot more somber inside, with dark plastic and woodgrain trim decking out its restrained shapes like a library made of Legos.

We give it 7 out of 10, with a couple of extra points for what really matters—the outside.

No matter what's underhood, the new Escape has a clean, soft shape with gentle headlights and a low grille that gives it a carlike appearance that stands in contrast to the decidedly trucky Toyota RAV4. The new Escape’s front end channels the Tesla Model 3, albeit with a wide grille and a pert nose where a blank stare would otherwise reside. It’s more distinctive in front; toward its tail the Escape echoes other crossovers. Specifically, there are some very Mazda moments in the new Escape, especially in the complex curves at its rear quarters. And in its profile. And in its interior. It’s the bright-eyed companion to the clear-eyed CX-5; despite the passing closeness, both mat their rivals in style.

The Escape's interior look is less busy than before, with BMW-ish bands of controls styled like happy-robot faces. It’s styled well enough, but the cars we drove dressed almost entirely in black, like the people you’d find in a Manhattan coffee shop before 9 a.m. Like them, the Escape comes off resilient and stylish, if not a little depressed. The surfaces below its center line are to blame; they’re from a cheaper parts bin and show up in some fairly high places. 

We’d opt for the creamy beige or snowy gray interiors for some visual relief—which otherwise comes from a pair of high-def screens on top models, one on the center of the dash for infotainment, the other in the place of conventional gauges for...driver-tainment? The digital readouts can be configured for calm layouts or excessively informative ones, in warm reds and cool blues, with animated sequences that call out drive-mode changes in a graphic globe-spinning GIF that’s more distracting than any over-the-road text message.

Review continues below
6

2020 Ford Escape

Performance

The 2020 Escape asks you to choose your warrior: turbo-3, turbo-4, or hybrid.

Ford brings three different 2020 Escape crossovers to the party, and any of them provides efficient and brisk transportation. Love driving? You’ll want the turbo-4. Love your money? Stick with the turbo-3. Love saving gas? Ford has two hybrids for you, both a gas-electric Escape and a coming plug-in hybrid.

We base this rating on what’s likely to be the most commonly purchased Escape, the front-drive SUV with the turbo-3-engine. That rates a 6 on our scale; if either the hybrid or the turbo-4 became the leaders, we’d add another point.

Buy an Escape S, SE, or SEL, and the 3,299-pound front-drive Escape comes with a 1.5-liter turbo-3 pegged at 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. (A disclaimer: Ford recommends 91-octane gas for its turbo engines but rates them on less common 93-octane fuel. Why? Zero clue, so top output likely is lower than their quoted numbers). The turbo-3 has an encouraging note as it works to deliver reasonable acceleration. We weren’t granted much time in this version, just a short city loop that revealed moderate thrust and no sense that the turbo-3’s engine was shutting off a cylinder to save fuel under light loads. It’s coupled to an 8-speed automatic and can be fitted with a simple all-wheel-drive system that raises its curb weight and sends power to the rear wheels when the fronts begin to slip. More on that in a moment.

We spent more time in the Escape Titanium outfitted with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, coupled to the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, and outfitted with the same drive modes found on other models (Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Snow/Sand). This is the engaging, quick-witted Escape, the one with acceleration to match its vivacious grip. Ford says both turbo engines are faster than the cars they replace, but doesn’t publish acceleration estimates; we’ll estimate the turbo-4 at below seven seconds in the 60-mph dash. In the Titanium, which comes with thicker acoustic glass, the turbo-4’s grainy sounds were well-muted, and Ford’s new shift programming permits more manual shift control; click a paddle and the Escape now holds a gear until it nears redline. The 8-speed judders sometimes in quick shifts, and its energetic turbo bounding and its frenetic turbo spooling have been tamed some, but fluid acceleration still sits a fingertip click away, from nearly any point in its rev range.

The base turbo-3 is rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds, while the 2.0-liter turbo-4 is rated to lug up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.

In sharp contrast to the previous crossover, the 2020 Escape rides better than it steers. Both attributes are standouts in a class that counts the Forester and CR-V as its leaders. Even on the 19-inch wheels and tires that come with the Titanium and turbo-4, the steady slaps and thuds of the old Escape’s tires have been subdued some. Even on 19-inch wheels the 2020 Escape snubs harsh impacts by smothering them with suspension travel and tire rubber. The gains in ride quality have smoothed over its hot-hatch persona, but the steering still firms up in sport mode while the whole car remains composed over moderately sized bumps. It’s no longer a rattler or a thumper. We’ll need more time with the base car and its 17-inch wheels and tires before we can judge its trade-offs properly.

Ford Escape Hybrid performance

Ford hasn't offered an Escape hybrid since 2012, but the new model shares little with its blocky predecessor. For one, it’s fun to drive.

The Escape SE Sport and Titanium come standard with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that pairs a 2.5-liter inline-4 to an electric motor and a 1.1-kwh lithium-ion battery pack. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) sends power to the front or all-wheel wheels and the setup is good for 200 hp combined and 209 lb-ft. Ford said that the hybrid crossover SUV will be capable of hitting 85 mph on electric power alone.

Ford blots out this powertrain’s noise with lots of sound deadening and active noise cancellation, but it’s still in the fore enough to notice as we buzzed Kentucky horse country in the gas-electric crossover. With its emphasis on battery power and its unique transmission (a set of motors that couple and uncouple with engine power to act like a CVT), its powertrain feels more like it’s operated by remote, like a drone—but it’s responsive in the way that matters most. We saw upwards of 41 mpg indicated on the Hybrid’s tripometer, and were able to boost regeneration by putting it its transmission into L as often as low speeds and winding roads permitted. It’s one of the few ways the Escape Hybrid feels and acts like a hybrid; in steering feel and ride control it’s nearly the equal of the non-hybrid car, and that’s one thing Ford hopes will drive more shoppers toward it (and offset fuel economy of other Ford trucks in the process).

A 200-hp Ford Escape plug-in hybrid with an upsized 14.4-kwh lithium-ion battery is available. It can be charged in 3.5 hours on a Level 2 240-volt charging station for about 30 miles of electric-only range. The plug-in hybrid powertrain is only available with front-wheel drive, where it still checks in at a chunky 3,884 pounds.

Both hybrid versions can be run in full-electric mode given enough battery charge in reserve and an EV Charge mode tops off the battery during driving for electric-only use later in the plug-in Escape.

Review continues below
7

2020 Ford Escape

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Escape has plenty of room; its seats leave room for improvement.

The 2020 Ford Escape’s newly smoothed-over shape still allows for great interior space for people and cargo. Its seats leave something to be desired, especially for bigger passengers.

We give it 7 out of 10 for comfort and utility, with an extra point for its back seat and one for its cargo space.

The latest Escape measures 180.5 inches long, and rides on a wheelbase of 106.7 inches, which puts it about two inches longer than the outgoing version. It ekes out even more space by clever packaging and more efficient design.

In front, the swoopy Escape dash of the past has yielded to a shallower, more straightforward design that frees up lots of knee room. Head room’s fine, and the center-console storage under elbows and ahead of the rotary shift control is deep and useful. What’s lacking is enough support from the front seats—in any of the models we drove—with either cloth or leather upholstery. The bottom cushions are short, with rounded corners, and they’re bolstered narrowly to fit smaller drivers better. Ford says it’s tailored the new Escape to appeal more to women; are gendered seats now a thing? Higher-priced versions gain power controls and heating, but no Escape has cooled front seats.

Row two benefits more from the total redesign. Ford says there’s more leg room (about 38.8 inches; 1.8 inches less on hybrids) and we’re inclined to believe it—and reclined, since the second-row Escape bench slides and lays back for better comfort. The bench’s bottom cushion is set far inboard from the doors but the bolsters are more straight and narrow, the seat itself better padded; in cloth upholstery it’s more supportive than in the leather-trimmed versions. 

The rear seats fold nearly flat to open up the Escape’s cargo bin, but it’s already sizable. When the back seat’s moved forward, the 2020 Escape has 37.5 cubic feet of storage space, losing about 4 cubic feet when the bench is set further back, and another 3 cubic feet on hybrids, due to the location of their battery pack.

With the rear seats down, the Escape can hold up to 65.4 cubic feet of cargo (60.8 cubes on hybrids), which totals about 10 fewer cubes than either the Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V.

A few words about the Escape interior: The shapes please us and remind us of the Edge, but below the middle of the dash the Escape’s black plastic bits go hard and more shiny. The door caps wear a middling grade of lightly padded vinyl. The woodgrain trim’s a bit somber. Maybe “Horsepower Jesus” will deliver some red leather when he lets loose the 300-hp Escape ST from our dreams. On the other hand, the 2020 Escape’s much more quiet in Titanium trim thanks to acoustic glass, which isn’t offered on less expensive models.

Review continues below
9

2020 Ford Escape

Safety

The 2020 Escape has good crash-test scores to report thus far.

The NHTSA gives the 2020 Ford Escape five stars overall, and the IIHS says it's a Top Safety Pick—but only in Titanium trim, where its LED headlights earn an "Acceptable" rating. Other trims, including our recommended SE Sport Hybrid, have standard halogen headlights rated "Marginal." 

We can give the Escape a score of 9 here for those scores, for standard and available safety equipment, and for good outward vision in addition to its NHTSA scores.

Every 2020 Escape comes with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, automatic high-beam headlights, and blind-spot monitors. The forward-collision warning system relies on cameras and can mitigate accidents at speeds of up to 75 mph.

With the available adaptive cruise control, Ford adds more sensors and also adds lane-centering control, which prevents the boomerang action of that more basic setup; the Escape keeps to the middle of its lane with much better control.

The Escape can be fitted with a head-up display with a fold-down visor-style screen, like the ones we’ve used in Mini and Mazda cars. A surround-view camera system also sits on the options list.

Review continues below
7

2020 Ford Escape

Features

The 2020 Ford Escape runs the gamut from cloth seats to automatic parallel parking.

The 2020 Escape crossover has a strong list of standard safety features, a good infotainment interface on most models, and it makes a strong case for value as a sub-$30,000 Escape SE or SE Sport Hybrid.

Based on those models, we give the 2020 Escape a 7 for features.

The base model: The redesigned 2020 Ford Escape costs at least $26,080 including destination charges. That base Escape S has automatic emergency braking, drive modes, LED taillights, a sliding second-row seat, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and a 4.2-inch LCD screen for its AM/FM radio. 

Our pick: The $28,290 Escape SE adds heated front seats, a 10-way power driver seat, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, and heated mirrors. It also gains an 8.0-inch touchscreen and satellite radio, with options for a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a B&O 10-speaker audio system. It’s our value pick for the lineup, with front- or all-wheel drive. We’d also recommend the SE Sport Hybrid, which for $29,450 gains a power tailgate, a panoramic roof, navigation, adaptive cruise control, 19-inch wheels, the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and black trim.

Top dollar: Above $30,000, the 2020 Escape heads for the far end of the common-sense spectrum. The $30,450 Escape SEL comes with the turbo-3 engine and gets the hands-free power tailgate, 18-inch wheels, a power front passenger seat, remote start, and reverse parking sensors. It can be configured with all-wheel drive, the turbo-4 engine or the hybrid drivetrain. The turbo-4/AWD option raises the price by $2,285.

The $34,595 Escape Titanium comes with the hybrid drivetrain standard, and adds 19-inch wheels, the digital instrument panel, B&O sound system, navigation, acoustic glass, leather upholstery, ambient lighting, and a 110-volt AC power outlet. It also gets active lane control and active park assist with front and rear parking sensors. For $2,885, Ford will swap in the 2.0-liter turbo-4 with standard all-wheel drive. Fully outfitted, the 2020 Escape costs more than $40,000.

Review continues below
6

2020 Ford Escape

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Escape is more fuel-efficient than many of its rivals.

The 2020 Escape is fuel-efficient in most versions, and hybrid models do better than most rivals.

Based on those figures, it's a 6 for fuel economy.

The front-drive turbo-3 is estimated at 27 mpg city, 33 highway, 30 combined. With all-wheel drive, the numbers sink to 26/31/28 mpg. With the turbo-4, the Escape's estimated at 23/31/26 mpg.

Hybrid versions are very fuel-efficient. With front-wheel drive, the Escape Hybrid rates 44/37/41 mpg. With all-wheel drive, that drops to 43/37/40 mpg.

The plug-in hybrid Escape is rated at 41 mpg combined when operating as a regular hybrid and can travel up to 38 miles on electricity alone.

Review continues below
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$24,885
MSRP based on S FWD
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7.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 9
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
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