2020 Ford Escape Hybrid SE Sport AWD Review

The best Escape redefines the model


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: New design is clean and attractive, driving manners are civilized and fun, way better ergonomics, solid levels of comfort and space.
Negatives: Looks generic in certain colors, lacks presence, some plasticky bits in the cabin.
Bottom Line: The new Escape is the one of the best new small crossover entrants and a real surprise from Ford. It's well-appointed, comfortable, and has some great technology that puts it at the top of the segment. The fact that it's a hybrid is a bonus.
The Ford Escape was due for a redesign in a big way. The outgoing small crossover was hugely successful for the brand, but it was getting a bit dated in terms of styling, tech, and ergonomics. Ford went back to the drawing board for the new Escape, and the result is transformative. It looks like no Escape before it, and it receives lighter and stronger materials, improved technology and styling, as well as the long awaited return of the Hybrid, which we got to drive for a week. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.7

 

The Escape isn't a thrilling car to drive, but it is more engaging than most hybrid crossovers. The Escape feels nimble, balanced, and even a bit engaging.

Ride Quality: The ride is a good balance of firm and comfortable, and the suspension feels compliant.

Acceleration: 0-60 comes in about 8.7 seconds, which is by no means fast, but the dropped weight and decent CVT make it feel faster.

Braking: The regenerative brakes have decent feel and stopping power, very unlike most regen brake systems.

Steering: Steering is light, but effort increases when you change to Sport mode. It's responsive, and turn in is pretty good. There is no feedback coming through, though.

Handling: The Escape's dropped weight (200 pounds) help its lateral movements, and the rigid chassis makes for composed handling.

Technology

9.1

 

Though some of the interior looks cheap, the Escape's in-car tech is solid. The SYNC3 system continues to be one of the best, and the in-car Wi-Fi can handle a whopping 10 devices, which seems like overkill since you can only fit five people in the vehicle. One demerit is its lack of the right number of USB ports. Let the fighting begin.

Infotainment System: The 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Ford's great SYNC3 is vivid and crisp with great responsiveness. Intead of sitting in the dash, it floats like a tablet and responds well to inputs.

Controls: Unlike a lot of Ford products, the buttons and knobs have good separation and make operation easier while driving. Audio knobs are just below the display screen, and the HVAC vents sit lower, just above the climate controls. The rotary gearshift knob actuates well, and it can even be operated by feel alone.

Styling

9.1

 

The rather bland photos of the Escape don't really do it justice. It looks like a poor man's Porsche Macan, actually, but in some colors (like white), it can look rather bland. Ford did a great job of making the Escape look handsome without resorting to weird styling elements.

Front: The black mesh trapezoidal grille looks nice and sporty, and the front fascia is kept simple, not unlike the Porsche Macan.

Rear: Twin round exhaust pipes, handsome horizontal taillights, and proportional rear glass look great. It's an attractive tail section that keeps things simple like the front end.

Profile: The short front and rear overhangs, as well as the lack of chrome trim give the Escape Hybrid a sporty look. The unique wheel styling is also very nice with flat surfaces and alternating alloy and void A-shapes.

Cabin: Though the ergonomics are improved over the old model, there are still some visually cheap, hard bits in the dash and the center stack. It's not a bad looking cabin, but the corner cutting in materials is evident.

Comfort

9

 

The 2020 Escape gets big upgrades in the interior. Occupants have a more airy cabin with more room thanks to the increase exterior proportions. The visibility is also a couple of grades up from the outgoing Escape.

Front Seats: The front seats are unassuming but comfortable, and there's more hip and shoulder room. The difference is palpable, and the feeling is further enhanced by the lower window sills that come with the new styling. The new Escape moves the perception needle from cozy to spacious in an instant. Even though the roofline is lower in the Escape's hatchy car design, there is still headroom for tall adults in both the front and rear.

Rear Seats: Tall adults can now sit behind tall folks in the front, and overall it's more spacious. Headroom surprisingly doesn't suffer from the slightly sloping roofline. The rear seat also conveniently slides and reclines.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): There's some road noise, but it's minimal. The powertrain is silent, and only the quiet operation of the CVT can really be heard.

Visibility: The big glass all around, coupled with thin pillars, make the Escape easy to see out of in all directions.

Climate: The automatic climate control system is responsive and easy to use, and getting things to temp are no problem. Airflow is also good.

Safety

6.5

 

The Escape is brand new and has not yet been tested by either the IIHS or the federal government. On the bright side, it does get Ford Co-Pilot360, which is a solid set of safety technology.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: Pre-collision detection with automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams and a backup camera.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with Adaptive Cruise Control w/ Stop-and-Go, which is one of the best systems we've come across. It's smooth and very responsive, making it ideal for those difficult highway commutes.

Storage/Cargo

7.9

 

Small item storage in the Escape Hybrid is pretty good, and the cargo space in back is competitive in the segment. There are useful spaces, and you won't lack space when it comes time to take a road trip for two.

Storage Space: There's a cubby at the base of the center stack where the USB port is located, a cupholder that runs parallel to the center console, and a medium-sized armrest to reach your gear in the immediate vicinity.t\

Cargo Room: The Escape Hybrid's cargo space is 65.4 cubic feet, a bit less than both the new Toyota RAV4 (69.8 cubic feet) and the Honda CR-V (70.8 cubes), but it's competitive in the small crossover segment.

Fuel Economy

9

 

There are no published EPA ratings for the Escape Hybrid, but it will at least aim for the last Escape Hybrid's 41/38 mpg city/highway EPA rating. We had no trouble hitting those numbers, even with spiritied driving habits. You can also drive in EV mode for a full 30 miles before the gas engine kicks in. If your daily commute was short, you could theoretically drive to and from work all week without gas if you charged it every night (and didn't try to do this in a Chicago winter).

Observed: 39.4 mpg.

Distance Driven: 91 miles.

Audio

8.4

 

Stock audio systems these days are getting pretty good, and the 6-speaker base system in the Escape Hybrid is solid. Sound is clear, and there's a good amount of bass with no distortion experienced during our time in the vehicle.



Final Thoughts

Ford really did a great job with this redesign, and it needed to considering the Escape is the only real passenger vehicle left in their lineup that's not a pickup, large crossover, or muscle car. The Escape Hybrid is very easy to drive, doesn't drive like a typically tepid hybrid crossover, and it happens to have some nice exterior lines. The interior still suffers, but overall a it's marked improvement over the last vehicle. We'd have to drive the gas version to see if there are any major compromises in the driving experience with the Hybrid, but our guess is not much, if at all. The Escape Hybrid presents a great new option for hybrids, and it's also a vehicle to consider for your next vehicle, gas or hybrid.
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