2017 Ford Escape SE FWD Review

A good Escape in a tough segment

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Positives: Feels reasonably quick off the line, fast and smooth infotainment system, plenty of usable storage and cargo space for the segment.
Negatives: Looks are getting a bit dated, seating position is very upright, narrow seats with firm padding, some cheap interior bits, steering feels unnatural.
Bottom Line: The Escape is a well-rounded CUV in a tough segment. As good as it is, there's little that stands out about the model. If you like Ford's infotainment system and EcoBoost engine, then this might be the right crossover for you. If you want something that's genuinely sporty or has some serious cargo space you may want to look elsewhere.
 View Our 2017 Ford Escape Overview
The compact crossover segment is a tough one to compete in, and Ford has done well as of late. The Escape is the brand’s second best-selling vehicle, sitting under the F-Series pickup for most models sold. As such, Ford has put some money into this model for a mid-cycle refresh, and it’s more handsome than previous years’ model. Having said that, Honda, Mazda and Toyota still have worthy adversaries and their crossovers make Ford’s quest to take up more of the market a difficult one. Recently, we got the chance to get behind the wheel of the Escape SE for a week-long test drive. Read on for our in-depth review.

Driving Experience



The Escape is a pleasant vehicle to drive on the highway or in the city, but that's not something that's too uncommon in this segment. Few thrills but adequate for most folks. It’s even acceptable on a twisty road, but push too much and you’ll find the vehicle’s limits quickly. The all-wheel drive version of the Escape likely fares better. Some of its competitors, like the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5, show it up when it comes to driving dynamics.

Ride Quality: The Escape walks the line between a firm and sporty ride and a soft one. It doesn’t jostle you too much over bumps but certainly doesn’t float over them either.

Acceleration: The 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder feels quick off the line and smooth up to highway speeds, but it isn’t exactly fast. Reported 0-60 times are right around nine and a half seconds. You do have the option of upgraded to a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, but that comes with a near $1,300 price hike.

Braking: Progressive and strong with good pedal feel. You won’t have any issues getting the Escape to come to a halt.

Steering: Ford’s electronic power steering systems are generally well-engineered. The Escape is no exception, it features well-weighted and precise steering. Our only complaint is that the wheel springs back to center almost too fast and doesn’t exactly feel natural.

Handling: The Escape experiences some body roll in the turns, and its higher center of gravity doesn’t make you feel like you want to take on the Tail of the Dragon. Having said that, it can handle most mildly twisty roads without much issue. If you push it too hard, though, you’ll experience some understeer.




If you’re looking for something that offers a fair amount of tech at a good price, the Escape is a good option. It comes with quite a bit of standard tech equipment, and plenty of options. Our tester had the 201A package which added the SE Technology package and features like SYNC 3 and SYNC Connect. In addition to those features the Escape came with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and enhanced voice recognition as standard equipment.

Infotainment System: The optional SYNC 3 infotainment system is one of the better ones out there. It’s smooth and quick operation makes it easy to use when parked or on the fly. Our only complaint is that the system's high placement on the dash puts the 8-inch touchscreen almost too far from the driver.

Controls: The touchscreen of the SYNC 3 system is easy to use and the buttons on the steering wheel function well, too. The buttons on the dash and right in front of the infotainment screen could use better aesthetics, but they get the job done.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone to the infotainment system took only a few seconds, and we experienced no issues once connected.

Voice Call Quality: Calls were clear on both sides with no clarity or transmission problems.




The 2017 Escape is a big improvement overall from the previous generation, but even the current design is starting to look a bit dated next to competitors like the Mazda CX-5 and even the refreshed Toyota RAV4. The main large grille up front makes the vehicle fit in better with the rest of Ford’s lineup and eliminates some of the busyness that was on the previous generation. The rest of the car has a simple and somewhat sporty look, as well.

Front: The key to the entire front of the Escape is the two-bar grille. The creased hood, mildly aggressive headlights and the lower fog lights just add to the vehicle’s attractive face. In many ways, it resembles the Ford Edge. That’s a good thing and helps the Escape fit into Ford’s crossover family.

Rear: While the front reminds us of the Edge, the rear of the vehicle certainly doesn’t. It features wraparound taillights, a few creases in the liftgate and an overall tall and narrow look. Ford added horizontal lines into the rear in an attempt to reduce visual height, but the vehicle still appears narrow and tall from behind.

Profile: From the side, the Escape has a kind of raised hatchback or station wagon look to it. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, we like the sleekness of the vehicle. The thing that we can’t stand is the fake front fender vent. It’s non-functioning and is just tacked on for show. Ford has these on multiple models and we wish they’d do away with them altogether.

Cabin: The styling of the interior of the Escape isn’t exactly what we’d call elegant. There’s a lot of dated looking buttons and hard plastics throughout the dash and the fixture around the infotainment screen almost looks added on to the top of the dash. Other automakers do a better job on interiors. Material quality and feel falls way behind Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia.




Like in most other categories, the Ford Escape does well in terms of comfort, but it surely didn’t blow us away. The cabin is inviting, but it’s showed up by other vehicles in this segment. Ford seems to have tried hard to maximize space in the Escape and for the most part it works, but in a few spots (like knee space) the vehicle still feels a little cramped.

Front Seats: The front heated cloth seats offer supportive padding that’s firmer than we expected. The seats, while not uncomfortable, feel narrower than other CUVs we’ve tested. Knee room isn’t as plentiful as with other CUVs like the Honda CR-V, either.

Rear Seats: The rear seats are in many ways similar to the front. They feel somewhat slim and the padding is on the firmer side. Leg room is adequate, but not the best in this segment.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): We noticed no odd noises in the Escape. It feels solid on the road and is good at isolating you from road and wind noise.

Visibility: Front, rear and side visibility is good in the Escape. The backup camera and optional rear sensing system do come in handy in tight parking situations, though.

Climate: The dual-zone automatic climate control cools off or heats up the cabin of the Escape with ease. The heated seats help heat the cabin quickly and keep you warm without having to have the heat pumping out the vents at all times.




The Ford Escape provides a respectable level of safety for its occupants but doesn’t achieve top honors from the IIHS. The NHTSA awarded the vehicle a five-star overall rating, with the rollover test being the only crash test it didn’t ace. So while it’s a safe vehicle, it’s not the safest out there.

IIHS Rating: The Ford Escape fails to achieve top ratings from the IIHS. It received good ratings in all the crashworthiness tests except the small overlap test, in which it got an acceptable rating. The vehicle’s headlights were also rated acceptable, and the ease of use for child seat anchors was rated marginal.

Standard Tech: The Escape comes equipped with a fair amount of safety equipment standard. In SE trim, it comes with traction and stability control, airbags, LATCH child safety seat tethers and a post-crash alert system.

Optional Tech: The only optional safety technology our test vehicle came with was a reverse sensing system and blind spot monitoring. These two features proved to be very helpful in maneuvering the CUV in the city.




The Ford Escape is a family friendly CUV. As such, it offers plenty of storage for small gear items in the cabin. Though the Escape isn't huge in terms of capacity or small gear storage, it provides sufficient space to manage most daily tasks, as well as road trips that don't require SUV-like space.

Storage Space: Interior storage space in the Escape consists of a small tray in front of the shifter, two cup holders next to it and a small compartment in front of the armrest that's great for everyday carry items. If you need more space, under the armrest there’s another compartment that’s good for items that won’t fit into the spaces around the shifter.

Cargo Room: The Escape comes with 34 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place and up to 68 cubic feet with them folded. That’s enough to beat the Mazda CX-5, but the Honda CR-V offers more space than the Escape. The Escape’s cargo space is very useful for larger bags and boxes, and our tester came with a power liftgate, which made loading and unloading items even easier.

Fuel Economy



The small 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is both powerful and efficient. The Escape isn’t a huge vehicle either, which helps its case. As good as the Escape is, it’s not the most efficient out there. Mazda’s CX-5 beats it slightly and Honda’s heralded CR-V bests all other models in this class.

Observed: During our week with the vehicle we saw an average of 25 mpg.

Driving Factors: We drove mostly in the city in medium to heavy traffic, with a few trips on the highway. When we were on the highway, we set the cruise control near the speed limit.




The 9-speaker audio system that comes in the optional 201A package does a good job. It provides clear and undistorted sound to the cabin no matter the volume level or audio type. AM/FM radio, satellite radio and audio we streamed over Bluetooth sounded good.

Final Thoughts

The Ford Escape is one of the better crossovers out there. It’s quick, practical and easy to love. While we experienced no issues in the front-wheel drive version of the CUV, if you live somewhere that gets heavy snowfall, we’d recommend AWD. Otherwise, there’s little to complain about in a vehicle with these qualities at this price point. The Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V are a little more fun to drive and certainly better to look at, but the Escape is no slouch on a curvy road, making it an exceptionally well-rounded vehicle.
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