Compact SUVs are in great demand for their practicality, not certainly their performance. Since SUVs are replacing sedans as America’s preferred car, consumers want more than just roomy interiors and large cargo spaces. The 2020 Ford Escape fulfills both requirements with versatility, powerful engine and sporty handling that makes it drive like a small car.
The Escape has been completely redesigned for 2020. The revamped exterior design gives the Escape a more sporty look, a new base engine, a better suspension, and 200 pounds lighter. This change must overcome criticism about the last Escape, especially its disappointing fuel economy and choppy ride quality. The new Escape Hybrid also returned after a long absence. This will be one of the few small hybrid SUVs available. The new plug-in hybrid model also joined the lineup and gave Ford the most appropriate hybrid spark since the C-Max.
The 2020 Ford Escape also offers more interior space than before, especially the sliding second-row seats which help open legroom up to 40.7 inches. Folding the rear seat results in a 65.4 cubic-feet maximum cargo space, a slightly less than other rival crossovers because of the new Escape’s contoured rear window styling. But it’s still a large amount of space for a two-row crossover.
Other features of the new Escape include an 8-inch freestanding touchscreen, a head-up display, and an array of driver safety aids: rearview camera, automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning dubbed as Ford Co-Pilot360.
The 2020 Ford Escape uses a new 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged three-cylinder for the base powertrain in the S, SE and SEL engine, replacing last year’s 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder. The new engine has a cylinder deactivation system that can shut down one cylinder when demand is low, and it feeds its power through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite the completely new configuration, the base Escape’s produce output of 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque is almost identical to last year, gaining a single horsepower.
All Escape engines can run on 87 octane regular, but Ford’s EcoBoost power figures are measured with 93 octane premium.
The standard powertrain for the SE Sport or Titanium is a hybrid system that combines a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors buried inside an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission. This Escape hybrid isn’t Ford’s first one, but the concept was dropped when the current model debuted in 2013. Now it’s back in an improved form that includes a more compact battery that eats up less space.
In a big departure from the outgoing model, only the 2020 Ford Escape Titanium with AWD can be upgraded with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo-four, making an estimated 250 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. That’s the same torque and just 5 hp more than the motor that helped our long-term 2017 Escape SE get from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. Ford says the 2020 version should accelerate 10 percent quicker, which to our reckoning would be less than 6.5 seconds. Five horsepower can’t account for that, so it’s likely down to weight loss, the smoother shape and the transmission’s extra gears.
Ford has one more powertrain permutation up its sleeve, and that’s a new plug-in hybrid variant of the 2.5-liter hybrid that will be optional on SE, SEL and Titanium models. Its enlarged plug-in battery will have a capacity of 14.4 kWh, and Ford expects it to deliver a rated electric range of at least 30 miles — the most in this tiny but growing subcategory. It will also have four driver-selectable modes, including an EV Now setting that will make it persist as an EV for as long as the battery lasts.
Fuel economy is something Ford is not yet ready to get specific about, but the Escape has a lot of ground to make up. Last year’s front-wheel-drive Escape with the 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder was rated at 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway). The new Escape’s sleeker bodywork, lighter weight, eight-speed transmission and more modern 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder will help considerably, but 4 mpg is a big ask. As for the hybrid, its main competitor is the new RAV4 AWD hybrid that’s rated at 40 mpg combined (41 city/38 highway). The 2012 Escape Hybrid was good for 32 mpg combined in front-drive form, but a lot can change in eight years.
The 2020 Ford Escape extended proportions also translate into considerably more interior space than before. Both the front and rear rows offer more head-, hip- and shoulder room than the outgoing model, and the rear seat now slides and reclines. The difference is obvious, and the feeling is further enhanced by the lower window sills that come with the new styling. The 2020 Escape moves the perception needle from cozy to accommodating in an instant.
Rear seat legroom is best in class at 40.7 inches, and rear cargo space behind the second row has improved from 34 cubic feet to 37.5 cubic feet — a 10 percent gain. The big legroom number comes with the rear seats slid all the way back, at which point you have 33.5 cubic feet of space. You must slide the seats forward (they move 6 inches) to get 37.5 cubes of cargo, but then taller folks won’t necessarily fit. Fold the seats down altogether and you get 65.4 cubic feet, which is slightly less than last year’s maximum because of the smoothly contoured rear window styling but still competitive for the segment.
Up front, the driving position is fantastic thanks to the steering wheel’s generous telescoping range and the extra visibility afforded by the expanded glass area. The main controls are nicely logical and fall close at hand, and there’s a very clear division between the climate controls and the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface. This time around the screen is freestanding instead of deep-set in a bezel, and that makes it much easier to access all corners of the screen.
That 8-inch touchscreen comes standard on the 2020 Ford Escape SE and up, running Ford’s easy-to-use Sync 3, which also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The graphics are crisp, and the menus are easy to navigate. Screen response seemed pretty snappy during the few moments we played with it. We also appreciate the freestanding volume and tune knobs that are within easy reach.
All 2020 Ford Escape come standard with Ford Co-Pilot360, which is shorthand for a suite of advanced driver aids such as 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 active safety components include full stop-and-go adaptive cruise control and evasive steering assist.
More convenience-oriented options include an active park assist system that will direct the car into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot with no need for the driver to work the steering, shifter, gas or brake. You do have to be inside, though. The new Escape also offers an optional 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster, and you can get a retractable 6-inch head-up display screen that puts critical information in the driver’s direct line of sight.
PRICING AND RELEASE DATE
Production schedules indicate Ford will begin building the 2020 Escape in mid-August of 2019. Expect a release date sometime in early fall.
Official pricing will start at $25,980 with destination, with range-topping versions topping out at $37,780 for the 2.0-liter Titanium trim. The all-new Escape Hybrid, available in SE Sport and Titanium trims, has been priced from $29,350. Fully equipped with options, the Escape will reach nearly $40,000.
Competitors include the Mazda CX-5,Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.