Ford’s popular Escape small crossover has been completely overhauled. The latest model promises greater performance, fuel economy, comfort and features, all in a more-stylish and refined package. Sounds like progress to us!

The Escape was introduced way back in 2001. Since then, the nameplate has gone through three generations, with the fourth coming out for model-year 2020. During its near-two decades on the market, the Escape has won many sales for Ford. In fact, it’s the brand’s second-best selling model after the chart-topping F-Series truck family. More than 4.5 million of them have been delivered to North American motorists since its introduction.

Part of the reason for this showroom success has been the Escape’s spunky dynamics and generally handsome styling, but innovation has been just as important. In 2005 Ford introduced a hybrid version of this vehicle, the first gasoline-electric SUV.

Improving the breed, this 2020 model is more than 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor thanks to the extensive use of high-strength steel in its underlying structure. This should make the all-new version extremely safe as well. The 2020 Ford Escape is also the most aerodynamic one ever, thanks to its optimized liftgate spoiler, advanced underbody shielding and careful wind-tunnel tuning. A combustion-powered, front-wheel-drive model will offer an EPA-estimated driving range of at least 400 miles per tank. The hybrid variant ought to deliver in excess of 550 miles from one fill-up to another.

Despite its enhanced efficiency, this is one handsome crossover. The new Escape’s smooth bodywork and clean lines are attractive from just about every angle. Its trapezoidal grille drew inspiration from the automaker’s iconic Mustang. The Escape’s lower portions supposedly were inspired by the Ford GT supercar.

Two combustion engines are offered in this crossover and so are two hybrid drivetrains. A 1.5-liter EcoBoost inline-three serves base duty, a 2.0-liter turbo-four is the more-muscular offering. Both powerplants are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. For added efficiency, a standard hybrid model is on the menu, but Ford will also offer an even more efficient plug-in hybrid, one with a generous all-electric driving range.

The Ford Escape is built in Louisville, Kentucky, though its various engines are sourced from Mexico, the U.K. and even Spain.

Ford Escape Specs

Escape S, SE, SEL

Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-three with cylinder deactivation

Horsepower: 180*

Torque: 177* pound-feet

Drivetrain: front- or all-wheel drive

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Seating Capacity: 5

Cargo Capacity (cubic feet): 37.5 (maximum behind second row), 65.4 (maximum behind first row)

Towing Capacity: 2,000 lbs.

 

Escape SEL, Titanium

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder†

Horsepower: 250*

Torque: 275* pound-feet

Drivetrain: front- or all-wheel drive

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Seating Capacity: 5

Cargo Capacity (cubic feet): 37.5 (maximum behind second row), 65.4 (maximum behind first row)

Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs.

 

Escape Hybrid

Engine: hybridized 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder

Horsepower: 198*

Drivetrain: front- or all-wheel drive

Transmission: continuously variable automatic

Seating Capacity: 5

Cargo Capacity (cubic feet): 34.4 (maximum behind second row), 60.8 (maximum behind first row)

Driving modes: Auto EV, EV Now, EV Later, EV Charge

 

Escape PHEV

Engine: hybridized 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder

Horsepower: 209*

Drivetrain: front-wheel drive

Transmission: continuously variable automatic

Seating Capacity: 5

Cargo Capacity (cubic feet): 34.4 (maximum behind second row), 60.8 (maximum behind first row)

Driving modes: Auto EV, EV Now, EV Later, EV Charge

 

*Estimated figures

†Minimum 87-octane gasoline, 91-octane or higher recommended

Ford Escape Fuel Economy

The latest-generation Ford Escape has not yet been rated by the U.S. EPA. With numerous technical improvements it should be much more economical than the outgoing model.

Read More 2017 Honda CR-V vs. 2017 Ford Escape Comparison – VIDEO

Ford Escape Safety

The 2020 Ford Escape has not been crash tested yet, neither by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Still, the outgoing 2019 model is quite safe, earning a “Good” rating in most IIHS crash categories, the highest score handed out. Expect the 2020 Ford Escape to do even better, thanks to its totally redesigned structure and more extensive use of high-strength steel.

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Ford Escape Features

The new Ford Escape is offered in a wide range of modes: S, SE, SE Sport Hybrid, SEL, Titanium and, of course, as a plug-in hybrid as well.

This vehicle’s base engine is a 1.5-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost unit that should deliver a respectable 180 horsepower. The up-level internal-combustion option displaces 2.0-liters and features four pots instead of three. It’s rated at an estimated 250 ponies. Both engines are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front- or all-wheel drive is available.

Both hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants feature an efficient 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine matched to an efficient, electronic continuously variable transmission. Projected system output of the hybrid model is 198 horsepower; the plug-in variant should provide 209.

Speaking of that plug-in electric derivative, it’s projected to offer an EPA-estimated electric-only driving range of 30 miles. Once that’s depleted it operates like a standard hybrid. Plug this vehicle into a Level 1 charger (110 volts) and it takes a lengthy 10 or 11 hours to fully replenish the battery. Juice it from a Level 2 outlet (240 volts) and that time plummets to about 3.5.

Hybrid models should offer four different driving modes: Auto EV, EV Now, EV Later and EV Charge. EV Auto allows the vehicle to decide the most efficient mode of operation, switching between gasoline and electric modes. EV Now provides all-electric driving while EV Later saves electric power for use at a more efficient time, such as when you’re in a congested city center. Finally, EV Charge allows the internal-combustion engine to replenish the battery while the vehicle is running.

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid Escapes are still versatile vehicles, even if they offer slightly less cargo space than conventionally powered models. The liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery mounts out of the way beneath the backseat. This pack is about one-third the size of the old model’s battery, making it easier for engineers to package into the vehicle. In any case, the Escape was designed to accommodate up to four sets of golf clubs or even a full-size dog crate

Making the new Ford Escape more comfortable for passengers is a sliding second-row bench. Beyond this, interior head-, shoulder- and hip-room have all been improved compared to the outgoing model. More cabin space is always a good thing.

When it comes to technology, the new Escape offers wireless charging, USB type-A and -C ports, three 12-volt charging outlets and a 10-speaker Band & Olufsen sound system. FordPass Connect is standard, providing 4G LTE connectivity and in-vehicle Wi-Fi that supports up to 10 devices. This system also allows drivers to remotely lock, unlock, locate and start their Escape.

Active Park Assist 2.0 is available, as is Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, which supports Apple Car Play as well as Android Auto, plus Amazon Alexa and Waze. An 8-inch touchscreen is standard on SE models and higher; a 12.3-inch reconfigurable digital instrument cluster is offered as well.

Easing the burden of driving, Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard on the 2020 Escape. It’s the automaker’s suite of advanced driver-assistance technology, which, perhaps most excitingly, includes adaptive cruise control with lane centering as well as stop-and-go capability.

Other available driver aids include Active Park Assist 2.0, which can parallel or perpendicular park the vehicle at the push of a button, and Evasive Steering Assist, which can detect an obstacle ahead and help the driver safely maneuver around if a collision is imminent.

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Ford Escape Pricing

The most basic version of Ford’s 2020 Escape crossover, a no-frills S model with front-wheel drive, stickers for about $26,080. The more up level SE variant can be had for as little as $28,290 if you skip all the options. The SE Sport Hybrid model kicks off at about $29,450, while the conventionally powered SEL version can be yours for roughly $30,450. Grab a range-topping Titanium model and plan on spending at least $34,595, though if you check every options box, you’ll be shelling out just shy of $39,000. Please note, all the prices listed above include $1,195 in delivery fees.

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Ford Escape Competitors

The Ford Escape competes with myriad small crossover vehicles. Its primary rivals are the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Equinox. Other arguably more peripheral competitors include models like the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Crosstrek, Jeep Cherokee and Volkswagen Tiguan. This is an extremely crowded segment that accounts for hundreds of thousands of new-vehicle sales every year.

Read More Subaru Crosstrek vs. Subaru Forester

Ford Escape Future Plans

The Ford Escape is brand new for 2020, like, totally, completely, 100 percent reworked. It’s new from wheel to the roof rail, grille to hatchback. New model variants or special trims may debut in the coming months or years, but the fundamentals of this vehicle will not change for a long time. If you’re interested in buying one of these crossovers you have no fear of them being immediately replaced by a newer model.

Detailed Specs

Engine / 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-three with cylinder deactivation
Horsepower / 180
Torque (lb.-ft.) / 177
Transmission / 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain / front- or all-wheel drive
Engine / 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower / 250
Torque (lb.-ft.) / 275
Transmission / 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain / front- or all-wheel drive
Hybrid Powertrain / hybridized 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder
Horsepower / 198
Transmission / continuously variable automatic
Drivetrain / front- or all-wheel drive
Plug-In Hybrid Powertrain / hybridized 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder
Horsepower / 209
Transmission / continuously variable automatic
Drivetrain / front-wheel drive

Our Final Verdict

While we haven’t driven the totally redesigned 2020 Ford Escape just yet, we will be getting some behind-the-wheel time very soon. Ahead of our full review, it appears this small crossover offers it all, style and versatility, efficiency and technology, high levels of comfort and even plenty of choice for particularly choosy motorists. The new Ford Escape should give perennial favorites in the crossover segment, models like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, a real run for their money when it goes on sale later in the year.

4.5