The 2010 Ford Escape is proof that shoppers shouldn't always go with first impressions. Although many might be turned off by the Escape's boxy, traditional design that looks a bit like a 7/8-scale Ford Explorer, the Escape includes car-based underpinnings and Ford has in recent years done a good job in keeping the Escape's feature set and driving experience quite modern.
For 2008, Ford gave the Escape a modest facelift that vastly improved the interior look and feel, while just last year the Escape got a new lineup of powertrains--including a more powerful and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine and a much mightier optional V-6. Both engines are carried through to 2010. Most drivers will do just fine with the base 171-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, provided they don't often haul heavy loads or plan to tow; it's smoother than the previous four-cylinder. The V-6 Escape has more than adequate pep, though the engine doesn't feel as refined as most rival V-6s.
Either engine responds well with the six-speed automatic transmission; four-cylinder buyers also have a five-speed manual gearbox to choose from. The four-cylinder with the five-speed returns 22 mpg city, 28 highway, while the V-6 rates up to 18 mpg city, 26 highway, though TheCarConnection.com's editors have observed lower figures with the V-6.
For those who place fuel economy or petroleum independence as one of their highest shopping priorities, there's the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid, which returns fuel economy figures of up to 34 mpg city, 31 highway. The Hybrid is covered by a separate review.
Again, while the 2010 Ford Escape looks like a traditional, truck-based SUV from a distance, the Escape isn't quite up to the task of real off-roading. On-demand four-wheel drive is offered, which makes the Escape capable enough for gravel roads, deep snow, and such. With either drive system, the Escape's on-road handling manners are superb, thanks to a completely retuned suspension featuring new struts, shock absorbers, and sway bars.
Inside, the 2010 Ford Escape offers a higher seating position all around compared to other more modern-looking crossover vehicles--a feature some shorter drivers might appreciate. The front seats are comfortable, but the back seats are a bit hard, with short cushions that most adults won't love for long trips. Folding the backseats for cargo is also way more complicated than it should be, and it involves individually pulling out each headrest. Overall packaging is the one area where the 2010 Escape shows its age; despite the fact that the Escape is such a tall vehicle, the cabin might feel a bit short on headroom for taller drivers, while the floor is higher than that of more modern designs. The Escape's materials look good up close--they were updated for '08--and the blue-green instrument lighting is extremely easy to read.
The Ford Escape performs well in crash tests and is anticipated to be a Top Safety Pick from the Institute for Highway Safety again for 2010. The SUV also earns five stars for front and side impacts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Dual-stage front airbags and side airbags are included, along with anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Integrated Spotter Mirrors are a new feature for 2010 and aid visibility in the driver's blind spot. Also available is a new Rear View Camera system, along with a new Active Park System that helps guide the driver into a feasible space. Active Park Assist includes a new feature called Pull-Drift Compensation, which helps adapt to crosswinds or odd road curvature. Parents with teen drivers might also appreciate the new programmable MyKey system, which allows limits to top speed and radio volume, also adding speed alert chimes.
The 2010 Ford Escape, along with the rest of the Ford lineup, still offers one of the best interface systems for hands-free phones; the so-called SYNC system connects easily to almost any Bluetooth-enabled or USB device and is driven via simple voice commands. Sirius Travel Link, another option, provides navigation, plus real-time traffic, weather, and fuel prices among other features, and can be easily controlled by voice commands. The 2010 Escape still doesn't offer a backseat DVD player, an extra often sought by busy families, but it offers a host of other extras like upgraded audio with steering-wheel controls, upgraded leather upholstery, and an ambient lighting system.
The Bottom Line:
Don't let the 2010 Ford Escape's boxy, old-school appearance turn you off; the Escape is a solid, fuel-efficient choice for city-dwelling families.