TheCarConnection.com drives the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid and brings you this hands-on review that covers driving attributes and other up-close, on-the-road observations. TheCarConnection.com also researches reviews from other sources and presents you with some of the most useful ones here in an adjacent Full Review on the Escape Hybrid.
Considering it was launched in 2004, the latest 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid compact SUV is both popular and durable. Completely redesigned for 2008, the hybrid Escape was both the first hybrid manufactured in the United States and the first hybrid SUV. Nervous about how long those hybrid motors and batteries will last? Consider that more than 1,500 Ford Escape Hybrids are in regular use as New York City taxicabs!
Ford has regularly upgraded its hybrid-electric powertrain over the years. The Escape Hybrid carries over its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine for 2010. The dual overhead-cam engine puts out 153 horsepower, with the electric motor boosting torque as needed. The Escape Hybrid will run solely on battery power with its engine off up to 25 mph, and in some limited circumstances up to almost 40 mph.
The combination of electric motor/generators in the hybrid system acts as an electronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). The gasoline engine always runs at its most fuel-efficient speed, regardless of how fast the car is traveling. Acceleration is good if not spectacular, though the engine will howl when floored.
But hybrid buyers look for gas mileage, and the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid comes in at 34 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, according to U.S. EPA ratings. We tested a 2009 Escape Hybrid and averaged a consistent 30 mpg on a route with substantial 75-mph cruising.
The all-wheel-drive version of the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid has a crucial distinction from all its hybrid competitors: The AWD system drives all four wheels mechanically. Other SUV hybrids use an electric motor for the rear wheels, which may shut off under extreme circumstances. We prefer the reliability of mechanical AWD as offered on the hybrid Escape.
Ground clearance is substantial at 8.5 inches, though the Escape isn't meant to be a rock-climbing off-roader like a Jeep. It's fine on dirt and gravel roads, with excellent road-holding considering its height, thanks to a suspension that was completely retuned last year.
That height makes the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid a square, upright vehicle that's larger than it looks from far away. The 2008 restyling takes it further into the butch-SUV mold, which may not entirely square with today's desires-but it's obviously a Ford, similar to its larger truck brethren.
Inside, seating room is decent for four adults, though the short bottom cushion of the rear seat makes it better for kids than taller adults. Visibility is good; everyone sits high up and the windows are deep and upright.
Wind noise, however, is a downside. It's higher than we expected and not as well suppressed as in competing compact SUVs. The mirrors are noisy at speed, though we like their large size and rearward visibility. Our 2009 test vehicle also suffers a moaning howl right at the 2,000-rpm mark that makes us crazy, though we've not experienced that problem on any other Escape Hybrid.
Instruments are easy to read in the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid, with blue-green backlighting. The high-gloss black plastic surfaces on the dash and doors seem to attract dust like a magnet, though.
Ford's Easy-Fuel capless gas filler system is a nice feature that eliminates a separate gas cap. After playing with our test vehicle's optional LED interior lighting a few times, its choice of several different colors for floor, console, and cup-holder lighting begin to feel like a gimmick.
We also aren't thrilled with the lack of integration between hybrid operating info on the instrument cluster and the console screen. One gauge in the cluster shows the battery charging and discharging, but the detailed fuel consumption data is only on the central console screen. We much prefer the newer 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, where both parts are integrated in graphical displays right in front of the driver.
For 2010, Ford switches to electric air conditioning from an engine-driven compressor, which means the AC will run whether or not the engine is on-a major feature for buyers in hot and humid states.
The folding rear seat might prove annoying to anyone who has to frequently alternate between cargo and rear-seat passengers. It requires all three headrests to be removed-but there's no place to stow them. Once the seat bottom is folded forward and the back flipped down, the load floor is flat and the Escape Hybrid offers 66.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Still, those headrests!
Ford's SYNC interface to infotainment systems is simply better than most others, and they are justifiably proud of it. Drivers and passengers can pair (most) Bluetooth mobile phones and connect (most) MP3 players, then operate them with voice commands-improving safety significantly by keeping the driver facing forward with hands on the steering wheel. Other features and options include Sirius Travel Link, which provides real-time traffic data, weather info, navigation, and even local fuel prices.
For 2010, Ford adds several new features, including the rearview reversing camera increasingly popular among families with young children. Another is an integrated spotter mirror that overlays convex mirrors aimed at the Escape Hybrid's blind spots on the top outer corners of both outside mirrors. The MyKey system electronically limits performance and stereo volume for designated teen drivers, and Ford's remarkable (if spooky) Active Park Assist measures parking spaces and steers the car into them.
As a family vehicle, the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid has to score well on safety, and it does. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names it a Top Safety Pick, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it five stars in its front and side impact tests. Dual-stage front airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, tire-pressure monitors, and traction control.
The Bottom Line:
The 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid remains a solid, competitive entry among compact family SUVs and crossovers. Its fuel efficiency is superb, and the optional mechanical all-wheel drive sets it apart from any other AWD hybrid crossover.