As Ford moves to drop all of its sedans and 4-door hatchbacks from its U.S. lineup in favor of an all-SUV-and-pickup-truck roster (plus the evergreen Mustang), it’s doing something bold and unexpected with its all-new 2020 Ford Escape. Despite the fact that the compact Escape has been Ford’s best-selling SUV in recent years, the third-generation 2020 Escape is leaving behind its tall, blocky, traditional SUV shape in favor of a much sleeker design. It’s one with a lower hood and roof, more streamlined shape and less-aggressive-looking wheel flares that, in profile, suggests a 4-door hatchback or wagon. The more car like design makes room for another compact SUV in Ford’s lineup — the rugged-looking, off-road-ready, body-on-frame, Ranger-based, compact Bronco SUV, which Ford will introduce next year along with a series of electric vehicles.
Ford is expanding the bandwidth of its SUV and crossover entries with an Escape geared more toward urban and suburban dwellers who like the slightly raised seat height, easy-access cargo hold and all-weather capability of all-wheel drive — but in something that’s easy to park and maneuver and doesn’t necessarily look like it’s ready to compete in the Baja 1000.
What’s New for 2020?
The 2020 Ford Escape is all new, from road to roof, re-imagined as a longer, lower, wider and sleeker compact crossover SUV with carlike styling cues. It’s built on an all-new architecture shared with the new Europe- and China-market Ford Focus sedan (which will not be sold in the U.S.). From the front, the new Escape has a strong family resemblance to the outgoing Focus and Fusion sedans. After an 8-year hiatus, the Escape Hybrid returns to the lineup touting a 550-mile driving range. A plug-in hybrid version with more than 30 miles of all-electric range joins the Escape lineup in 2020. See the 2020 Ford Escape models for sale near you
What We Like
- Sleek styling
- Improved outward visibility
- Expanded roster of standard safety and driver-assistive systems
- 8-inch landscape-format infotainment touchscreen on SE and above
- Comfortable front seats
- Customizable dash display
- Sliding rear seat and more rear-seat legroom than Chevy Suburban
- Smooth restarts for stop/start system
What We Don’t
- No ST performance version for the U.S. market — yet
The powertrain lineup includes a pair of turbocharged EcoBoost engines and a gas-electric hybrid. The base engine is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder turbo with 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft (up 2 hp and 13 lb-ft compared with the 2019 model) that can run on just two cylinders when idling, coasting or under light loads to save fuel. Ford’s proven 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, which develops 250 hp and 280 lb-ft (up 5 hp and 5 lb-ft over the 2019 model), is the performance leader of the lineup. Both turbo engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, up two ratios over the previous Escape’s 6-speed automatic for improved low-speed acceleration and more relaxed freeway cruising.
The Ford Escape Hybrid pairs a slightly grainy, naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 152 lb-ft of torque and an electric motor with an electronic continuously variable transmission that blends the two power sources. Total hybrid system output is 200 hp.
The 1.5-liter EcoBoost and 2.5-liter Hybrid are available with a choice of front-wheel drive or AWD, while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost comes exclusively with AWD.
The plug-in version of the Escape Hybrid has 209 combined hp and 37 miles of all-electric range. Because the plug-in has a bigger liquid-cooled hybrid battery beneath its back seat, it’s available only as a front-drive model.
Final EPA figures for the 1.5-liter 2020 Ford Escape are 27 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg combined (FWD), or 26 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined (AWD). The 2.0-liter’s numbers are 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined with that engine’s standard AWD.
Both 2020 EcoBoost engines are up 3-4 mpg over their 2019 ratings, helped in part by improved aerodynamics, lighter weight and a stop/start system that shuts off the engine at stoplights to save fuel.
The front-drive 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid is rated by the EPA at 44 mpg city/37 mpg hwy/41 mpg combined. With AWD, that drops slightly, to 43 mpg city/37 mpg hwy/40 mpg combined. The 2020 Ford Escape PHEV is rated by the EPA at 102 MPGe combined (gas and electricity), or 41 mpg combined (gasoline alone).
Standard Features & Options
The new Ford Escape is available in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Titanium trims.
The base Escape S ($24,885) comes with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission with a console-mounted rotary shifter. Standard features include 17-in steel wheels, cloth-trimmed seats, manually adjusted front bucket seats, a 6-speaker AM/FM/MP3 stereo, 4.3-in SYNC infotainment display with Bluetooth, voice recognition and AppLink, FordPass Connect with 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices, a pair of smart-charging USB ports, 12-volt power points in the console and cargo area, a split folding second-row sliding seat with a center armrest, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, electric parking brake and a rear cargo shade.
Moving up to the Escape SE ($27,095) adds a power driver’s seat, heated front row seats, automatic climate control, 17-in alloy wheels, a SYNC 3 8-inch infotainment pinch-to-zoom touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, Ford+Alexa and WAZE connectivity, adaptive cruise control with full stop and go, keyless entry, push-button start and heated side mirrors.
The SE Sport ($28,255) comes standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and electric hybrid drive system, plus an electronic automatic CVT. It also adds active noise cancellation, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 12.3-in configurable digital instrument panel with functionality similar to units in the Mustang and the Explorer.
The SEL ($29,255) comes standard with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder and brings ActiveX simulated leather seating, sport contour front buckets with driver’s seat memory, 18-in alloy wheels, fog lamps, a foot-operated, a hands-free lift gate, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote engine start, a reverse sensing system, SiriusXM satellite radio, dual exhaust, plus an available 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine hooked to an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The range-topping Titanium ($33,400) comes standard with the hybrid powertrain and adds leather seat trim, power front seats for both driver and passenger, a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen B&O Play premium sound system, adaptive cruise control with full stop and go, 19-in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a garage door opener, LED fog lamps, a 110-volt AC power outlet, Active Park Assist 2.0 and acoustic laminated front glass. The Titanium is also available with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine.
As with many other 2020 models, the new Ford Escape comes with an expanded roster of standard and optional safety systems. Ford CoPilot360 is standard and includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection, a lane-keeping system, a backup camera, post-collision braking, automatic high beams and something that usually costs extra on other SUVs: blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring. The next step up is Ford CoPilot360 Assist on Escape SE and higher trims, which adds adaptive cruise control and evasive steering assist. Escape Titanium models add Ford CoPilot360 Assist+ that brings lane centering to the adaptive cruise control, as well as front and rear audible parking aids. The Titanium models also add Active Park Assist 2.0, which can parallel park an Escape without throttle, steering, gearshift or brake intervention from the driver — all the driver has to do once driving past the spot to “size” the space available is push and hold the park assist button.
Adaptive cruise control is now standard on all Escape models except the base S. A wireless charging pad in the forward bin of the console will be available in SE Sport and Titanium trims. 4G Wi-Fi is standard and can handle up to 10 devices at a maximum range of 50 feet, good for tailgating. Optional is a new head-up display that gives vehicle speed, navigation, driver-assist status and incoming call data on a 6-in plastic screen in the driver’s forward view above the instrument panel similar to the display used in some Mazda vehicles in recent years.
Behind the Wheel
The first thing you notice is how quiet the new Escape is, thanks to extensive soundproofing, a new isolated rear-suspension cradle and noise-reducing acoustic glass for the windshield and front doors. Oddly, the hybrid is the noisiest of the bunch, with a gas engine that emits a growl under acceleration and the usual whirring and whining electric motor sounds — nothing really objectionable, though, thanks to the active noise cancellation system that works through the Escape’s audio speakers.
The new Escape is 200 pounds lighter than the 2019 model and, combined with the increased output of the two EcoBoost engines, peppier as well. The 0-to-60 mph times for the two EcoBoost-equipped models are about a half-second quicker than last year’s.
The new Escape’s ride and handling are quite good for this class, exhibiting stable and predictable road holding with the larger-sized, all-season 17-, 18- and 19-in tires this year. Steering is lightly weighted and precise, and body motions are well damped with the standard shocks. The 4-wheel disc brakes offer good top-of-pedal response and linear performance, even in the hybrid model, which does a good job of blending regenerative braking with the mechanical brakes.
New, selectable drive modes activated by a switch on the console and displayed in the instrument panel include Normal, gas-saving Eco, more-engaging Sport, Slippery for low traction surfaces and Snow and Sand for when plowing through deep stuff.
The front seats are plush yet supportive, with no hard spots. There’s a big improvement in rear-seat legroom with another 3.5 inches of it now available for rear-seat passengers, thanks to the new Escape’s slightly longer wheelbase and standard sliding second-row seat. This can be moved six inches forward and back to adjust rear legroom or cargo space for different needs. Cargo volume is 37.5 cu ft. behind the rear seat and a generous 65.4 cu ft. with the rear seat folded down. Hybrid models have slightly less cargo room due to the underfloor hybrid battery, yet Ford saw it fit to include a space-saver spare back there as well instead of the routine inflator and tire sealant can found in many competitive hybrid models.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Toyota RAV4 — The RAV4 was all-new for 2019 and is the current sales leader in the hot compact-SUV segment. Oddly enough, Toyota borrowed styling cues from its own beefy 4Runner, as well as the Jeep Cherokee this year, moving in the opposite design direction to the new Escape. Its engine lineup includes a 203-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with a 28-30-mpg combined EPA rating and a 176-hp gas-electric hybrid with an EPA-rated 40-mpg sticker.
2020 Honda CR-V — Another top seller, the CR-V adds its first-ever hybrid model in the Spring of 2020, adapting the 2.0-liter, 2-motor system from the Accord sedan with 212 hp and 232 lb-ft combined output. Non-hybrid CR-V’s come with a 190-hp 1.5-liter 4-cylinder turbo with an EPA-rated 30 mpg combined.
2020 Nissan Rogue—There are two Rogues, the standard one and the smaller Rogue Sport that’s a rebadged Euro-market Nissan Qashqai. The standard Rogue comes with a 170-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, and the hybrid form comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 30 kW electric motor and 176 combined system hp. The Rogue Sport is powered by a 141-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder.
2020 Chevrolet Equinox—The high-mileage diesel version will soon be gone, but the Equinox remains General Motors’ top-selling vehicle behind the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Engine choices include a pair of gasoline-powered 4-cylinders, a 170-hp 1.5-liter turbo and a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo.
It’s hard to beat the all-around good performance of the 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, which is available with either the SEL or Titanium trim. To get some of the top features in the Escape, such as the panoramic sunroof, the navigation system with voice activation or the self-parking system, you’ll have to go for the SEL or Titanium. If you’re okay with the idea of a 3-cylinder engine under the hood, the Escape SE is a good value play with a standard power driver’s seat, 17-in alloy wheels, heated front-row seats, push-button start, automatic temperature control and — most importantly — the 8-in SYNC3 touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Either way, you’re getting a quieter, more powerful, more fuel-efficient, better-handling and arguably much more modern-looking compact crossover SUV at a very competitive price. Find a Ford Escape for sale