Ford’s new off-road capable Bronco signals the brand’s fresh focus on off-the-grid adventure, but its bread-and-butter Escape crossover still caters to the on-road, family-car crowd. All-wheel drive is available, but the Escape lacks the sophisticated all-terrain gear of its new, larger go-anywhere stablemate. Four different powertrains are offered including optional hybrid and plug-in hybrid setups, which aim to sip fuel and provide extra electric-powered boost when needed. The Escape’s stylish cabin matches its smooth-edged exterior styling, but the most affordable models project an air of cheapness that may put some buyers off. Despite its flaws, the Escape continues to be a decent option for compact SUV buyers, but competitors such as the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan offer greater refinement, nicer furnishings, and more driving pleasure for similar money.
What’s New for 2021?
Ford has expanded the availability of the hybrid powertrain to the SE and SEL trims for 2021; it’s now standard on the top-spec Titanium model. Elsewhere, adaptive cruise control and a traffic-sign recognition feature join the optional Co-Pilot360 Plus package; a hands-free power liftgate and memory settings for the driver’s seat and exterior mirrors are now part of the Technology package; and a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a keyless-entry keypad, and LED exterior lighting are now on the list of features in the Convenience package. A new 19-inch wheel design is optional on the Titanium model, and a Class II Trailer Tow package is now available on Escapes with the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- S: $26,000 (est)
- SE: $28,000 (est)
- SE Sport Hybrid: $30,000 (est)
- SEL: $31,000 (est)
- SE PHEV: $35,000 (est)
- SEL PHEV: $37,000 (est)
- Titanium: $38,000 (est)
- Titanium PHEV: $41,000 (est)
The best value of the lineup is the mid-range SEL trim with front-wheel drive. The SEL adds plenty of niceties that compact SUV shoppers will appreciate, including rear parking sensors, memory settings for the driver’s seat and exterior mirrors, fake leather upholstery, a remote-start feature, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with heat, a hands-free power liftgate, fog lamps, and roof-rack side rails.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The 2021 Escape offers a wide range of powertrains, starting with a 181-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. The turbo three, while somewhat grumbly and unrefined, provides adequate acceleration and managed to motivate an all-wheel-drive Escape SE to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds at our test track. Upgrading to the 250-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the compelling choice and was powerful enough to score a 5.7-second result in the same zero-to-60-mph test. Both gasoline engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. To tackle new competition in the form of the Honda CR-V hybrid and the Toyota RAV4 Prime, Ford also offers two Escape hybrids—one of which is a plug-in—and those powertrains consist of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and two electric motors which combine to make 221-hp.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
The plug-in hybrid model will carry a 14.4-kWh battery pack, which is good enough for an EPA-estimated 37 miles of electric-only driving. When we have a chance to test the plug-in model and learn more about the plug-in hybrid’s capabilities we will update this story with more details.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
According to the EPA, the turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder model with front-wheel drive will offer the highest fuel economy estimates among nonhybrid Escape models. It’s rated for 27 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined; adding all-wheel drive drops those numbers to 26 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined. We tested an all-wheel-drive model with the turbo three-cylinder and managed an impressive 35 mpg during our 200-mile highway fuel-economy route. Although the larger turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with all-wheel drive is rated for 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined, we ended up with a 32-mpg highway result in our testing. For those seeking the most efficient Escape, look no further than the plug-in hybrid model, which earns fuel economy ratings as high as 44 mpg city.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Escape’s cabin, while handsomely styled and spacious for both front- and rear-seat occupants, suffers from several low-rent plastic panels, including those on the doors and lower center console. Highly textured cloth seat upholstery is standard, while higher trim levels receive either convincing faux-leather seating surfaces or genuine leather in the top-spec Titanium. Behind the Escape’s rear seat is a capacious cargo hold that provides space for up to eight carry-on suitcases, which ties its crosstown rival, the Chevrolet Equinox. We fit 21 cases with the Escape’s rear seats folded, but the Equinox held two more.
Infotainment and Connectivity
While base S models come with a 4.2-inch radio display and an AM/FM radio as the only entertainment, SE trim levels and higher get a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Ford’s latest Sync 3 infotainment interface and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability. A smartphone app provides remote access to vehicle telematics and remote start on all Escape models, but the most connected and high-tech Escape is the Titanium model, which comes standard with a 10-speaker B&O Play audio system, in-dash navigation, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge display. A pop-up head-up display is optional.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Ford Escape has earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Ford is offering a suite of driver-assistance features, which it calls Co-Pilot360, as standard on every Escape model. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Ford’s standard warranty package is fairly basic, especially compared to rivals such as the Hyundai Tucson and the Kia Sportage, both of which offer far longer powertrain coverage. The Escape hybrid and plug-in hybrid will both come with a policy that’s specific to those models’ electrified powertrains and provides up to 100,000 miles worth of protection.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Hybrid component warranty covers 8 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
More Features and Specs
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