The Ford Escape is sleek and contemporary, rakish, even daring, the old boxy profile left behind when it was redesigned for the 2014 model year. The broadly arched shape of today’s Escape asserts a sporty demeanor.
While seeking to produce a compact crossover SUV that’s exciting to drive, Ford might have cut back a bit on comfort and utility. Even so, you get helpful cargo space and reasonably good passenger room. All-wheel drive is available for wintry conditions; front-wheel drive is standard.
Underway, the Escape provides crisp steering, along with strong and responsive powertrains. Ford’s smallest crossover handles more like a small car than an SUV. Ride quality ranks as firm, but hardly harsh, and the suspension is compliant. Road manners are emphatically sporty, rivaled only by those of the Mazda CX-5. Few others come close to the Escape’s responsive handling and confident body control.
Redesigned for the 2014 model year, the Escape sees little change for 2016, except that SYNC 3 is replacing the MyFord Touch infotainment control, which has drawn considerable criticism. New chrome appearance and leather comfort packages are available for the 2016 Escape SE.
Three powertrain choices are offered. At base S level is a well-proven 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making 168 horsepower. Though aimed at fleet use, it’s smooth and perfectly suited for suburban duties. The popular choice is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder, rated 178 horsepower. Acceleration is about the same as the 2.5-liter, but the turbo and a more torquey nature combine to make transmission downshifts less frequent.
For more energetic performance, the 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder can hit 60 mph in less than eight seconds. That’s still not quick but plenty sprightly around town. A well-behaved 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission.
An optional active park assist system can evaluate parallel-parking spots and steer the Escape into one.
Not everything is perfect, of course. The Escape doesn’t feel as roomy as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 do. Its dashboard cuts into knee space, and the seats feel a bit too firm. In real-world driving, gas mileage has fallen below EPA estimates.
Crash-testing hasn’t been trouble-free, either. While the Escape earned mostly fine scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it was rated Poor in the small-overlap frontal test. Federal testing by NHTSA brought only a four-star overall rating (five stars for side impact).