Full 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Review
What's New for 2010
New additions to the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid include standard integrated blind-spot mirrors plus optional features including a rearview camera, enhanced Sync capabilities, an automatic parallel-parking "Auto Park" feature and MyKey, which allows parents to limit speed and audio volume for their teen drivers. Ford has also switched the air-conditioning system to be electrically driven instead of belt-driven from the gas engine, thereby providing better A/C performance when the engine is stopped.
Cars of all shapes, sizes and intents come with some sort of compromise. In general, the added size and weight of an SUV reduces fuel economy, while small fuel-misers tend to suffer in terms of performance and space. The 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid, however, attempts to part with convention by delivering the convenience of an SUV and the frugality of a much smaller vehicle -- all without saddling the driver with anemic performance.
The Escape Hybrid has been out for five years now, and Ford has been making some recent improvements to keep the hybrid fresh, even if the actual Escape model is getting long in the tooth. This year Ford is maintaining the trend by adding standard integrated blind-spot mirrors as well as available options like a rearview camera, additional Sync capabilities, the parent-friendly MyKey technology and a high-tech Active Park Assist system. That last system works surprisingly well, using various sensors to automatically steer the Escape into suitably sized parking spaces.
As before, the Escape Hybrid has a hybrid gasoline/electric powertrain that allows it to deliver fuel economy in the 30-mpg range, making it the most fuel-efficient compact SUV. This standing is not without its drawbacks, though. Compared to the conventionally fueled Escape models, the added weight from the hybrid components has a detrimental effect on handling and braking. Also, the approximate $6,000 premium for the Hybrid model over a comparably equipped regular Escape will take years to recoup based on gas savings alone, though rebates and incentives may serve to lessen the impact.
Given the above-listed drawbacks to Escape Hybrid ownership, some shoppers may find traditional (and less expensive) gasoline-powered SUVs more enticing. Models like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are all better vehicles than the Escape overall, and they still turn in decent, mid-20 mpg combined fuel economy.
As for competing hybrid SUVs, the Saturn Vue Hybrid is on indefinite hold, leaving the larger and pricier Toyota Highlander Hybrid as the only significant alternative. One final consideration might be Volkswagen's Jetta wagon fitted with the diesel-fueled TDI engine -- it offers similar fuel economy and interior room.
All said, we think the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid works pretty well for what it's supposed to be -- a small crossover SUV that delivers high fuel economy and available all-wheel drive. It also has a number of useful features such as Sync, MyKey and the park-assist system. But we definitely encourage potential buyers to check out alternatives and thoroughly crunch the numbers before making a decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid is available in two trim levels: base and Limited. The base model includes 16-inch alloy wheels, an integrated driver blind-spot mirror, full power accessories, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Sync system (includes iPod interface and Bluetooth), a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control and a four-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
Upgrading to the Escape Hybrid Limited adds chrome exterior accents, a sunroof, rear parking assist, a rearview camera located in the rearview mirror, piano-black interior treatments, leather upholstery, heated front seats and mirrors and multicolor ambient lighting.
The sunroof is optional for the base Escape Hybrid. Either base or Limited models can also be outfitted with optional step bars, and a touchscreen navigation system (with a hybrid energy flow/fuel-consumption display) that comes bundled with a premium seven-speaker audio system, digital music storage and Sirius Travel Link. The Limited may also be equipped with an automatic parallel-parking system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Escape Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine as well as an electric motors/generator; combined they produce 177 horsepower. Power is sent through a planetary gearset-based continuously variable transmission that provides seamless transitions between gas and electric modes. All-wheel-drive (AWD) models come with a third electric motor to power the rear wheels when additional acceleration or traction is needed.
In the absence of instrumented test results, we expect acceleration to be comparable to the gasoline-powered base Escape XLS, which reaches 60 mph from a standstill in about 9 seconds. EPA estimates for fuel economy put the front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid at the top of the hybrid SUV category with 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 32 mpg in combined driving. The AWD version is rated at 30/27/29 mpg.
The 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid comes standard with antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags with rollover sensors. A new addition to the 2010 Escape is Ford's programmable MyKey system that allows parents to specify speed limits and stereo volumes for their teenage drivers.
In government crash testing, the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid scored a perfect five out of five stars for all occupants in both frontal and side impacts. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Escape Hybrid its highest ranking of "Good" for frontal offset and side crash protection. Though we haven't performed instrumented testing on a 2010 Hybrid, we expect braking from 60 mph to be poor and probably a bit longer than the disappointing 138-foot distance of a V6 Limited Escape we tested recently.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid provides occupants with a simple and uncluttered cabin with soft-touch materials for an upscale feel. At night, the interior is further enhanced by modern, ice-blue illumination. The Limited trim adds even more pizzazz with its chrome and piano-black accents in addition to customizable ambient lighting.
The Escape Hybrid's cabin is roomy, but in terms of comfort and space the Escape is starting to feel its age. Up front, the seating position is too tall, which gives the driver the feeling of hovering above the controls, and there's no telescoping steering wheel. The backseat is flat and devoid of recline or fore/aft adjustments, but provides suitable space for average-sized adults. Space behind the rear seats can accommodate 28 cubic feet of luggage. Stowing the 60/40 split-folding seats is a bit of an arduous task, but once completed, provides 65 cubes for bulkier cargo.
Ford's popular Sync voice activation system returns with even more functionality for 2010. In addition to controlling mobile phones and the stereo with voice commands, Sync now adds the ability to acquire driving directions, traffic conditions and other information by pairing with Bluetooth-enabled phones. When grouped with the optional touchscreen navigation system, these features become even more simple and intuitive to operate.
Many drivers interested in hybrid vehicles expect diminished performance compared to conventionally fueled counterparts, but the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid should satisfy the vast majority of drivers. Under hard acceleration, the Escape Hybrid has the feel of its adequately powered V6 siblings, only with a labored four-cylinder sound.
The ride quality is fine for vehicles in this class, but the added 300 pounds from the hybrid drivetrain and batteries tends to add some body roll and reduce some of the car's agility. Though braking distances are poor, the brake pedal has a solid feel to it, though some drivers may find it a bit touchy until they get more time behind the wheel.
As with all hybrids, the Escape features an auto-stop feature, which shuts off the engine when you come to a stop to save fuel. Notably, this didn't work in previous Escapes if you had the air-conditioning on. However, this year's Escape now has electrically driven air-conditioning, thereby enhancing auto-stop functionality as well as allowing cool air to flow even if the engine is stopped.