My Escape has about 43,000 miles right now. I have had it since April '01. During that time it broke only once - DPFE sensor stopped working at about 20,000 miles and was fixed on warranty. (I noticed no problem driving with broken DPFE sensor. It is probably important only for some emissions stuff.) The only other visit to the dealer was for the seat buckle recall. With that record I would say that this is a very reliable car. Average gas mileage on a 6000+ mile trip from CA to MN and back was about 23MPG. I do maintenance on my own - engine oil, ATF, radiator fluid, brakes, filters. I think I will keep my Escape for a few more years. No real reason to upgrade.
Strong V6 engine. Close to car-like handling. Roomy - not that much smaller than Explorer.