I had driven the Mariner & Escape, & seriously considered the Escape. 3 versions of this platform are manufactured in Kansas City, the 3rd being the Mazda Tribute. Use Edmunds & compare these two vehicles before you buy. They are 95% identical but those few percentage points really could make a difference for you as it did for me. I'm a Ford fan, I really like this vehicle & I got a base unit, which had everything I wanted, out the door for $14,900. I'm very pleased!
Mazda engine, transmission & all other differences to the XLS, but still 95% Ford. Well done!