I have the base model 2WD, 5 spd. manual. So far no problems. It has been excellent for going back and forth to work and some highway driving. It is comfortable to drive and has good power. I get 24.5 MPG in town according to the car computer and 23.5 when I calculate myself. Either way better than a lot of SUV's.
Looks, gas mileage and price. The black paint looks great, especially in the sunlight it has a nice metallic flake. If you get the base model and are not concerned about having leather interior, backup cameras Sync, etc... then you get a very good vehicle at a good price.
The manual transmission is ok. The shifter is hard to put in 1st unless completely stopped. This becomes a problem going slowly up some hills. 2nd is such a big jump that it will almost stall out requiring me to force it into 1st. They are completely changing the Escape, so it doesn't matter, but if you are buying a used one, it's something to keep in mind.