Ford's Escape is a long-standing best-seller among compact SUVs thanks to its appealing combination of usable space, engine choices and drive configurations. Its broad range of talents make it a good pick in the segment and for 2014 it offers new standard features.
The nearly identical 2013 Ford Escape received a "B" rating from Edmunds.
What Is It?
The 2014 Ford Escape is a five-passenger compact SUV. It was all new for the 2013 model year and it remains mechanically identical for 2014. With a 105.9-inch wheelbase, the Escape is average size among small SUVs. Its cargo storage and passenger space are competitive in the segment.
Three engines are available: The base engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, produces 178 horsepower. Also available are a pair of turbocharged four-cylinder engines: a 1.6-liter rated at 173 hp and a 2.0-liter rated at 231 hp. All are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is available with either turbocharged engine but not with the 2.5.
Our tester, an SE trim, is the middle of three trim levels and stickers for $26,445. The S base trim comes only with the 2.5-liter engine. SE models start at $23,505 and come standard with the 1.6-liter turbo engine. A fully loaded Titanium trim with the optional 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel drive will exceed $37,000.
How Does It Drive?
Though the Escape isn't fast, its 1.6-liter turbo engine delivers abundant torque early in the rev range, which gives it quick responses and good drivability both around town and in passing situations on the freeway. This isn't an engine you'd know is turbocharged without looking at the Escape's specs.
Manual shifting (including rev-matched downshifts) is available via a toggle switch on the shift lever. Though this solution isn't as good as shift paddles, it's better than having no manual control over the transmission, as is the case in some of the Escape's competitors.
Sport Mode — available by dropping the shifter one notch below "Drive" — quickens throttle response and holds gears more aggressively. Our tester hit 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, which is half a second quicker than Honda's CR-V but several tenths slower than Mazda's 2.5-liter CX-5.
Ride quality is acceptable for a small SUV — most of the time. When fully loaded, however, the Escape's rear suspension isn't as well damped as we'd prefer. It rebounds multiple times over freeway irregularities at speed.
With its reasonably quick steering, we were never too busy behind the wheel. Steering weight is relatively light, yet there's enough available information through the wheel to hustle the Escape when needed. It is more involving and more capable than Honda's CR-V, but not as athletic as the Mazda CX-5.
How Safe Is It?
New standard features for 2014 include a rearview camera and blind-spot mirrors across all trim levels. Seven airbags — including a driver's knee airbag — are also standard.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration gave the Escape four out of five stars in its overall crash test rating. It received a "Good" rating (the highest available) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in four of its five tests. However, in the IIHS small overlap front test, it received a "Poor" rating because airbag coverage wasn't sufficient and the driver's survival space wasn't well maintained.
Rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system are trim-specific options.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Deliver?
Front-drive 1.6-liter Escapes like our test car are EPA rated at 26 mpg combined (23 city/32 highway). All-wheel-drive versions earn the same city rating but combined and highway ratings drop to 24 and 30 mpg, respectively. We recorded 23.9 mpg overall during 620 miles with the Escape. That number is lower than the last AWD Honda CR-V we tested, which yielded 26.2 mpg. The Escape produced 27.2 mpg on our 116-mile test loop, which includes both highway and mountain-road driving.
On the low end of the Escape fuel economy spectrum lies the 2.0-liter all-wheel-drive version, which is rated at 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway), but in our testing this version of the SUV produced only 20.5 mpg.
What's It Like Inside?
Though the SE model lacks leather interior, its cloth surfaces are both comfortable and reasonably high quality. The front seats provide generous lateral support even for those with narrow frames. Large-framed staffers found them comfortable as well. The driver seat is eight-way power-adjustable, including both height and lumbar adjustments.
Manual ventilation controls (three knobs and two buttons) are both simple and quick to use. The bank of audio control buttons is overstyled but works well enough, with source and tuning controls flanking a centrally mounted volume knob.
Three 12-volt outlets (two up front, one in the second row) as well as a USB and auxiliary jack provide both power and physical interface for devices. Sync voice control is now standard on all trims, but without navigation it comes with a small 4.2-inch screen that displays phone, audio and other information.
Is There Enough Space?
Though the Escape's interior space is average for the segment, it can feel confined relative to SUVs with more airy cockpits like the Honda CR-V. Rear-seat space is adequate for average-size adults, provided they aren't seated behind an occupant taller than 6 feet.
Cargo space is average for the segment. With 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, the Escape offers virtually identical storage to the Mazda CX-5. The Escape's split-folding rear seats fold completely flat, greatly enhancing usability. With its second row folded flat, the Escape offers 68.1 cubic feet of cargo space: about 5 cubes less than the Toyota RAV4, which is the class leader in this category.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Certainly Honda's CR-V should be a consideration if you're shopping for a compact SUV with good fuel economy and practical use of space. It's available in front- or all-wheel drive but offers only one engine.
Nissan's Rogue was redesigned for 2014 and offers either a third row or a flexible cargo area with movable shelving. It also offers the highest EPA fuel economy rating in the segment, but comes only with a CVT (continuously variable transmission).
There's no denying both the frugality and driving reward offered by the Mazda CX-5. As the most fun-to-drive SUV in the segment it's ironic that the Mazda also brings highly competitive fuel economy to the table.
Why Should You Consider This SUV?
The Escape's choice of three engines and two drive configurations give it broad-spectrum appeal not offered by many competitors. Top trim Escapes offer unique features like self parking and a hands-free power liftgate. Standard torque vectoring across all trims sends more power to the outside wheel in turns and gives the Escape a handling edge over many competitors.
Why Should You Think Twice About This SUV?
Ford's EcoBoost engines are highly sensitive to driving style and will consume more fuel than their non-turbocharged competitors if their driver insists on using all the available torque, which is easy to do.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.