One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Ford Escape is a formidable fresh take

2020 Ford Escape
Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Drive up and down the roads of America's heartland and you'll find the Ford Escape in driveways near and far. The vehicle, now in its fourth generation, is beloved for its cargo capacity and agility, making it one of the top choices for American families when they buy.

The 2020 Ford Escape is a compact SUV that fits into the Ford family above the EcoSport and below the Edge, Explorer, and Expedition. This new model is designed for a global audience. Ford sells the 2020 Escape in S, SE, SEL, SE Sport, and Titanium trim levels in North America.

At the front, it's easy to see the similarities between the Porsche Macan, Kia Sportage, and Ford Escape. Moving along the sides to the rear, the Escape gets much more distinctive and sports a grown-up tail end that isn't unattractive to follow in traffic.

The Ford Escape has evolved for the 2020 model year and sports a completely new exterior design.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Escape will eventually be available in four different power options but the model will only be sold in three when it launches. Its base engine is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder (S, SE, SEL) that achieves 180 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. It's a great power plant for in-town driving but if you crave quick ascents up highway onramps, you'll want to upgrade.

The available 2.0-liter EcoBoost (SEL, Titanium) four-cylinder is significant peppier getting 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This engine is the engine to get if you plan on towing (it can handle up to 3,500 pounds) or have kids and gear to haul around, this is the power plant you'll want.

Both of those engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 2020 Ford Escape comes in five trim levels: S, SE, SEL, SE Sport Hybrid, and Titanium.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Escape Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter hybrid four-cylinder, which is paired with an electronic continuously variable transmission. Overall, it is the best engine for everyday driving situations, blending fuel efficiency and power with the Escape's natural passenger and cargo capacities. This engine is smoothest off the line and the added weight of the hybrid powertrain helps the Escape feel more stable on the road.

When the Escape falters most is in its cabin where materials are not up to snuff compared to what you'll find in most freshly redesigned compact SUVs, or even the ageing Nissan Rogue. Ford has done an excellent job repositioning the equipment in the center console and center stack allowing for a more spacious feel for front row occupants.

Like in the 2020 Ford Explorer, the Escape has a disappointing infotainment touch screen. While it looks good, the screen is slow to respond, has navigational woes, and doesn't pinch-to-zoom as easily as it should. This is the most disappointing part of the Escape.

Ford's infotainment system leaves a lot to be desired. It's not always responsive to the touch and its navigation often leads you off the right path.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Each new Escape comes with a bevvy of standard safety technology dubbed Ford Co-Pilot360. The suite of driver assistance features includes automatic high beams, blind spot alert, lane keeping assist, a rearview camera, post-collision braking, hill start assist, and pre-collision assist with emergency braking.

The 2020 Ford Escape starts at $24,885 and tops out over $40,000. The 2020 Escape Hybrid starts at $28,255 for the SE Sport Hybrid grade.

The 2020 Ford Escape arrives on a dealership lot near you soon.