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2020 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Redefining the Compact SUV



The 2020 Ford Escape raises the bar for what you should expect from a compact SUV, combining sleeker chic styling with a roomy interior with impressive second-row legroom and cargo space. Once you combine this with great tech like Sync 3 and a 4G LTE connection plus Ford Copilot 360 and an optional 12.3-inch digital cluster it’s clear that Ford is rewriting the rules of the compact SUV.

Ford’s all-new 2020 Escape is a dramatic change from the outgoing model and is better able to compete with the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, and Chevy Equinox. To add perspective to our 2020 Ford Escape review, I routinely drive and ride in the passenger seat as well as the back seat of a 2014 Ford Escape.

The 2020 Ford Escape brings a smaller and lower roofline and a striking grille.

The 2020 Ford Escape brings a smaller and lower roofline and a striking grille.

The Escape SE or Escape Titanium are the models to buy, with the additional features more than makeup for the price increase from the base model. 2020 Ford Escape pricing is;

  • S: $24,885
  • SE: $27.095
  • SE Sport Hybrid: $28,255
  • SEL : $29,255
  • Titanium: $33,400

The two biggest changes to the 2020 Escape are styling and cabin space. Ford points to the Ford GT as inspiration for the lower front end, and the Mustang for the new grille, but you’ll see hints of Porsche in the styling as well. The new smaller and lower roofline gives the Escape a major facelift and really modernizes the look. While the vehicle looks smaller on the outside, there is a surprising amount of room inside.

Ford's redesigned interior offers up loads of space.

Ford’s redesigned interior offers up loads of space.

You’ll find a spacious cabin upfront with a roomier feel thanks to the new dial shifter. The front seats are comfortable and there are soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. I really like the diamond pattern on the doors of the Titanium model I tested, and I would rather see a continuation of that pattern to the dash instead of faux wood trim, but that’s a personal styling preference.  The Escape SE ditches the wood for a sleek silver trim. Buttons are easy to reach and there is a decent amount of small storage areas in the center console, the doors and a small cubby in the middle that you can option a wireless charger for starting next year. I did miss ventilated seats on the Titanium model.

If you’re like me, your Escape will haul friends and other adults in the back seat, and this is where the 2020 Escape shines. Even with the lower roofline, the headroom, hip room and shoulder room in the back seat are improved from the outgoing model. There’s also way more legroom in the backseat, more than the Chevy Suburban according to Ford. Indeed, this second-row offered me plenty of room for my knees and the deep openings below the front row gave me room to stretch out. The seat is on a slider, allowing six inches of travel to maximize room for passengers or for cargo.

While we’re looking at the back seat, Ford packs in my must-haves for a livable back seat. There are vents for the back seat, so passengers can stay comfortable and there will be two USB ports in the back seat (One Type C and One Type A), so that passengers can charge.  The tow exterior seats are comfortable for an adult passenger, with good headroom as well. There is a fold-down center console fo the back seat with two drink holders. The 2020 Escape back seat offers way more room than the outgoing model. Combine this with an available panoramic moonroof and you end up with a second-row that is as appealing to sit in as the front.

Cargo space is improved with 37.5 cubic feet of space when you move the seat to the forward position. This maximizes storage, while still allowing room for passengers. You can easily fit four golf bags in the back of the Escape, Ford showed six bags, or a large pet crate. If you need more storage, the seats fold flat so that you can easily slide in longer items.

Room for four sets of golf clubs or a large pet crate in the back of the 2020 Escape.

Room for four sets of golf clubs or a large pet crate in the back of the 2020 Escape.

I tested the 2020 Escape with the 2.0L engine with AWD. Ford also offers a 1.5L in FWD and AWD, a 2.5L hybrid and a plug-in hybrid engine option. The 2020 Escape handles nicely and the ride quality is quite good, likely in part due to the lower weight and the new isolated read subframe. Acceleration with the 2.0L is good, bringing us up to highway speed easily and offering enough pep to pass slower traffic.

While driving through twisting, narrow rounds around Louisville the small SUV was easy to control and in Sport mode, the steering gains a little heft. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifted nicely and performed as expected in both normal and sport modes. The interior is relatively quiet, and it’s easy to carry on a conversation or enjoy the radio.

With a properly equipped 1.5L EcoBoost Engine, the 2020 Escape is rated to tow 2,000 pounds. The 2.0L is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Ford offers a 1.5L, 2.0L and a 2.5L Hybrid, plus a plug-in hybrid.

Ford offers a 1.5L, 2.0L and a 2.5L Hybrid, plus a plug-in hybrid.

Ford offers an array of technology and driver-assist features in the 2020 Escape. On the SE and up, you get an 8-inch display with Ford Sync 3. This system is very easy to use and includes support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also Waze and Alexa support built-in. The optional B&O sound system is excellent with cabin filling sound.

For connectivity, you can use Bluetooth or plug into one of up to four USB ports. The Escape also includes FordPass Connect with 4G LTE that allows you to chare a connection over WiFi to up to 10 devices up to 50 feet away. This is handy for road trips or when camping. With your phone, you can connect to lock and unlock the Escape, remote start and check fuel levels.

Sync 3 is easy to use, supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Waze and FOrd+Alexa.

Sync 3 is easy to use, supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Waze and FOrd+Alexa.

The available 12.3-inch digital display cluster is the same as on the Mustang and Explorer, allowing you to choose what you see and complete with drive mode animations when you switch modes. The available Heads-up display shows speed, call notifications, navigation, and info related to driver-assist features. I was able to adjust it to an easy viewing angle and use it with polarized sunglasses on.

Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard on the 2020 Escape, which brings a host of important features to every model. This includes;

  • automatic emergency braking with Pedestrian Detection
  • Blind Spot Information System
  • Lane-Keeping System
  • post-collision braking
  • automatic high-beam headlamps
  • reverse backup camera

On the Titanium, you get Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+. This adds lane centering to help keep you in your lane on the highway and Active Park Assist 2.0, which will help you parallel park easier. Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go is available on the SE, SE Sport and Titanium proved savvy on highways and in the city during my testing around Louisville. The lane-centering feature worked, but felt a little busy during some stretches of our drive route, making a lot of small corrections.

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