Ford Escape is a good choice among small, affordable, road-going SUVs. The Escape offers agile handling, a smooth ride, and comfortable seating for four. It also provides brisk acceleration when equipped with the optional V6 engine. It's compact but practical. Folding down the rear seats reveals a flat, moderately sized cargo area. Best of all, its price is relatively low.
First introduced as a 2001 model, the Escape benefited from upgraded interior materials for 2003, and is unchanged for 2004. There are, however, a couple of new packages aimed at enhancing value.
The Escape is wider than other compact SUVs, giving it a well-planted demeanor. Escape's forward-poised stance, large wheel lips, wide body cladding, and integrated bumper guard lend a functional appearance, while its short front and rear overhangs add to its sporting appeal. It has a family resemblance to the Ford Explorer and Expedition, and looks bolder and more aggressive than the Honda CR-V.
Being able to see the leading edge of the hood from the driver's seat makes the Escape easier to maneuver in tight places. Its 7.8 inches of ground clearance may help clear some obstacles. Outside door handles are easy to grab and feel like they're going to last.
Accessories from Ford Outfitters include a snap-in pet barrier and a system to haul two mountain bikes in the cargo area. Bike racks can also be mounted on the roof; the standard roof rack with crossbars holds up to 100 pounds. We don't like the idea of compromising an SUV's ground clearance with running boards, but Ford claims that the running boards on the Escape do not reduce ground clearance. They are designed to make it easier to lift kayaks, snowboards and other toys onto the roof rack. The rear bumper is also designed to aid roof access.
The No Boundaries Rack System features a sliding rail that can be repositioned from the roof to the rear of the vehicle, locking into the bumper. This provides two separate loading surfaces: a traditional roof rack and a vertically oriented rack across the rear. When not in use, the sliding rails can be stored within the conventional roof portion of the rack system.
The Escape has a spacious interior. Its front seats are nearly as roomy as the Explorers. Getting in or out of the front seats is made easier by low door sills and wide door openings.
XLS has manually adjustable seats trimmed with cloth. XLT gets premium cloth trim.
White-faced instruments are set in a straightforward instrument panel. The audio system and heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls in the center stack are angled slightly toward the driver to ease reach while driving. Ford upgraded Escape's interior for 2003 with improved interior materials. Power window and lock switches are illuminated to make them easier to find.
Side-impact airbags are standard on Limited, optional ($345) on XLS and XLT. standard. Pretensioners combined with load-limiting retractors are standard on front-seat belts. In a crash, these pretensioners automatically tighten the belts, while the load limiters are designed to reduce the risk of chest injuries in severe collisions.
The rear seats offer good knee room. The rear cargo area offers 69.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down, 33 cubic feet with the seats in place. The rear seats are split 60/40. The rear-seat cushion can be removed for more load-carrying capacity. The flip-up rear glass offers easy access to the rear cargo area for small items.
The Ford Escape offers responsive handling and brisk acceleration performance.
The suspension is relatively taut, without the mushiness that characterizes larger SUVs with big off-road tires and long-travel suspensions. It handles better than a Jeep Liberty or Toyota RAV4, and is quicker than a Honda CR-V. Steering is responsive. It feels direct and accurate with no dead spot in the center. There's enough feeling in the steering to impart a sense of control. Though this is not a sports car, the tires grip respectably in paved corners. There's surprisingly good transient response in a series of left-right-left corners. This permits quick, yet smooth, driving that will not upset passengers.
The V6 engine delivers good acceleration. While there's no such thing as too much power, it never feels lacking in the Escape. The engine and four-speed automatic transmission communicate and work well together. The transmission shifts smoothly up and down, and chooses gears appropriately for the situation. The engine's broad power band never lugs or strains. This isn't the smoothest V6 on the market, nor is it the roughest. But it is smoother and more satisfying than the four-cylinder engines found in most small sport-utilities.
Escape's brakes are smooth and responsive. ABS comes into play just when expected and is detectable by the familiar pulsating sensation.
The Escape felt comfortable on a muddy fire road pocked with puddles and potholes, but it is lacking in true off-road situations. Its front-drive platform leaves it spinning its wheels on rough, loose, steep trails. It lacks traction and suspension travel. The suspension does not have the articulation needed for rugged terrain and there is no low-range set of gears. For everyday road travel, however, the Ford Escape is an excellent choice.
When properly equipped, Escape has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.
Ford Escape is a well-balanced on-road SUV. It has a roomy interior and good cargo capacity. The available V6 engine provides the Escape with strong power. A four-wheel independent suspension and unit-body construction make it handle almost as well as a car. A car-like ride makes it easy to live with. It isn't designed for serious off-road driving, nor are its direct competitors.
Build and price your dream Ford Escape in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2014 FORD ESCAPE$23,672 | 16,630 mi
2014 FORD ESCAPE$23,738 | 16,620 mi
2014 Ford Escape$23,999 | 16,563 mi
2014 Ford Escape$27,999 | 14,975 mi
2013 Ford Escape$19,771 | 36,642 mi
2013 Ford Escape$19,771 | 54,790 mi
2013 FORD ESCAPE$19,899 | 27,929 mi
2013 Ford Escape$21,485 | 38,243 mi
2013 FORD ESCAPE$23,911 | 24,401 mi
2013 Ford Escape$24,775 | 14,962 mi
2013 Ford Escape$24,999 | 29,669 mi
2013 FORD ESCAPE$25,990 | 27,725 mi
2012 Ford Escape$17,475 | 55,802 mi
2012 Ford Escape$17,987 | 45,600 mi
2012 FORD ESCAPE$18,990 | 45,392 mi
2012 Ford Escape$19,777 | 48,052 mi
2012 FORD ESCAPE$19,925 | 45,015 mi
2012 Ford Escape$19,988 | 7,050 mi
2011 Ford Escape$14,400 | 80,741 mi
2011 Ford Escape$14,988 | 81,462 mi
2011 Ford Escape$15,988 | 29,567 mi
2011 Ford Escape$19,994 | 21,635 mi
2011 Ford Escape$23,785 | 21,596 mi
2010 Ford Escape$15,994 | 65,371 mi
2010 FORD ESCAPE$18,963 | 44,738 mi
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid$21,200 | 33,644 mi
2009 Ford Escape$13,988 | 75,520 mi
2008 Ford Escape$7,999 | 170,221 mi