The 2019 Ford Escape may be in its seventh model year, but it somehow still manages to lead a competitive segment. It’s a crossover with excellent road manners, a sleek shape, and plenty of tech options. We wish the safety and economy ratings were a little better, but we’re not surprised to hear that Escapes are still selling in droves.

Best Value

If you’re looking for a crossover that’s genuinely exciting to drive, the top-trim Escape Titanium is worth a look. With a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, it drives much more like a hot hatchback than a small SUV.

But better value for most buyers lies in the middle of the range. Our pick would be the Escape SE, which is one step above the base trim. It gets the most economical engine, along with creature comforts like a power-adjustable driver’s seat, push-button start, an upgraded infotainment system with an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. A simple but effective four-wheel-drive system is available for an extra $1,500. We’d add it along with Ford’s Safe and Smart Package for active safety tech.

So equipped, the Escape still manages to slide in under $30,000:

  • Model: 2019 Ford Escape SE
  • Engine:1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 179 hp / 177 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 22 City / 28 Hwy
  • Options:Intelligent 4WD System ($1,500), Ford Safe and Smart Package ($995, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, windshield wiper de-icer)
  • Base Price: $27,495 (including the $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$29,990

Performance

Ford Escape

Ford knows that mainstream models don’t have to be boring, and the Escape’s handling is a highlight. A firm and refined suspension inspires confidence in the curves, balanced by weighty steering and strong brakes. Paired with the 245-hp top-trim engine, it’s a legitimately exciting package. The middle engine is no slouch either, with enough torque for highway passes and a smooth automatic transmission.

The base engine isn’t as charming, with slow acceleration and the worst mileage of the lineup. Not that the rest of the numbers are too much better – even the most efficient engine only manages an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon combined. While the suspension is a blast on the back roads, it can get a little jittery over potholes, especially with the largest 19-inch rims.

Style

The Escape doesn’t like to advertise its SUV credentials, but it wears its shape well. A tall profile is balanced by a sloping roofline, with a stylish front end and just enough ruggedness around the wheel wells. Seats are supportive, and the cabin is spacious enough for most. The 34 cubic feet of cargo space expands to 68 with the rear seats down. Aside from the base trim, the Escape is well equipped and easily customizable, with a smartphone-friendly infotainment system.

The Escape’s age is more noticeable on the interior. An aggressive dash design encroaches on passenger room but looks dated, and the button-heavy console doesn’t help. We like how supportive the front seats are, but they may be too firm for some tastes.

While the NHTSA gives the Escape a five-star overall score, the IIHS rated the Escape “Poor” for passenger-side small-overlap protection. Active safety tech is available on all trims except the base, but it’s a $995 option.

The Best and Worst Things

This is the true promise of crossovers: SUV utility with hatchback handling. Unfortunately, the mileage and dated dashboard don't deliver.

Right For? Wrong For?

Ford Escape

The Ford Escape may be the right car for many buyers looking for a balance of utility and drivability. It’s spacious enough to pull family duty, but younger professionals may enjoy it for its versatility and handling. With all-wheel drive, it’s a decent adventure vehicle.

The Escape will disappoint buyers looking for a more focused personality. The Escape’s crossover shape still can’t match the space of a true SUV, and without the 2.0-liter engine, it’s not sporty enough for enthusiast drivers. It’s a capable jack of all trades, but it’s no specialist.

The Bottom Line

The Escape is due for a redesign in 2020, but this generation doesn’t limp to the finish. It still looks as sleek as ever, and the handling is refreshing next to the numb feel of many crossovers. Rivals may feel a bit more modern (especially in the fuel economy department), but the Escape deserves a place on the crossover buyer’s shortlist.