GMC Terrain vs. Ford Escape

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - February 6, 2019

Compact crossovers are all the rage these days, but automakers are adopting different tactics to win over buyers. The GMC Terrain and Ford Escape are perfect examples. On one hand, the Ford Escape does its best hatchback impression. With taught lines and racy creases. On the other, the GMC Terrain puts on a luxury-crossover skin, wearing an imposing grille, distinctive lights, and a floating roof. But both claim to do the same jobs. Which can walk the walk?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Terrain & Escape »

What the Terrain Gets Right

The GMC Terrain works to feel premium on the inside as well. Hard plastics are still visible in places, but soft-touch materials and good sound deadening help keep the cabin serene and welcoming. In a neat party trick, the front passenger seat can fold totally flat. If the second row is folded as well, cargo capacity swells to an impressive 81 cubic feet.

But the Terrain’s virtues go more than skin deep. The Terrain is available with a turbodiesel engine, an unconventional powertrain on this side of the pond. With the diesel engine, the Terrain gets an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon city, 39 mpg highway, and 32 combined.

At the upper end of the spectrum, the Terrain can get truly luxurious. The Denali trim includes leather upholstery, 19-inch rims, Bose sound, and a hands-free liftgate. That said, it will set you back nearly 40 grand, which is true luxury-badge territory – where the competition gets fierce indeed.

What the Escape Gets Right

While the Terrain tries to punch upscale, the Escape is happy to offer value instead. While the 2019 Terrain starts at $26,195 after destination fees, a base-spec Escape is almost exactly $1,000 cheaper at $25,200. The Escape lineup is still versatile, but it doesn’t extend as broadly as the Terrain’s. The most expensive Escape Titanium still checks in under $34,000.

Befitting its racy looks, one of the Escape’s main virtues is its handling. Confident and responsive, the Escape will make you forget that you’re driving a crossover and not a hatchback. The available 2.0-liter engine is pleasantly zippy, and both engines deliver decent fuel economy. Neither can match the efficiency of the Terrain’s diesel, but the gas engines are quieter and more refined.

Take a peek in the back and you’ll remember that the Escape has SUV genes too. There's 34 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the seats, which expands to 68 cubic feet with the seats folded. Although the Terrain has its nifty folding front seat, it has only 29.6 cubic feet in the rear.

And while the Escape doesn’t ooze luxury, it keeps up well in comfort and technology. Ford’s infotainment system is responsive and useful, and optional tech is plentiful.

Which Can Do it All?

Crossovers are about unifying extremes – the practicality of an SUV with the versatility of a smaller car. The Terrain places more of an emphasis on comfort, with a soft ride and expensive interior options. The Escape keeps things more mainstream, adding in a dose of driving pleasure to entice buyers. Both pay off in some ways, but the Terrain is in difficult territory. It still pales against true luxury marques, but against cheaper options like the Escape (and other compact crossovers), it’s not good value.

Our Verdict: Ford Escape

The Ford Escape wins this round thanks to its combination of practicality and personality. Family cars need to have utility and versatility, but they also need to offer value (and sometimes take a beating). The Escape has all of these covered, and who says it can’t be fun along the way?

Take a closer look at the GMC Terrain »

Take a closer look at the Ford Escape »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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