Top-notch safety scores. You won’t find a better model anywhere than the Ford Escape concerning all matters of safety. The Escape earned top safety scores from the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as from the industry-backed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Besides crash-test durability, it also helped the Escape garner acceptable ratings with its available advanced lighting system. Ford equips every 2021 Escape with automatic emergency braking and active lane control. The list of options includes adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, and parking aids.

Decent levels of comfort. The current-generation Escape is slightly larger than the previous model. Ford also makes a better room of space throughout the cabin. We do, however, take exception to the smallish front seats which don’t offer enough bottom support and have narrow bolsters.

It reminds us of some of the earlier almost toy-like utility vehicles of the late 1990s, but they were much smaller overall, thus the small seats. The best seats in the Escape are in the second-row with ample legroom available. They also recline. One other oddity is that the Escape offers heated seats, but there is no ventilation available.

Ford Escape

Multiple engine choices. The Ford Escape is an outlier in the compact crossover segment as it offers two gas engine choices and another two hybrid options. All told, there are four powertrain arrangements where some models, such as the Nissan Rogue, offer just one.

The base engine is a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. Available in front- or all-wheel drive, this one earns up to 28/34/30 mpg city/highway/combined.

A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the workhorse here as it makes 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This one works with all-wheel drive only and comes paired with the same 8-speed automatic transmission found with the three-cylinder engine. The trade-off in efficiency is evident as this model makes 23/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined.

Beyond the gas models are the hybrids. One is a conventional hybrid, the other is a plug-in variety with 37 miles of all-electric range. Both hybrids come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission. The conventional hybrid comes with standard front- or available all-wheel drive. The PHEV is front-wheel-drive only. What’s remarkable about both is that fuel efficiency starts at a robust 40 mpg combined.

Nicely equipped for the money. The sweet spot for well-equipped compact crossovers is around $30,000 and with this, the Ford Escape delivers a nice equipment list in the SE trim.

Among the creature features we like are alloy wheels, push-button start, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and an 8-inch color touch-screen display with smartphone compatibility. You could pay an additional $10,000 more for a fully loaded Titanium with leather seats and a B&O audio system, but we don’t recommend it.

Final thoughts. If you’re looking at the Escape hybrids, there is a price differential of approximately $5,000 between the SE conventional and plug-in versions. But a federal tax credit of $6,843 (2020 figure, 2021 not yet available), covers the difference and puts $1,800 back in your pocket, if eligible.

Check prices for the 2021 Ford Escape »