Coverage of crossovers in Truck Trend tends to elicit a polarized response from readers, to say the least. Some faithful followers of the title say we should do pickups only and that SUVs, crossovers, vans, and other variations of utilitarian vehicles are just fluff and distractions. But, when you look at the overall market, aside from fullsize trucks and midsize sedans, compact crossovers are among the biggest sellers. So we feel it's only fair to give this significant segment some attention. In 2013, the Escape was Ford's second best-selling model behind only the F-Series trucks. To get a refresher on this bread-and-butter model for Ford, we got a 2014 Ford Escape SE equipped with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine, a good representative example of how many Escape models are equipped.
The fully-loaded Ford Escape Titanium rivals some luxury brands' crossovers in terms of equipment and features, with leather, heated memory seats, power tailgate, HID lights, and the usual assortment of expected premium features. Our tester was much more modestly-equipped, and it felt so. On its own, it was no penalty box, with driver-side power seat adjustment, Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, and of course power windows and locks, keyless entry, satellite radio and automatic headlights. But compared to fully-loaded Escape models we've driven, our SE tester felt decidedly austere.
Over the past several years, Ford has been very aggressive in its application of its downsized EcoBoost turbocharged gasoline-direct-injection engines, and the Ford Escape is no exception. The rental-fleet staple S trim comes equipped with a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter I-4, but the bulk of SE models get the 1.6-liter Ford EcoBoost I-4, producing 178 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That output puts it in the same ballpark as competitors' naturally-aspirated 2.4 and 2.5L engines, and likewise, acceleration is similar. Our tester did the 0-60 sprint in 8.2 seconds, about the same as Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. Handling was slightly better than average at 0.81 g. Observed average fuel economy of 23 mpg was decent, but not remarkably better than what we've seen in competitive models. Only when compared to the robust power delivery of the 2.0 EcoBoost does the 1.6L leave you wanting more, with the larger engine having a 62hp and 86–lb-ft advantage.
The Escape's Euro-penned Kinetic styling still looks fresh and contemporary a year after its introduction but comes off as slightly busy from some angles. Like the Titanium, the SE has a dual rear-outlet exhaust, giving a little sportiness to this otherwise thoroughly mainstream crossover. The Escape shares its platform with the critically-acclaimed Focus compact, and much of the Focus' driving dynamics and personality also come through on the Escape with quick steering, good real-world grip, and responsive brakes. For buyers that need a crossover, but want the fun-to-drive feel of a compact, the Escape is a reasonable trade-off.
Although handsome and reasonably functional, the Ford Escape does fall a bit short of the class leaders in terms of total cargo volume, with a noticeably smaller cargo hold than the CR-V or RAV4. For most buyers, the Escape's cargo capacity should be more than sufficient, whether for diaper bags and strollers, or with the seats folded, outdoor gear and mountain bikes.
One option we'd definitely pop for on the SE is MyFord Touch. Ford's touchscreen variation of Sync has had its fair share of criticism from both journalists and consumers, but it is vastly preferable to the standard center stack of the Escape. Like with MyFord Touch, our primary gripe is not so much with the physical ergonomics of the design, but with the function. We had to manually re-sync our phone each time we got in the vehicle for Bluetooth music streaming to work, a feature that usually auto-connects when selected in most other recent models we've driven. Also, using the directional arrow controls to scroll through and select the functions in this non-touchscreen version of Sync is an exercise in frustration, not to mention a potentially dangerous driving distraction. We suggest only taking a deep dive into the Sync menu and its functions when parked.
Just as when it was introduced as a 2013 model, the Ford Escape is still a solid, if not flawless, entry in the cutthroat compact crossover segment. The cabin tech interface remains the most glaring shortcoming, an issue Ford is well aware of, and will surely address in a mid-cycle refresh of the Escape, likely coming for the 2016 model year. But the Escape's current combination of style, driving dynamics, and value make it easy to see why it's a best-selling model for Ford on multiple continents.
|2014 Ford Escape SE|
|Price As Tested||$26,445 (est)|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||1.6L/178-hp/184-lb-ft DOHC turbocharged 16-valve I-4|
|Curb weight (F/R Dist)||3437 lb (58/42%)|
|Length x width x height||178.1 x 72.4 x 66.3 in|
|0-60 mph||8.2 sec|
|Quarter Mile||16.3 sec @ 83.4 mph|
|Braking, 60-0||122 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.81 g (avg)|
|EPA city/hwy/comb fuel econ||23/32/26 mpg|
|Energy Cons., City/Highway||147/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 emissions||0.74 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||Currently|