After bringing you the First Drive review of the 2013 Ford Escape a few weeks ago, we decided to strap our testing gear onto Ford's newest SUV to see how it stacks up against its competition. While some of its competitors offer only one power train option, the new Escape offers three, although two are projected to be the volume-sellers.

The 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder serves base duty in the S trim level, and is only available with front-wheel drive. It's essentially a carryover engine from the 2012 model. The big news for 2013 is the availability of two EcoBoost four-cylinder engines. The smaller of the two is a 1.6-liter turbo producing 178 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Although those numbers aren't remarkable for the class, the fuel economy delivered by the pint-sized powerhouse is impressive. At 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, the "baby" EcoBoost-powered Escape ranks higher than all other compact SUVs except the Mazda CX-5, which bests the Escape by 3 mpg in the EPA city ratings, but comes in 1 mpg lower than the Escape at 32 mpg when equipped with the automatic transmission.

Those craving more power can opt for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost, available on all trim levels except the S. This engine produces 240 hp and a stout 270 lb-ft of torque. As expected, the 2.0 doesn't quite achieve the same level of fuel economy as its little brother, but the difference is small. It only gives up 1 mpg in the city, and just 3 mpg on the highway, delivering EPA figures of 22/30 for the front-drive model, and 21/28 for the all-wheel drive model.

Our first impression of the new Escape as a tossable, fun-to-drive compact SUV remains true. Since we had limited seat time in the 1.6-liter model at its introduction, we took one home to get a better feel for its performance. An engine smaller than 100 cubic inches in a 3500-pound vehicle may not sound like much fun, but the eager little mill always seemed up to the task of hauling the Escape around, and never felt like it needed more power, except during the most aggressive passing maneuvers.

Although the temptation to drive a modestly powered car foot-to-the-floor all the time is there, we found the 1.6 EcoBoost was most responsive when we kept the engine under slight load in the torque sweet spot between 2000-4500 rpm. Once the transmission shifts into third gear, using partial throttle to build boost produced a relaxed surge of acceleration sufficient to keep pace with most traffic. Some drivers may yearn for more power, but almost none of us would describe the smaller EcoBoost as gutless.

Thankfully, Ford kept the leadfoots in mind with the 2.0 EcoBoost. The larger engine produces a meaningful 62 more horsepower than its smaller sibling, and, even more significantly, 86 lb-ft more torque. Whereas the 1.6 EcoBoost can seem a little busy at times keeping up with its accelerative duties, the 2.0 has a more relaxed demeanor, as well as a noticeably more assertive shove under throttle. The test numbers bear this out, with our front-drive 1.6 tester returning an 8.9-second 0-60 time, and the all-wheel-drive 2.0 model slicing more than 2 seconds off that time at 6.8. The gap narrows slightly in the quarter-mile, with the 1.6 doing it in 16.7 seconds at 82.4 mph, and the 2.0 managing it in 15.2 seconds at 88.8 mph. But there's no question if you're craving power, the 2.0 is the one to get. Even the 1.6 EcoBoost proved to be quicker than some of the Escape's compact SUV peers, such as the Kia Sportage EX, which managed the 0-60 sprint in 9.1 seconds, and the CX-5, which needed 9.4.

Both engines are very well-isolated, and very little engine noise makes its way to the cabin. As noted earlier, both engines are available on the SE and SEL trim levels, the latter available with such luxury features as driver memory settings for the seat and outside mirrors, heated mirrors, standard dual-zone automatic climate control, and leather seating. The top-of-the-line Titanium model comes exclusively with the 2.0 EcoBoost, but the SEL can be loaded up with the majority of the Titanium's features with several available option packages. So whether you're looking for frugality or fun in a compact SUV, Ford offers an Escape for either taste.


2013 FORD ESCAPE SE FWD, TITANIUM AWD
BASE PRICE/AS TESTED SE FWD: $25,895/$28,750
Titanium AWD: $31,195/$34,735
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD /AWD, 5-pass, 5-door SUV
ENGINES 1.6L, 178-hp / 184-lb-ft turbocharged 4-cylinder, 2.0L, 240-hp / 270-lb-ft turbocharged 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3490-3791 lb
WHEELBASE 105.9 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 178.1 x 72.4 x 66.3 in
0-60 MPH 6.8-8.9 sec
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 21-23 / 28-33 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 147-160 / 102-120 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.73-0.82 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. 41030.00 g (avg)