- Good performance and fuel efficiency
- Many high-tech features
- Agile handling
- High-quality cabin
- Comfortable seating
- Gets a little pricey when loaded with options
- Slightly awkward climate controls
After years of soldiering on with the same basic platform, Ford's little crossover has finally received a major makeover. Judging by our experience with the 2013 Ford Escape, it looks as if it was worth the wait. The new Escape stands as one of the top entries in a segment that's already packed with excellent choices.
The 2013 Escape has some international lineage, as it is based on the Ford Kuga, a European compact crossover that in turn shares its platform with the Ford Focus. Its gene pool has graced it with handsomely sculpted styling and an athletic chassis. Compared to the outgoing Escape, the new one has a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase and is 1.3 inches wider. Together, these dimensions provide more room inside, while this model's shorter height (by 1.6 inch) contributes to the sleeker look outside. Other interior changes include higher-quality materials, a second-row seat that's much easier to fold down, a "hands-free" power liftgate and the addition of the MyFord Touch electronics interface.
A trio of four-cylinder engine choices comprise the Escape's power lineup, and all run through a six-speed automatic. One is a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter engine carried over from last year, but it's only offered on the base model. The mainstream choice is a new turbocharged 1.6-liter. It puts out 178 hp and returns an EPA-estimated 33 mpg on the highway. Drivers who want quicker acceleration can opt for the 240-hp turbocharged four-cylinder, which effectively replaces the V6 in the old Escape. A hybrid variant of the Ford Escape is no longer offered, however.
The 2013 Ford Escape is better in every way relative to its precursor. Its primary competitors -- the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 -- can't match its engine choices, while the Kia Sportage and Subaru Forester can't match its interior refinement.
One possible downside is price -- once you load up an Escape with all of its nifty options, it ends up being one of the most expensive models in its class. But if you're OK with that, the 2013 Ford Escape should be an excellent choice for a small crossover.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2013
For 2013, the Ford Escape is completely redesigned.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2013 Ford Escape is a compact crossover SUV that comes in four trim levels: S, SE, SEL and Titanium.
The S comes with 17-inch steel wheels, an integrated blind-spot mirror, MyKey parental controls, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
Options for the S are few but include the Sync voice-command electronics interface (includes iPod interface and Bluetooth) and steering-wheel audio controls.
Upgrading to the SE brings a turbocharged engine, color-keyed mirrors/door handles, foglamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry keypad, privacy tinted glass, a four-inch multifunction screen, the Sync system, reclining rear seats, satellite radio and steering-wheel audio controls.
Option highlights for the SE include 18-inch wheels, a power panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control and a navigation system.
The SEL adds heated sideview mirrors, one-touch up/down for all windows, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, the MyFord Touch electronics interface, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, interior ambient lighting, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), heated front seats and an upgraded, nine-speaker sound system.
Options for the SEL include a Cargo Management System (roof rack, interior tonneau cover, power liftgate), a Technology package (keyless ignition/entry, remote start, hands-free liftgate, reverse park assist and a Sony audio system with 10 speakers and HD radio), a Parking Technology package (automated parallel parking assist, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and a blind-spot monitor), a panoramic sunroof and a navigation system.
Sitting at the top of the line, the Titanium adds a more powerful engine, 19-inch wheels, remote start, keyless ignition/entry, ambient lighting, upgraded leather upholstery and the Sony audio system.
Options include a Titanium Technology package (roof rack, xenon headlights, interior tonneau cover, hands-free liftgate, reverse park assist), the Parking Technology package, full leather upholstery, a power panoramic sunroof and a navigation system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
Up front in the cabin the Escape provides a pair of well-shaped, generously padded seats that ensure proper comfort and support. Materials and overall fit and finish are excellent. The gauges are large and easily read. But while most controls are intuitive, those for the climate system are awkwardly located, down low and in front of the gear selector. The Sync system works well for both cell phone and audio/iPod integration. Ford has also worked to improve the latest version of MyFord Touch -- it works well, though there's still a learning curve involved.
As before, there's plenty of room inside the Escape, even in the rear seat, which has plenty of head- and legroom. The wide front seats are generously padded, with good bolstering for the seatback. Like the Focus, the Escape has a steering wheel with a sporty, thick rim that enhances this crossover's carlike image. Cargo space behind the rear seats measures 34.3 cubic feet. Flipping the rear seats down via a one-touch lever opens capacity up to 68.1 cubes, about average for the segment. One interesting feature is the optional hands-free power liftgate; as long as the key fob is within close proximity (i.e., in your pocket or purse), kicking or waving your foot under the rear bumper will open the liftgate.
Antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag and full-length curtain-type airbags are all standard on the 2013 Ford Escape.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Standard and only available on the S is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 168 hp and 167 pound-feet of torque. The SE and SEL come with a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-4 that makes 178 hp and 184 lb-ft. Optional on these two trims and standard on the Titanium is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that pumps out 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and all but the S are available in either front- or all-wheel-drive configuration (the S is front-wheel drive only). Properly equipped, an Escape with the 2.0-liter turbo engine can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Fuel economy estimates for the 2.5 are 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. The 1.6 EcoBoost with front-wheel drive earns 23 city/33 highway, while the 2.0 EcoBoost with front-wheel drive rates 22/30/25. All-wheel-drive versions rate 1-2 mpg less.
Performance ranges from average with the 2.5 and 1.6 engines to downright spirited with the 2.0 turbo. In uphill situations in which the 1.6 needs either extra throttle or a downshift (or both), the brawny torque of the 2.0 pulls the Escape through without a thought. The 2.0 turbo is also quieter and smoother, and offers good punch when you boot it to swiftly pass or merge.
Blessed with the competent Focus platform, the 2013 Ford Escape handles itself well in the curves. Mind you, with its greater weight and higher center of gravity you won't exactly mistake the Escape for a Focus, but it's willing enough when the road begins to twist. The steering doesn't have the spot-on feel of the Focus, but body roll is controlled reasonably well. Things improve further in the Titanium model, as the extra grip from the high-performance 19-inch tires allows more aggressive cornering. Ride in the latter is taut but still supple enough.
The 2013 Ford Escape is a winner in the segment of small crossover utility vehicles thanks to athletic driving dynamics, an inviting cabin and plenty of useful high-tech features.