Driven! 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

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A hybrid rejoins the Escape SUV lineup for the first time in years. Starting at $29,450, including destination charge, the Escape Hybrid model sits in the middle of the 2020 Escape lineup.

  • The hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain is available on the SE Sport and range-topping Titanium trim levels.
  • In total, the Escape Hybrid delivers 200 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque.
  • The 2020 Escape is likely to be Ford’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S., after the full-size F-150 pickup truck.

The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid is brand new and features a gas-electric powertrain that’s available with front- or all-wheel drive. In its race against popular rivals like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, and Mazda CX-5, the new Escape delivers more safety features, improved technology, a roomier rear seat, and better fuel economy ratings than the outgoing version.

To put it bluntly, Ford can’t afford to screw up the 2020 Escape. As the American automaker turns its back on sedan and coupe sales in the U.S. – the lone exception being the Mustang sports car – Ford’s fortunes will soon rest almost entirely on trucks and SUVs.

With that in mind, the Escape has been totally redesigned and reengineered, to help it compete against a long list of rivals in one of the hottest-selling market segments.

The 2020 Ford Escape has been totally redesigned and, for the first time since 2012, a Hybrid rejoins the lineup. (Photo: Ford)

The return of the Escape Hybrid

How can the 2020 Ford Escape hope to stand out in such a crowded field? One way is to reintroduce a hybrid variant, something that has been missing from the Escape range since 2012. The hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine, paired with an electric motor and a 1.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The combined output of this powertrain is 200 hp and 152 lb-ft of torque.

Starting at just under $30,000, the Escape SE Sport Hybrid comes with standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. The hybrid setup is also available in the range-topping Titanium trim.

Ford has provided a plot twist here, by coupling the fuel-sipping powertrain to a pair of performance and luxury-themed trim levels. For reference, the entry-level Escape S starts at $26,080, and features a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder that serves up 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque.

The most powerful engine currently offered in the 2020 Escape is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder, which provides 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. An Escape Titanium equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo and all-wheel drive starts at $37,880. Add every available option, and the 2020 Escape will easily crest $40,000.

The front of the 2020 Escape features a low, flat nose that’s dominated by a large grille that spans the width of the SUV. (Photo: Ford)

Driving manners and miles per gallon

During two days of driving in Louisville, Kentucky, site of Ford’s media drive for the Escape, our time was divided between the 250-hp turbo-four, along with the SE Sport Hybrid model. In terms of all-out acceleration, the Escape Hybrid feels stronger than its numbers suggest. You won’t fool yourself into thinking you’re behind the wheel of a Mustang GT, but you also won’t fear merging onto a highway’s passing lane.

The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that comes with the hybrid is surprisingly smooth. It faded into the background during our day-long drive. Ride and handling balance are two more plus points in the new Escape. Bumps and other road imperfections are nicely isolated, there isn’t much body roll during cornering, and the nimble handling makes the Escape easy to maneuver. However, for the ultimate fun-to-drive small SUV, it’s worth noting the Mazda CX-5 is still the champ.

Even Ford’s regenerative brakes do a fine job feeding power back to the battery pack, without giving the brake pedal a numb and lifeless feel. This issue has plagued many other hybrids, though it’s absent from the Escape.

The power is there, and so is the everyday driving comfort. But being the hybrid, the big news here is going to be the mileage, right?

At the time of this review, Ford is still waiting for official EPA figures related to the Hybrid. For the time being, the Escape S fitted with the turbo three-cylinder and front-wheel drive is the most frugal choice, with its EPA-certified 27 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway.

Yet, during our time behind the wheel of the Escape Hybrid, and with very little effort, we saw as much as 42.5 mpg during a stretch of predominantly highway driving. Another journalist in attendance mocked the effort as us “not driving normally,” or something equally inane. Thanks buddy, but we weren’t in Kentucky to go easy on Ford.

In fact, some simple math comes to the rescue. Ford says the Escape Hybrid will have at least “550 miles” of driving range. So, an easy calculation is to take this number and divide it by the Hybrid’s 14.2-gallon fuel tank. That equals out to an average of more than 38 mpg, which seems achievable given our recent experience. Another nice touch is that the Escape Hybrid can be filled up with regular 87-octane gasoline, versus pricier premium grade.

The cabin of the 2020 Escape is cleaner, airier, and more modern than the bulkier dash designs used on some recent Ford vehicles. (Photo: Ford)

More legroom, cargo space and safety features

The outgoing Escape was notable for having plenty of cargo space behind the second-row seat backs. This holds true with the 2020 model year, the Escape Hybrid has 34.4 cubic feet of cargo room (the non-hybrid versions offer 37 cubic feet in total). For the first time, the rear seat comes standard with a slide function, to move the seat forward or back by up to six inches. This is extremely useful if you have long-limbed rear passengers, or need extra space for bulky cargo.

For the 2020 model year, every version of the Ford Escape comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot 360. This is a grouping of active safety features and includes a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, post-collision braking, automatic high beams, blind spot monitors, and hill start assist. Other available safety items include adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, and Ford’s active park assist with reverse and front parking aid.

One safety feature that should be on this list is the Escape’s good outward visibility. Too often, the view of the outside world is blocked by thick pillars and narrow side and rear windows in modern cars and SUVs. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the new Escape.

Every trim level of the 2020 Ford Escape now comes standard with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite of active safety features. (Photo: Ford)

Technology that impresses; materials that do not

When it comes to technology, the first bit of good news is that the optional 8-inch touch screen fitted to our test vehicle was generally easy to use. It’s not a segment leader in terms being user-friendly, especially at a glance. Though the simpler menus and controls are a noticeable improvement on the outgoing Escape. Additional tech includes wireless smartphone charging, a head-up display, and multiple USB outlets for front and rear passengers.

We have to admit there are some cheap-looking materials used in the cabin, especially on the doors and lower part of the dash. This isn’t a deal breaker, though. And, thankfully, the center console is much less busy and bulky than Ford’s previous efforts.

Cargo room remains a strong suit in the 2020 Ford Escape. In the Hybrid model, there is more than 34 cubic feet of space behind the second row. (Photo: Ford)

Available this fall — but should you buy it?

The Escape Hybrid goes on sale this fall. For anyone who wants an even more eco-minded alternative, a plug-in hybrid version of the Escape is due in Spring 2020. Exact pricing and mileage figures have not been released, though it’s expected the Escape PHEV will have approximately 30 miles of electric-only driving range.

As it stands, the Escape Hybrid is a well-round and nicely detailed effort. The 2020 model year improvements are noticeable and appreciated, even if saving fuel doesn’t rank at the very top of your sport-utility priorities. The 2020 Escape Hybrid is most memorable for not constantly driving home the point that it’s a hybrid in the first place.

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