Chelsea and I went back home to Wisconsin for a late Christmas with my family a couple weeks ago, and I scored a sweet deal with Priceline.com to get a mid-size rental car for $18/day. (Side note: bidding on rentals through that site is awesome – I do that 90% of the time when I travel and need a car). When we got to Milwaukee, the Avis agent offered us an upgrade to a 2013 Ford Escape for only $10/day. Since the weather was iffy and I’d been wanting to drive one anyway, I agreed to it and off we went.
The Escape is, of course, Ford’s smallest crossover/SUV, slotting below the Edge, Explorer and Expedition. It’s been around since 2001 but was completely redesigned for 2013 and is mostly the same vehicle as the European Ford Kuga now. Though it’s lost some of the chunky/masculine looks of the 2001-2012 cars, the new look is decidedly more modern. I like both, and so do the majority of consumers, as the Escape has continued to sell phenomenally well, finishing 2013 almost 300,000 sold and as the #11 US vehicle in sales and #2 in the category, only 8,000 units behind the #1 Honda CR-V.
Our rental was a Titanium model, which is Ford’s top of the line right now, with a current sticker price new of about $32,000. If you’re interested, I spec’d one out just like the rental and you can see the full list of everything it had by clicking here.
- Comfort: I’m 6’1″, a shade over 200 pounds and have fairly long legs so have trouble comfortably driving some cars. No such issues with the Escape. The tilting/telescoping wheel and many-way power seats made it easy to drive comfortably. The heated seats with five different levels of heat helped out too, along with making me lament the single level heated seats in my Mustang. It rides extremely well, especially if you ever rode in a previous generation Escape and can compare.
- Room: goes along with comfort, but this thing held four normal size adults extremely well and could have held all our luggage too. It seemed to swallow up more stuff than it should be able to, based on its overall size.
- Driving: the Escape (as you’ll see in the next bullet) has a great motor, paired with a well-matched transmission that shifts smoothly and doesn’t hunt for gears too much like many new cars with small motors and lots of gears do. It handles and brakes nicely on dry roads and in nasty winter weather, which I saw a lot of.
- Power: this Escape featured the top engine available, a 2.0 liter turbocharged (in Ford-speak – EcoBoost) inline-four with 240 horsepower. It had no problems moving with four people and I never even needed to push it hard – I don’t think I ever had it revved past 3,250 RPMs, so forget any notion that small motors like this need to be revved up high to get you going. Highly impressed and, considering the mid-range 1.6 liter engine delivers 62 less horsepower and only 1 MPG better, there’s no reason to not get the 2.0.
- Mileage: we drove this Escape about 650 miles over four days and averaged about 25.5 MPG. That was probably 80% highway driving and right in line with the EPA estimates for the car. Considering we had the heat blasting, the seat heaters on, using the defrosters, etc., I’ll take that and expect to get 27 or so in the summer. However, that’s barely better mileage than my Mustang and it’s 5.0 liter, 412 horsepower V8 gets, which is why I wouldn’t call the mileage a major positive. 30 MPG mixed would be that…
- Tech: the Escape had Sync with MyFordTouch, which is Ford’s oft-lamented touch-screen interface. I say oft-lamented because it’s one of the reasons Ford’s quality ratings have suffered lately. The major complaints are that it’s not less distracting than the old buttons & knobs approach and that it tends to be a bit glitchy. This is the second car I’ve driven with the system (rented a 2012 Explorer Limited on a trip last winter) and I didn’t find it hard to jump in and start using after a couple minutes familiarizing myself with it. Once your phone is paired (not hard), you can quickly use it for talk or audio. Learning the various basic voice commands can let you keep your eyes on the road too, though it seems silly to, for example, press the Sync button, then say “Climate”, wait a second, then say “Adjust temperature to 68 degrees” when you can just use the regular old knob to do that. Luckily, most of the basic controls can be adjusted either with the touch screen or through traditional knobs. One thing I really liked about the Explorer’s setup is that the smaller screen in front of the steering wheel could be customized with a ton of different info. Unfortunately, in the Escape, I could never get anything more interesting than “Smart 4WD System Active” to appear. Overall, I wouldn’t mind if this car didn’t have MyFordTouch at all, though the base Sync system that lets you pair your phone easily and do a few other things is a feature I wouldn’t give up (and that’s what my Mustang has).
- Value: I wouldn’t call this Escape inexpensive, as it’s a small SUV for over 30K. However, you get a lot of car for the money with a lot of nice features.
I honestly don’t have any big negatives with this car.
The almost-300K people that bought an Escape in 2013 are onto something: this is a darn good small SUV. When my wife and I are in the market for a kid-hauling vehicle in the next couple years, this is one we’ll definitely consider. If you’re in the market for one, you’re cheating yourself if you don’t drive both this and the CR-V, which is the best-seller for a reason too. Hard to go wrong with either, but the Ford would be my choice in this class.