Ford Escape Hybrid 2020 first drive review: A more efficient SUV option

When Ford launched the original Escape Hybrid in 2005, it won the title of the world’s first hybrid SUV. And while the petrol-electric Escape has found many happy homes – including New York’s fleet of taxis – it doesn’t last long. Third-generation Escape launches without electrification options. But now, that hybrid hiatus is coming to an end.

The Ford Escape 2020 offers not only one but two hybrid powertrains. Are they worth a look than the standard Escape, which runs on air only? I went to the streets of Kentucky to find out.

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5 things you need to know about the Ford Escape 2020 …


Light hybrid now, plug-in hybrid follows

Only one Escape Hybrid will be available from launch. It uses a mild hybrid powertrain built around a 4-cylinder, Atkinson, 2.5-liter cycle engine and an 88 kilowatt electric motor. Together, they produce 200 hp of real system output, which can be sent to the front or all four via a continuously variable transmission.

Powering the electric motor is a liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack that Ford says is one-third the size of the one found in the previous Escape Hybrid. The more compact size allows engineers to mount it to the floor below the rear seats, so as not to encroach on the Escape’s 37.5 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding the second row of seats will expand that area to 60.8 cubic feet.

Most importantly, the hybrid powertrain offers real efficiency. EPA’s official fuel-economy figures are not yet finalized, but some can be extrapolated. Ford claims to be targeting an estimated EPA driving range of more than 550 miles with front-drive wheels. A gaze at the Escape hybrid spec plate show carries a 14.2-gallon gas tank, meaning a highway fuel economy rating of about 39 miles per gallon is theoretically possible. That’s certainly an improvement from the 1.5-liter I3’s 33-mpg rating.

The Escape Hybrid’s main competitors will be the recently announced Honda CR-V Hybrid and the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid that went on sale. In the power department, both Japanese options outperform the Escape, with Honda making 212 hp and the RAV4 making in 2019. Honda has not announced fuel savings for the CR-V at At the time of writing, but the RAV4 Hybrid has some pretty competitive numbers: 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway. Toyota has a bit more cargo space with the rear seats folded down.

The second part of Ford’s two-part Escape Hybrid story is set to launch next spring, when a plug-in model joins the lineup. It will also use the 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle I4 engine, but will only be front-wheel drive. Ford aiming to escape this hybrid must have at least 30 miles of all electric driving range. Without a doubt, we’ll learn more about the plugin as we get closer to its launch.

Smooth, sturdy, and a little hilarious

The Escape Hybrid’s drivetrain is uniquely tuned, with the engine being re-burned almost seamlessly when switching between gasoline and electric power. If you’re in no rush, you can get up to speed with just electric power with the light throttle input at low speeds. Ford says you can travel electric alone at speeds up to 85 miles per hour.

Capacity itself is sufficient using the car’s default Normal drive mode, but Sport is my preferred setting for a faster start-up. The CVT’s simulated shifts are also quite flexible.

You can have fun with the 200 hp hybrid powertrain.

Nate Reed / Roadshow

The Escape Hybrid is solid when cornering, with excellent ride quality even on large, 19-inch titanium test wheels and 225/35-series tires. The body of the 3,554-pound SUV is tested and the regenerative brakes provide excellent modulation. One thing on my wish list is a sharper eccentric steering feel for sharper turn response. Even with that, the Escape Hybrid is a dynamics machine that outperforms the RAV4 Hybrid in terms of on-road dynamics.

Like its gas counterpart, the Escape Hybrid is truly superior in casual commute. Normal mode offers lighter steering and the suspension does a great job of absorbing the impact from the rails. Once housed in a quiet cabin, the Escape is a small SUV that will turn into a great everyday driver.

Glossy appearance, slick technology

On the surface, there aren’t many Escape Hybrid setups aside from gasoline-only models. With the exception of a small “Hybrid” badge on the lift doors, the smooth exterior shape is the same, with a tapered roofline and the so-called “Mustang-inspired” grille. If you choose the SE Sport Hybrid, you get a slightly more sneaky look with black wheels, trim contours and accents on the grille.

Except for the hybrid badge, the Escape Hybrid looks just like its brethren.

Jon Wong / Roadshow

Escape’s cabin also brought along. Besides a few hybrid-specific metrics in the instrument cluster and center display, it’s all the same. There’s plenty of space in the front and the rear seats slide forward and back to better accommodate taller passengers. All the controls of the car are large, clearly marked and visually placed. Build quality is exceptional and materials on par with all other small crossovers available today. The only cabin percussion relative to the flat front seats is desperately in need of reinforced side pads.

With mild hybrid drivetrain becoming standard on SE Sport Hybrid and Titanium equipped, it carries a high amount of technology. Infotainment synchronization of quadbacks 3 with an 8-inch touchscreen, with Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 devices, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa and Waze integration. Each Escape hybrid also has a 12.8-inch digital instrument cluster, while Titanium adds a standard 10-speaker B&O sound system.

In terms of safety, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, collision rear brake and automatic underlamp are standard equipment. Escape hybrid. Adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, active parking assist and a forward-facing display.

The spacious, well-built cabin from the gas Escape also switches to the hybrid model.


Greener exit

The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid has a starting price of $ 28,255, excluding $ 1,195 for the destination, for the SE Sport model, while the top Titanium has a starting price of $ 33,400. In both cases, the all-wheel drive car made $ 1,500. The pricing of the upcoming plug-in hybrid model has yet to be announced.

The Escape faces stiff competition from the aforementioned Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but with its refined drivetrain, great driving dynamics and huge technological load capacity, it is positioned as one top candidate.

Editors notes: Travel costs related to this feature are covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it is much more economical to ship a journalist to a car than to send a car to the journalist. While Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers to deliver graded editorial reviews, all graded vehicle reviews are completed on the pitch and according to our terms.

The reviews and opinions of the Roadshow editorial team are ours and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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