Quicker isn’t always better: With the new 2020 Ford Escape, one of the slower trims is also one of its best. Don’t get too excited, though, as the 2020 Escape Hybrid comes with a couple big asterisks—for now. With the tall C-Max hatch gone, the 2020 Escape Hybrid has a special surprise for compact crossover customers craving something a little different. As the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s only direct competitor until the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid arrives, we tested the 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid to see how it measures up.
The Escape’s surprise is the new plug-in hybrid, an intriguing model that promises an EV range of at least 30 miles before the four-cylinder engine kicks in to help. In the real world, this means folks with shorter commutes can drive to and from work without ever using a drop of gas. Cool. It’s promising tech we look forward to testing; the already-available Mitsubishi Outlander has a 22-mile EV range. The less expensive non-plug-in Escape hybrid starts below $30,000 in the 2020 SE Sport trim and makes the fancy-pants Titanium trim available if the 245-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four doesn’t capture your heart (and money).
The 2020 Escape Hybrid’s as-tested acceleration to 60 mph falls nearly two full seconds behind that turbocharged 2.0-liter model, at 8.7 seconds to 6.9 seconds. But the hybrid might still be the better choice between them, as the 2.0T’s swiftness and overall value pales in comparison to the Mazda CX-5 Signature, which also boasts a boosted engine under the hood. With the Ford hybrid, our AWD 2020 Escape tester fell behind a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid by just over a second (the Toyota hit 60 in 7.5 seconds). The average hybrid buyer may not have quite as much of a lead foot as Escape 2.0T buyers, though, so we suspect that won’t be a huge factor.
Fuel economy is a big deal, but as this is written, we don’t have official EPA-rated numbers. What we can tell you is that the 2020 Escape Hybrid will battle the RAV4 Hybrid, whose 2019 model is rated at 41/38 mpg city/highway in its single AWD configuration. Unlike Toyota, Ford offers its compact SUV hybrid with FWD and AWD; the plug-in model is FWD only.
As for the Escape hybrid, we credit Ford for brakes that feel like conventional non-hybrid brakes nearly to the end of travel, at which point they bite harder than drivers new to hybrids may expect. On the track, the hybrid stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet, better than the 2.0T (123 feet) or 1.5T (128 feet). The hybridized Escape also loses a little of that light, tossable feeling we appreciate on the 1.5T and 2.0T models; otherwise, it drives well. Just drive it comfortably to keep from experiencing some unrefined behavior if you shift aggressively from braking to acceleration (like making an incomplete stop before quickly darting off).
On MotorTrend’s figure-eight course, which evaluates acceleration, braking, cornering, and the transitions between them, the Escape Hybrid finished in 28.3 seconds at 0.60 g (average), almost the same as an FWD Escape 1.5T (28.2 seconds at 0.62 g, average) but not as good as the AWD Escape 2.0T (27.7 seconds at 0.64 g, average).
The hybrid feels responsive overall, but no drivetrain behavior or slick 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster can distract from the general cheapness that pervades the interior. Our 2020 Ford Escapes were pre-production prototypes, so it’s possible some of these issues may be improved in time. Even so, the SUVs we drove disappointed MotorTrend editors who expect more from vehicles in this segment. Where the 2020 Escape Hybrid performs respectably is with perceived interior spaciousness for four.
Escape-ing does mean a slight sacrifice in terms of cargo carrying capacity, however. The RAV4 Hybrid can hold 37.0-37.6 cubic feet of your stuff with the rear seats in place, compared with the 30.7-34.4 cubic feet of the 2020 Escape hybrid and plug-in hybrid (the space is the same in both models; the variation comes from how far forward the rear seats are moved). And we’ll answer your next question: Escape hybrids have 2.8-3.1 cubic feet less space than non-hybrid models.
Not a strong showing if you’re comparing the Escape hybrid back to back with the RAV4 hybrid, but then again, you may not be. The new Ford is as far removed from the boxy first-gen model as you can get, with a soft and suburban appeal that’s also a world apart from the more rugged-looking RAV4. That RAV4 is quicker and has more space for your stuff, but whether it or the upcoming CR-V Hybrid are also more efficient is a question we’d love to answer. Until EPA numbers on the Escape hybrid arrive, we can tentatively recommend the new Ford. If its shortcomings don’t bother you, the Escape’s styling and hybrid powertrain may just make it the best pick of the new SUV’s expansive lineup.
|2020 Ford Escape SE Hybrid AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$34,840|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.5L/168-hp/170-lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus elec motor; 198 hp comb|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,773 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||180.5 x 74.1 x 66.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.7 sec @ 84.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||122 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.3 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet tested|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||Not yet tested|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||Not yet tested|