Once you get your head around the fact you’re sitting in a compact crossover powered by a 1.6-litre engine – a displacement once only found in econo-cars – there are no other serious issues to deal with when contemplating the worth of Ford’s latest-generation Escape.
And that engine, despite its minor-league capacity, and perhaps not batting in the majors in terms of home-run hitting power, delivers at least semi-pro level performance, aided by the automotive equivalent of steroids – an exhaust-gas-driven turbocharger.
This pumps up its muscle to 178 hp and, more importantly in terms of overall performance and drivebility, 184 lb-ft feet of torque, all of the latter available at just 2,500 rpm. That’s more of both than the 171hp/171 lb-ft produced by the 2.5-litre Duratec four of the previous generation. It also outguns the current version of this engine, which still serves as the starter Escape’s power plant.
So, comparing normally aspirated four-banger apples to turbo-boosted apples, you’re just not generally aware of that almost one litre of missing engine capacity while driving the new, smaller-engined Escape. The 3.0-litre V-6, incidentally, has been replaced by another four, this one a turbo 2.0-litre that matches the old six’s 240 hp and exceeds by eight its 223 lb-ft of torque.
By the numbers, the six-speed automatic-equipped Escape 1.6’s 0-100 km/h time of 9.9 seconds (as measured by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) is a tick slower than Honda’s CR-V, and much quicker than Mazda’s 2013 CX-5. Accelerating from 80 km/h to 120 km/h requires a commendably rapid 7.1 seconds.
This translates into an authoritative step-off from a traffic light, and plenty of poke when you step on the pedal to duck and dive in city traffic. Its turbo-torque also means it doesn’t have to rev its nuts and bolts off to maintain highway speeds, and tackles most hills while maintaining your cruise control setting.
The 1.6-litre engine, when powering the SE all-wheel-drive model tested, also scores fuel economy ratings that are a little better than the 2.5-litre with front-drive – 9.2 litres/100 km city (versus 9.5) and 6.6 highway (versus 8.1). In the real world, the onboard readout was showing an average of 10.3 litres/100 km and a highway average of 9.2 litres/100 km.
With this engine, the Escape is also rated to tow 907 kg compared to 680 kg for the 2.5-litre version.
The 1.6-litre Escape got off to a rocky start following its intro last year, with engine issues that resulted in recalls, but these have been successfully resolved.
The rest of the new Escape is more conventional.
It’s a four-door, five-passenger crossover with a nicely balanced blend of attractive style outside – with an interestingly complex front-end treatment and a long arching roofline – and comfort, convenience and practicality inside.
Starting price for a FWD Escape S is $21,499, and stepping up to an SE costs $26,898. The AWD SE reviewed here is priced at $29,099, and you can then move up to the $33,795 SEL AWD and the range-topping $37,495 AWD Titanium. The test “truck” came with $5,680 in options and priced out, including delivery costs, at $36,279.
It’s overall length of 4,525 mm, up by 88 mm, makes this new Escape about the same size as a compact Focus sedan, but its crossover layout means the space inside is put to better use for passengers and cargo.
The firm rear seat, with pull-down armrest, will hold three if absolutely necessary and versatility is addressed with a wide rear lift-gate (powered on the tester at a cost of $500) to reveal a cargo area with 971 litres of space behind the rear seatback and 1,920 litres with it folded.
Up front, driver and passenger are catered to by well-shaped seats (heated and trimmed in charcoal black leather, and powered on the driver’s side on the tester). The driver gets a clear view of twin instrument pods with an info-readout in between through a thick-rimmed wheel. The centre stack is set high in the dash, with large MyFord Touch and nav screen and audio controls, flanked by vents. Below that is the dual automatic climate control panel. Dark silver trim pieces didn’t do much to brighten up the test unit’s rather-too-black interior, although the panoramic sunroof helps – albeit at a cost of $1,750.
Although a little sombre in this trim choice, the interior, which is quiet at highway speeds, gets high marks for comfort, ease of use and utility.
The more-than-adequate engine performance is backed up by steering weighted to provide a sense of connection with the front wheels, which dutifully follow driver directions. The Escape turns neatly into corners and tracks through them without exhibiting undue body roll. In fact, it’s modestly agile, considering its high centre of gravity. Which comes with the crossover format and increased ground clearance, the latter paying dividends, along with the AWD system, when the snow gets deep.
The Escape has been one of the top choices in the crossover category for many years and this new one should keep it there.
2013 Ford Escape SE 4WD
Type: Compact crossover
Base Price: $29,099; as tested, $36,279
Engine: 1.6-litre, DOHC, inline-four
Horsepower/torque: 178 hp/184 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.2 city/6.6 highway; regular gas
Alternatives:Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi RVR, Nissan Rogue
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