There's more good news at Ford: For a third straight month, Ford marked record sales growth in Canada. Vehicle sales in August increased 7 per cent compared with August of last year.
The brand's success rides on new products such as the Taurus and Fusion as well as existing best sellers like the Escape.
Introduced in 2001, the Escape is still a hot commodity. For 2010, the Escape family grows with the addition of a new Escape Hybrid Limited, available in 4x4 or 4x2 models. There's also a new 3.0-litre V-6 Flex Fuel engine that delivers 240 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque. A blind-spot mirror is standard while a rear-view camera and auto park system are also available for 2010.
For 2009, you can get an Escape XLT front-wheel-drive base trim for $23,999. The most expensive is the Limited 4WD model for $34,895. My tester is a 2009 Escape XLT 4WD, which starts at $27,499. But when you add extras like a power moon roof ($1,200), 17-inch chrome-clad wheels ($650) and a navigation system ($3,150), the price jumps to $36,429.
Under the hood of the XLT 4WD is a 2.5-litre, inline-four-cylinder engine that delivers 171 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque - it replaces last year's 2.3-litre engine.
Mated to the engine is a six-speed automatic transmission - which is a big improvement. On the up-shifts and downshifts, it's smooth and snappy.
I also prefer the fuel savings of the inline-four over the 3.0-litre V-6 engine. My Escape I-4 4WD tester is rated 10.9 litres/100 km in the city and 7.9 highway. The V-6 gets 12.1 city/8.3 highway. If you want better savings, splurge on the Escape Hybrid FWD - it is rated at 5.8 city/6.4 highway; the Hybrid AWD is 7.0 city/7.4 highway. But the Hybrid will cost you more - $32,399 for the FWD and $34,799 for the 4WD. The Ford Escape Hybrid also won the 2009 ecoEnergy award for Most Fuel Efficient Special Purpose vehicle by Natural Resources Canada. All trims take regular fuel.
The Escape's compact size makes it easy to drive and park. It feels like you're behind the wheel of a car. And the step-in is low to the ground so entering the cabin is easy.
Its road manners and ride quality are pleasant. But under hard acceleration, especially when passing slower-moving vehicles or merging onto the highway, the engine noise from the I-4 whines heavily. Wind and road noise are also noticeable.
The 4WD system provides great traction on rain-slicked roads. And the windshield wipers as well as the fluid cover the entire windshield when sprayed, providing excellent outward visibility.
From the outside, the Escape is plain and conservative, yet attractive. There's nothing dramatic or innovative about its design. For 2010, a few new colours will be added: gold leaf metallic, ingot silver metallic and steel blue metallic. Light sage metallic, brilliant silver metallic and light ice blue metallic will no longer be available.
The interior is roomy, but there's a lot of hard plastic in the cabin. The dashboard layout is functional and intuitive - everything is within the driver's reach. But some functions for the audio require multiple steps, but redundant audio controls simplify the task.
An AM/FM stereo with six-disc, in-dash CD changer comes with an MP3/iPod audio jack. You can also store about 2,400 songs, upload photos or watch a DVD when parked with the system's nearly 10 gig of hard-drive space.
The ice-blue interior lighting on the instrument cluster, the centre console, steering-wheel controls, the door locks and window switches is cool, and creates a pleasant atmosphere in the cabin while remaining easy on the eyes.
The leather seats on my tester are comfortable; but they add $1,100 to the price. It's part of a Canadian winter package, which also includes a leather steering wheel and heated front seats.
The 60/40-split folding second-row seats are spacious, but the large rear headrests hamper the driver's visibility out the back. Behind the second row, there's ample space - 827 litres. If more space is needed, both rear seats fold flat, increasing the cargo area to 1,877 litres. The lift gate with separate flip-up glass is useful for accessing the cargo area fast. There's also a lockable hidden wet truck and retractable cargo cover on my tester - it's part of a cargo package, which costs $230.
Air conditioning, cruise control, six airbags, AdvanceTrac with roll stability control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, anti-lock braking system and LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system on rear seating positions are standard on all models. The Ford Escape is also rated a Top Safety Pick by the U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway safety.
The 2010 Ford Escape is rolling into dealerships now. Prices range from $24,499 for the XLT I-4 FWD, to $42,299 for the Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD model. In the meantime, you may be able to get a deal on one of the last remaining '09s in the showroom.
2009 FORD ESCAPE XLT
Type: Compact SUV
Base Price: $27,499; as tested, $36,429
Engine: 2.5-litre, DOHC, inline-four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 171 hp/171 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city/7.9 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Mazda CX-7, Saturn Vue, Honda CR-V, VW Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Chevrolet Equinox
- Variety of trims, including a hybrid
- Spacious interior
- Top Safety Pick by IIHS
- Options add up fast
- Hard plastic interior