Testers say the 2010 Ford Escape feels older and more truck-like than more up-to-date small SUVs like the 2010 Honda CR-V (Base MSRP: $21,545 to $27,745), which also boast better rollover ratings. However, the Escape's roomy backseat, fuel-efficient base engine and relatively strong towing (with the optional V6) earn it a few nods from critics.
The Escape is mechanically identical to the 2010 Mercury Mariner (Base MSRP: $23,560 to $27,380) and 2010 Mazda Tribute (Base MSRP: $20,405 to $28,915). The Escape
is the most traditional-looking SUV of the three; Cars.com calls the Escape's
exterior styling "tough." All three offer hybrid versions, discussed
in our report on
Performance-wise, experts say the Ford Escape gets the job done but is not exceptional. Its base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine delivers 171 horsepower, which Edmunds.com calls "adequate." Towing capacity is 1,500 pounds. Estimated fuel economy is good for the class, at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic sacrifices 1 mpg city and combined, and four-wheel drive drops fuel economy to 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined.
Acceleration is zestier with the optional 240-horsepower, 3-liter V6, but Edmunds.com says it still can't keep up with V6 versions of the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox (Base MSRP: $22,615 to $29,970) or 2010 Toyota RAV4 (Base MSRP: $21,675 to $27,985). Like those SUVs, the V6 Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped. The automatic transmission is the only choice with this engine. Expect an estimated 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, dropping to 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway/20 mpg with four-wheel drive.
Braking tests get mixed results. Edmunds.com calls the Escape's brakes "damning," with "antiquated" rear drums (most rivals have discs) "that simply don't have the power to bring the Escape to a stop as effectively as other small SUVs." Another reliable expert test finds braking has improved to be very good.
Rollover safety ratings are a low point for the Escape. It's more likely to roll over than most other small SUVs, and injuries are more likely due to its Marginal (as rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) roof strength, crash tests show. The Escape does get the highest possible ratings in front-, side- and rear-crash tests. Standard safety features are par for the class: antilock brakes, traction and stability control and front, front-side and curtain airbags.
Inside, the Escape's cabin materials have improved; Edmunds.com and Cars.com find them mostly okay, but ConsumerGuide.com says they still feel "low-rent." Visibility is a strong point, and testers say the Escape really does feel big enough for five adults, although some find rear legroom a bit tight. The rear seats don't recline or slide, or fold in one step, as newer SUVs' do. You have to remove the headrests and tip the seat cushions forward before you can fold down the seatbacks. Cargo space tops out at 66 cubic feet, just shy of the 70-plus cubic feet found in the Honda CR-V and others.
Optional high-tech features are one of Edmunds.com's favorite parts of the Escape. Trim levels start with the Ford Escape XLS (Base MSRP: $21,020 to $22,770), which includes air conditioning, keyless entry, full power accessories, cruise control, a blind-spot driver mirror and a CD stereo with auxiliary jack. Ford's critically acclaimed Sync system, which integrates your cell phone and MP3 player into the vehicle's controls, is optional. The Escape XLT (Base MSRP: $24,045 to $25,795) adds several features including satellite radio and MyKey, which allows parents to limit their teen drivers' speed and stereo volume. The Escape Limited (Base MSRP: $25,625 to $27,375) adds heated leather seats, among other things, plus the option to buy navigation and an auto-park feature that Edmunds.com says "works notably better than the one found in the exponentially more expensive Lexus LS 460."
Reliability has been average or better, according to owner surveys. The 2010 Ford Escape carries a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The aging Ford Escape doesn't make it into most head-to-head SUV comparos anymore, but Edmunds.com, ConsumerReports.org, Cars.com and ConsumerGuide.com thoroughly test it as they do most vehicles on the market. (Cars.com's test is of the 2009 model, largely unchanged for 2010.) Motor Trend's Truck Trend names the Escape its runner-up compact SUV for 2010, but with little explanation. The Escape fares worse than some other small SUVs in crash tests at SaferCar.gov and the IIHS. FuelEconomy.gov gives official fuel-economy estimates for all versions of the Escape, and J.D. Power and Associates provides reliability ratings.
Even when loaded with the latest tech gadgets, the Ford Escape still manages to show its age, Edmunds.com says. Most importantly, the old-style rear drum brakes can't stop the Escape as quickly as its newer competitors can come to a halt in tests here.
Review: 2010 Ford Escape Review, Editors of Edmunds.com
2. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Marginal rollover roof strength relegates the Ford Escape (and its Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute clones) to third-tier status in crash tests here. The trio does earn the highest rating of Good in front, side and rear crashes.
Review: Small SUVs, Editors of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The 2010 Ford Escape (along with its sister models, the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute) is more likely to roll over than most other small SUVs, government tests show. The Escape gets a 3-star rollover rating, while most competitors get 4 stars. The Escape does earn the highest 5-star ratings in front- and side-crash tests.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, Editors of SaferCar.gov
Experts here test both the four-cylinder and V6 versions of the Ford Escape and rank them against most other SUVs on the market. Unlike most other sources, ConsumerReports.org conducts its own fuel-economy and accident-avoidance tests and collects reliability data. Editors also consider government and IIHS crash data, although they haven't added IIHS's new rollover roof-strength test to their ratings.
Review: Ford Escape, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
With newly improved fuel economy, the Ford Escape is one of Cars.com's 2010 Best Bets. This overview links to a very thorough Cars.com review of the 2009 model (largely unchanged for 2010). The review notes the Escape's unimpressive government rollover rating, but not the new IIHS roof-strength rating.
Review: 2010 Ford Escape, Editors of Cars.com
Although the Ford Escape is one of ConsumerGuide.com's Recommended SUVs, testers don't sound very enthusiastic about it here. They criticize its "crude-sounding" engines, cheap cabin and old design. They say they recommend it for its "practicality and attractive pricing."
Review: 2010 Ford Escape: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com
7. Truck Trend
The Ford Escape (along with the nearly identical Mazda Tribute and Mercury Mariner) is the runner-up small SUV pick at Motor Trend's Truck Trend. However, the explanation is only one paragraph long, citing the Escape's towing capacity, five-passenger comfort, choice of powertrains and "some capability off the beaten path."
Review: Truck Trend's Best in Class 2010: Compact SUV, AWD/4WD, Editors of Truck Trend, March 2010
This government website ranks most SUVs according to fuel economy. The front-wheel-drive Ford Escape with the base engine lands near the top of the list, and all other versions of the Escape are included as well.
Review: 2010 Sport Utility Vehicles, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
9. J.D. Power & Associates
The Ford Escape's overall dependability rates "better than most" in J.D. Power and Associates' latest owner survey. Its subscore for body and interior dependability is the same, but it rates only average for powertrain and feature/accessory dependability.
Review: 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study -- Compact Multi Activity Vehicle, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates