By on November 16, 2011

Ford’s outgoing Escape is neither the newest, nor the nicest compact crossover on the market, but man does it sell well. How something so relatively old and uncompetitive maintained such strong volume in the market has long been a bit of a mystery, but my theory is that the Escape offered two basic attributes that the market desires: low price and SUV looks (without SUV efficiency). And by combining Escape with Europe’s Kuga to create one global compact crossover, Ford has been forced away from those two basic attributes: Escape likely won’t be cheap with its turbocharged engines and upscale interior (though pricing hasn’t been released), and it definitely doesn’t look like an old-school SUV anymore. Will a new approach to the compact crossover segment pay off for Ford, or is this Escape too “global,” or too similar to other “cute utes” to succeed in the US market? Is this the point at which the “One Ford” ethos crashes against the rocks of America’s appreciation for boxy, rugged utilities?


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69 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Ford Escapes The SUV Look Edition...”

  • avatar

    I guess it all depends on exactly how much more the new Escape/Kuga will cost here in the States. But unless it comes with a monumentally huge increase in fuel economy compared to the outgoing Escape, it might find a tougher road to success (and sales) than did the less efficient (but cheaper and better known) Escape.

  • avatar

    Makes sense to me. If Americans want a car based crossover that looks like an SUV and gets decent milage, they can buy the current generation Explorer. Ford has seen that Americans are willing to pay more for premium small cars like the Fiesta or the Focus Titanium editions. The new Escape is trying to be the Fiesta of the cute utes.

  • avatar

    I have a feeling the new Escape may meet with the same price resistance that the Focus seems to be suffering from. A decently equipped Focus is now around $21,000, which I think is giving sticker shock to a lot of potential buyers.

  • avatar

    I’m no big fan of the new exterior look, but I could get used to it.

    That designed-by-committee interior is one of the most incohesive assemblages of dissimilar shapes I think I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with this picture. My guess is that there is a segment that wants one of these CUVs, but wants it with an “American” badge on it. They’ve been buying the Escape because it checks those two boxes. Not my cup of tea, but I’m willing to bet this thing sells.

  • avatar

    Draw straws for who gets to rest their arm on the centre console.

  • avatar

    Gorgeous. However, there is a stunning lack of space in that front seat. The current CRV somehow manages to create an empty space at the bottom of the console between the front feet just like a full size van’s. Plus two gloveboxes and two more cubbies in the center console alone.

    If you’re gonna have acres of dash, at least put in a 2nd glovebox.

  • avatar

    The company I work for has a contract with Ford for our fleet vehicles. The Fusion and Escape are the two mainstays of our fleet (executives can get the Edge, Explorer and Flex). Almost all of our field employees drive Escapes due to the ground clearance and just overall better vehicle characteristics for which we use them for. We keep our vehicles until 50K miles or 2 years (whatever comes first) and so far, they haven’t told us whether or not we’ll be able to choose the new Escape next year.

    I’m concerned about the pricing myself as there is no viable alternative in the small CUV/SUV realm that offers the SUV characteristics the Escape has at the same price point. Everything that is right about the current Escape (price and SUV attributes as Ed mentioned), is going by the wayside next year. There’s nothing else in Ford’s fleet that offers as much utility/comfort (Transit Connect excluded) for the price.

  • avatar

    The current Escape is certainly competitive. It has very good fuel economy, modern engines and transmissions, excellent visibility, good cargo space with a real flat load floor with the 2nd row down, and class competitive tow ratings. Beating up the current Escape because elements of the platform are old is ridiculous – the car was incredibly heavily revised over ’08/’09 from powertrains to interior/exterior styling to electronic options.

    Now, all that being said, I’m torn on this redesign. I do get customers who prefer the Escape to the Edge because of the traditional SUV styling, but at the same time I’ve lost customers to more curvy cute-utes because of the styling, so my guess it will be a wash. Prices are sure to be higher, but Ford’s strategy seems to be to increase transaction price and retail sales at the expense of total volume. If this new Escape brings in Rav4 and CRV buyers just like the Focus has converted a lot of Civic buyers, I think we’ll do OK at the dealer level too.

    • 0 avatar

      Transaction prices may be higher, but at the expense of fleet sales which is conveniently left out of alot of discussions about Ford’s pricing strategy and predicted sales figures.

    • 0 avatar

      Welcome to my 93 year old mother-in-law, who’s currently looking at a 2012 Escape Limited because she doesn’t want the newer, curvier, swoopier style. This is a woman who still misses her 1990 Jeep Grand Wagoneer (and I can understand why, because I owned it for a couple of years afterwards), and her idea of a proper vehicle is a 3/4 sized version of that SUV, massive off-road abilities being optional. What she does want is straight up and down windows and visibility.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t even think about the Edge. Where does this new Escape leave the Edge? Seems to me that they are aimed at the same audience. What are the sales numbers for the Edge compared to the Escape?

      • 0 avatar

        The Edge is quite a bit more expensive than the Escape. The Escape starts in the low 20s, the Edge starts just under $30K. There is some cross shopping, but it usually comes down to a buyer being price/payment driven and going towards the Escape, or wanting the more substantial refined feel of the Edge and deciding to pay the extra.

    • 0 avatar

      Nullo – buyers usually go for the RAV4 because it’s a boring and safe choice. Everything is strictly function versus form on the RAV4. Hence, it ain’t a beauty queen.

      • 0 avatar

        RAV4 has some function issues, too. In particular, the rear window does not open. Funny thing is, I never needed that opening window, because I was able to fold seats and put long items all the way forward over the dashboard. But when someone is shopping, he has no way to know if he would ever need that capability. Second, the floor in RAV4 is not entirely, 100% flat. It is functionally flat enough to load cargo, but if you sleep in it, you soon notice that it’s far from flat. I still did it, because I was too lazy to pitch up the tent, but it was a lesson.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      +1 to Syke, and here’s why.
      The SUV buyer in my house is my wife, not me. My theory is that there are two kinds of car owners: the “shoe” owners and the “boat” owners. The “shoe” owners are people who “put on” a car like a piece of clothing. It becomes a part of them and, in that sense disappears. I’m a “shoe” guy. The “boat” owners think of a car as a moving citadel, which they command. It protects them and gives them a sense of power. My wife is a “boat” person. She always complained that our Saab wagon was “too small” and act visibly uncomfortable in my Z3 on the highway, next to trucks.

      Anyway, like Syke’s grandmother, my wife believes that when you’re buying an SUV it does need to be a box on wheels. So, when we were shopping, the Acura MDX got demerits for not being boxy enough, ditto for the then new GM crossovers (Enclave/Outlook/Acadia).

      So, to the degree that the buyers of the Escape were looking for a box, the new version may not be so attractive. Unfortunately for the “box” fans, the number of available “boxes” keeps shrinking. The Escape seems to be following the pattern of, say, the Honda CRV, started out as a box, now isn’t a box. The Element was definitely a box, but it was a little too boxy for its own good.

      So, that about wraps up my general theory of shoes, boxes and boats . . . in a nice package, I hope, tied up with a bow.

  • avatar

    Boxy shapes aren’t all bad. They feel larger than they are. Big windows help you see out, without the distracting angular window frames of streamlined cars. I’m certain that at least some of the popularity of trucks as cars comes from the perceived comfort of sitting in something shaped like a room, not a cheese wedge. Now, another boxy shape bites the dust, alas.

    Ditto on that dashboard– Ford’s interiors seem to be designed by a 19-year-old video game addict who’s just discovered Photoshop’s “skew” control. What’s the attraction? I can imagine this might look exciting for a minute in the showroom, but I can’t imagine looking at that cluttered mess in front of me, day in and day out. Could you?

    • 0 avatar

      I think they’re going for the video game demographic. And considering the number of 30 somethings I work with who spend hours a week playing video games it’s a market with money. As a 50 year old guy, I like clean straight forward analog dials and discrete controls.

  • avatar

    Interior looks chaotic and cramped.
    Visually discordant fun house vectors like some current Hyundai models.

  • avatar

    The dash is a bit overwrought but otherwise I like the looks.

    I don’t suppose they’ll offer a hybrid (or other high-mpg) version that can still tow a ton? Until I can get that, I’ll probably just keep driving my minivan.

    It seems like much of what’s lacking in the CUV market is the U – utility. The CR-V and the 4-cylinder Rav top out at 1500lbs, I believe. Even a smallish boat usually sneaks past 3/4 ton, with trailer, fuel, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      From what I’ve seen, the people who buy these are the same type of people who bought an intermediate or smaller station wagon in the 1970s when I was a kid.

      But since “station wagon” is apparently a naughty term in 21st century America, these vehicles have to look like miniaturized Grand Cherokees and Explorers.

      • 0 avatar

        Isn’t the current Escape about the size of the original Explorer? Not trying to start the “all cars have bloated” debate, but to my eye they are on par.

      • 0 avatar

        A wagon would work, too. The lower profile would likely make it easier to achieve better fuel economy at highway speeds. Our old Volvo 240 wagons would pull a ton, maybe 1.5 tons (can’t recall for sure). Of course, they would pull it rather slowly. :) Still, I’d be OK with slow.

      • 0 avatar

        I bought my CR-V because it was the closest thing to an old fashioned stationwagon i could find. The towing capacity (in Norway, it’s usually the cars curb weight) isn’t much to talk about, but considering it’s just a raised 4×4 Civic, I’m not too dissapointed

  • avatar

    Oh good lord, aren’t the stylists tired of the hockey stick beltline yet? It was distinctive when AMC used it on the Gremlin in 1970. It’s just lame now. Don’t people want to be able to see out of these things?

  • avatar

    I’m not liking the trend Ford has on the front ends of their vehicle. It makes me think of the Mazda “smiley face” front end treatment that has taken such a beating on here for good reason. I’m thinking large mouth bass – ummm…maybe not all bad…

    I think Ford is tossing away a good thing with the current Escape style – just change the door and greenhouse shape a bit and touch up the rest, but I suppose they feel the need to make a radical re-style.

    Apparently, most vehicles other than full-sized SUV’s and trucks are being “chick-a-fied” to appeal to the fairer sex. That’s OK, but throw the rest of us a bone now and then!

    Right now, I’ll stay with the double-slat front-end style Chevy has. You never know, Ford’s new face may grow on me but not yet…

  • avatar

    That mouth on that car just looks weird to me. Are those just big black plastic triangles above the foglights?

  • avatar

    exterior looks like the offspring of a RAV4 and a Sportage. Like others said, i think the Interior is really a mess – too much going on and a lot of little corners that will be a pain to keep looking clean (if that’s your thing).

  • avatar

    I’m concerned.
    The Escape was an honest design. It looked like what it did. It was a value and it was popular.

    Things can’t last forever.

    With all the ladies in the CRV and RAV4, this seems to be what gets parked around the malls now a days.

    Good luck – but I think it looks too much like the Fiesta/Focus to be an SUV.

    And enough with the claustrophobic interiors!

  • avatar

    Although it may be timed to move on from the original 2001 Ford Escape body style, this cross-over looks overly Focused / car-like versus its ute-like predecessor.

    The target market has probably moved on, but I still take my 03 Tribute/Escape over BLM and Forest Service roads. This new version will do the trick as a small people mover, but two styling features leave me cold.

    * Notice all the low hanging forward fascia under the front belt-line versus the older Ford Escape.

    This new over-stylized front fascia is destined to scrape on trails with rocks or where steep driveways meet the roadway.

    * Notice how the stylized rear hatch has been extended at the bottom to be flush with the rear plastic bumper cover. In fact, it looks like it bulges past the rear bumper cover.

    You’ll be buying more than a bumper cover, if you back ever so slightly into any type of post or poll.

    I’d have to sit in the driver’s seat to see whether I like the trendy and smaller rear windows, which swoop upward in a very kinetic fashion.

    Yep, the late 1990’ies are over. It’s time to move on.

  • avatar


  • avatar
    George B

    I liked how the original Escape rear seat folded flat to provide a fairly big square cargo area. None of the interior pictures showed the interior set up to haul stuff instead of people.

  • avatar

    Seems like this has a huge competitive advantage over CRV and RAV4 (on top of the gigantic advantage on the model name!) Better tech, higher quality interior materials across the board, and aggressive styling all around. The shape of the air vents are bold, but may turn some off.

    Notable in the body shape is the rear roof doesn’t taper-down like most cutesy CUVs, it remains high. I bet the cargo space is very competitive vs. the existing Escape.

  • avatar

    Ah, the car designers wet dream. To be left alone to build a whole car from scratch, without any meddling from engineers or ergonimists. It looks awesome, inside and out, but practical? I don’t think I will be selling my square box 2nd gen CR-V to replace it with a newer SUV tbh :P

  • avatar

    Like the new Focus, both the interior and exterior border on being overstyled.

  • avatar

    Sharp Focus on stilts. Yawn….

  • avatar

    I dunno, but my wife liked the old Escape, and LOVES the new look. I trust her taste in SUVS.

  • avatar

    I’ve read “gorgeous” and “awesome” in the comments. This car is neither. It looks like a Focus with big wheels. I agree with the commenter that observed that the U-utility-seems to have been left out of the design. I guess I just don’t understand this whole CUV craze…

  • avatar

    Why doesn’t Ford sell both, at least initially? The Escape has to be cost effective to keep building and the sales numbers justify its continued existance. The new one can target the CRV crowd. Jeep does this with their small SUVs. As old as the Escape is I think this review is right in that people are buying it because it’s one of the last affordable trucky looking crossovers. IMO sales will fall with this new version especially if the price goes up. There are a lot of crossovers that look like this. It just doesn’t seem smart to me to radically restyle a vehicle that sells so well (remember the Taurus?).

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, that’s exactly what I thought when I first saw this car, too.
      The two cars seem to go different enough of a direction that I would think the two can be sold side by side without too much cannibalization.

      Maybe call the current version Escape Classic, similar to what Fiat did with the cheap and popular Punto (Classic) and the newer and larger Grande Punto?

  • avatar

    It does look like a jacked-up Focus wagon. As the wagon isn’t for sale here in the US, I guess this will have to do…

  • avatar
    Canis Caeruleus

    As the owner of a 2010 Escape, the 3 best features of the current model are: visibility (greenhouse), utility (big, square cargo hold), and size (small enough to park anywhere). The new Kuga based model might be giving up 2 of the 3…

  • avatar

    Dash is a little wierd but not offensive (maybe to get the center stack into arm’s reach?)

    Outside is handsome.

    Didn’t look at price or mpg. Assuming these are competitive, it looks like it could be a runaway hit.

  • avatar

    This is a great looking SUV. For my wife, who has her eyes on the new Range Rover Evoque, I might be able to talk her into this at half the price. Forget the comparisons to the outgoing model, this can claim buyers who cannot quite afford an X3 or Q5. It has all the style and similar utility, at a much cheaper price. If it is close at all in price to a Rav4 or CRV, it will grab those buyers away. It is much more interesting looking than the Edge.

    If you really want cheap truck-like SUV styling, there are several million used Chevys, Fords and GMCs out there. No other manufacturer makes anything quite like the outgoing Escape, unless you count the Liberty. Without the old Escape however, I think Ford may regret not bringing the new Ranger stateside. I think a lot of would be small truck buyers have been buying Escapes instead.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I think Jeep is probably liking this. They have the Patriot and Liberty to soak up the old-school, more trucky-looking cute ute sales, and Ford’s gonna be fighting with the Rogue/Murano, CRV, Rav4, Sportage (yes really) and Tucson for the bean-shaped cute ute crown. If I were Jeep, I’d be loving my niche in the market right now.

      Also ditto on regretting the decision to keep the T6 Ranger for overseas markets only. But not necessarily because I think would-be Ranger buyers have been buying the Escape instead (the 2011 Ranger is still available, after all), but because once it’s gone, they’ve basically ceded the small truck market to Toyota (and GM, whenever they get their new Chevy Colorado online for the U.S.)

  • avatar

    This looks like C-Max minivan. Maybe the CR-V crowd will love it but it certainly is a departure for the existing Escape faithful.

  • avatar

    It all depends on price. The reason the Escape sells is that it’s a very cheap and yet very roomy little wagonlet. That it looks like a truck doesn’t really help or hurt, if things like the CR-V and Equinox are anything to go by.

    Much like subcompacts and minivans, this is a “bran flakes” segment: biggest box at the lowest price wins. If Ford prices the Kugascape too high, they’ll just cede the market to competitors who can field

    • 0 avatar

      Fleet. Fleet. Fleet. That is the secret to current Escape. As long as Ford continues massive fleet dumping, the next Escape will also sell.

      • 0 avatar

        The current Escape is great for fleets, but still sells very well to private consumers. It’s a very efficient and utilitarian package. The new one may be less so, but it should still be successful. Plus, a sale is a sale.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Back in September 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina, I bought my brother in-law one of these vehicles.

    2001 model, 4 cylinder, 5 speed, 100k. I think I bought it for around 7k to 8k.

    Sine then he has more than doubled the mileage, added leather seats for about $150, and hauled more stuff in a few years than many do in a lifetime.

    The Escape has held up well. I think it will last him well into 300k and change.

    I know one thing for certain. This new model will cost a lot more than $8k once it hits the four year mark.

    • 0 avatar

      Around here, the Ford Escape was a real sleeper in the used car market until around 2007, the year gas prices spiked. Its sister model, the Mazda Tribute was even more of a sleeper, which is what I have.

  • avatar

    I dig it. It looks good. Certainly it is far better than the new Mazda CX-3/5 in another thread.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Is there a Federal law that requires all new SUV designs to use the same rear quarter window design?

    Who, in his right mind, and who has to leave his car outside occasionally, would buy a car with a black leather interior. Maybe it is OK in Oregon, where the sun never shines, but here in Ohio, it would burn you to a crisp in July. And in Atlanta or Houston …

    • 0 avatar

      While cloth and light leather certainly make up the bulk of sales here in FL, we do move some black leather cars as well. My last car (that I moved down here with from up north) had black leather, and while it was incredibly hot for the first few moments after being out in a sunny day (occasionally so much so that I couldn’t touch the steering wheel until the air had blown on it for a bit) once the AC kicked in it was fine.

      Black leather doesn’t show wear as much as lighter colors do, and especially combined with a car with a black headliner, it gives a great cozy feel, at least IMO. Having dark tinted windows helps a lot (FL is thankfully pretty generous with the maximum tint allowed) and if you have to park facing the sun one of those reflective windshield covers is worth the cost and effort to put it up.

      I recall Audi and perhaps Toyota both having options of solar panels built into the sunroof than powered a fan to circulate the air inside of the car while it was parked. I don’t know why that feature hasn’t caught on more, it seems like a great idea.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        It is certainly a lot less work to have a light colored cloth interior. The one in my 2002 Accord is in fine shape, and will undoubtedly out last the tranny.

        Of course, my real question is why leather at all. You use leather covered furniture in the family room. The living room has cloth covered upholstery. This whole leather = luxury business is pure marketing without a bit of sense to it.

  • avatar

    I disagree about it being unknown why the Escape sold well: It appealed to both men & women. Women go for the CUVs, that’s a known fact. The Escape, as opposed to the CR-V & other “cute utes” didn’t necessarily look like a woman’s car, so men were much more likely to go along. (This the fundamental reason SUVs supplanted the minivan as the family car.)

    This new design clearly falls into the Focus’ family. While I love the style of the new Focus, this one just doesn’t move me.

    (Also, the car’s look is dramatically improved by taking some black vinyl and covering the chrome mini-grille on either side of the blue oval)

  • avatar
    Mr. Spacely

    My wife has a 2009, fully loaded Mercury Mariner Premier. It’s her favorite car ever.

    I showed her these new pics in as neutral a way as possible. Her unsolicited appraisal is that the new Escape looks “small” and “squished.”

    The poster who calls the current Escape “honest” is right-on-the-money.

    I feel like that same word can also apply to the current Escape/Mariner’s interior, which is full of plastic, painted plastic, and occasional chrome, but at least looks functional, is functional, and is even quite ergonomic (in my view, at least — save for the parking brake handle’s location).

    The new Focus-style interiors are so insectoid and Klingon battlecruiser-like. And their cockpit feel — which works in coupes, compacts and sports sedans, definitely — just doesn’t fit for a compact American SUV. (Granted, I haven’t sat in the ’13 Escape yet, obviously, so maybe (hopefully?) this view will change.)

  • avatar

    I think this looks amazing. Hopefully, it’ll drive as well as I think it looks.

  • avatar

    I too am torn.

    I find the current Escape good looking, right sized, and has just the right blend of tech. It is a little cheap feeling inside, but at the same time feels “trucky” and looks “trucky” so it almost seems to work.

    With that said, I’d never buy the Escape. It is too unrefined, not sporty enough for me. But I’ve recommended them to friends who have had them for a few years and still love them.

    To me, they’re a great go-to car for people I know who don’t like to drive, just want a good, reliable, truck-like, fuel efficient car for a good price. That is why they sell so well. The only other boxy choice is really the Jeep Patriot I think, and the Escape is miles ahead of that thing.

    I have driven the current Kuga in Europe a few times, with a diesel engine and 6 speed manual transmission. I LOVE the thing. Its one of those cars that is peppy enough around town, gets enough speed without waiting all day on the Autobahn, sit up high, looks great, has some truly nice features inside, comfy seats, great steering feel, great rear seat comfort, easy to park, but still holds a lot, excellent fuel economy, etc. I’ve rented quite a few Euro cars over the past few years, while I still slightly prefer the 1er and 3er BMWs, I’d probably put the Kuga right behind them. Something about it I like even more than the Audis I’ve had. Benz’s I don’t care for. And the Kuga is certainly better than a Golf or anything French :)

    But…..I don’t know what those cars cost. I’d be willing to bet more than an Escape. If it isn’t terribly more expensive, I think people will pay for the added features, refinement, etc. But if we start talking mid to upper 20’s for a low to mid trim model, then Ford may have a problem. Especially because it loses that trucky look too.

    Will be interesting to see. Some cars are “better” but sell awful (Freestyle & Flex vs Explorer, Saturn Astra vs old Focus) for various reasons. Will the new Escape be “better” enough to offset the price increase and style difference? I really don’t know which side I’d take.

    Though they do have to refresh at some point. Eventually the Escape would turn into a solid, cheap, good car like the Crown Vic and Ranger… you can’t let it rot on the vine forever, even if the cars are excellent values and profitable.

    Will say I think the new Focus does a great job balancing smooth/sexy with somewhat manly touches. The grills are aggressive, and the thing has some shoulders and such. Old Kuga was a bit too rounded, but very clean and classy. If the new Escape can take some of that beefiness on the Focus, then they might find it has just enough balance between curvy and trucky/aggressive.

    We shall see…

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