2020 Ford Escape Hybrid SE Sport Review - Mixed Bag

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid SE Sport Fast Facts

2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with 88 kWh electric motor (200 horsepower; 155 lb-ft)
Continuously variable automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
43 city / 37 highway / 40 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
5.5 city, 6.4 highway, 5.9 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$29,775 (U.S) / $34,499 (Canada)
As Tested
$34,245 (U.S.) / $37,349 (Canada)
Prices include $1,095 destination charge in the United States and $2,100 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 ford escape hybrid se sport review mixed bag

It’s been a year and a half or so since I first drove the current-gen Ford Escape down in Kentucky, before anyone heard the word, COVID, and I still don’t know what to make of it. That goes double for the hybrid.

I wasn’t enamored with its blob-like styling, but some of youse guys found it attractive, or at least acceptable. Certainly, Ford gets credit for taking a bit of risk in order to make the Escape stand out in the sea of anonymous compact crossovers.

On the other hand, I did praise its road manners, finding it to be relatively fun to wheel through a corner.

Enter the hybrid, which you’d expect to sacrifice some sport at the altar of fuel economy. And it does.

Combining a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an 88 kWh electric motor for a drivetrain that makes 200 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque, the SE Sport hybrid isn’t precisely swift.

Not that it’s really supposed to be. It’s meant to be a high-mileage grocery getter.

That also becomes apparent when one pushes the Escape hybrid. While the steering offers up lively feel and the turn-in is surprisingly nice for a commuter’s crossover, the tires just give up the ghost quite easily.

Ah, well, that’s probably to be expected in a vehicle with a focus on fuel-economy. More disappointing are the interior materials, which feel a bit downmarket.

The interior design also feels like a bit of a letdown – it takes the idea of form following function to a bit of an extreme, leaving you with controls that are simple and easy to use and locate to go along with a boring look. The generally-disliked floating infotainment screen is in use here.

It may sound like I am being unduly harsh on the Escape, but while it has its flaws, it still does certain things really well. There’s the aforementioned ability to handle well, at least until the tires reach their grip limit, and the ride is acceptable if not super compliant. The continuously-variable automatic is unobtrusive. And then there’s the main mission – fuel economy.

An all-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid like my test vehicle can bring home numbers of 43 mpg city/37 mpg highway/40 mpg combined. Not bad.

Sensing a theme here? That this Escape trades some performance for utility? That, I think, is the point.

Also, the sun rises in the east.

The fuel-sipping shopper needn’t sacrifice too much in the way of features. Standard features included a rear spoiler, heated front seats, USB ports, Co-Pilot 360 driver-aid, keyless starting, Wi-Fi, Sync, satellite radio, keyless entry, and rearview-camera.

The SE Sport Premium Package added 19-inch wheels, ActiveX seat material, sunroof, navigation, power liftgate, remote start, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go. Total price? $34,245 including $1,095 in fees.

Looks aside, I find the regular Escape to be a fairly fun to drive crossover, and some of that gets lost in the hunt for more MPGs should you select the hybrid.

It’s not so bad that I’d avoid the hybrid at all costs, but unless fuel economy really matters to you, the gasser will likely serve you better.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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  • Jimmyy Jimmyy on Apr 04, 2021

    This escape is a huge improvement over the last generation escape. The Ford hybrid drivetrain has also improved. This would have been a great vehicle before the latest Rav4 and CRV generations were released. That is the problem. Ford's escape is behind the current competition. It is always behind. They need to invest more money into product development and engineering to catch the competition.

  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Apr 05, 2021

    I've driven this and the hybrid RAV4 and in terms of the drive, the Ford felt a little more car like. They were both a bore to drive, so other than price, the resale value is what will be the big difference.

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.