Ad Radar

2003 Ford Escape

Get A Dealer Quote

Compare Dealer Clearance Prices and SAVE

  • Review

2003 Ford Escape Review

A small SUV that offers big things.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2003 Ford Escape small sport utility vehicle (SUV) is a good buy that offers some class leading features like the powerful, V-6 engine option and the interior cargo space. The handling is like a car and the performance is at the head of this class. The Escape has a comfortable interior, respectable ride and offers a real value in a very crowded vehicle segment that is full of good choices. The Escape helps to make the small SUV decision even more difficult to make and is well-worth a look.

The Range

Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 3.0-liter V-6
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: Ford Escape XLS Value, Ford Escape XLS Sport, Ford Escape XLS Popular, Ford Escape XLT Popular, Ford Escape XLT Popular2, Ford Escape XLT Sport, Ford Escape XLT Premium, Ford Escape Limited

What's New

For 2003, the Escape gets a new Limited edition; see below for its features. There is an appearance package for the XLT that includes special wheels, side step bars and body-color exterior trim. There are upgraded interior materials and fabrics, an available two-tone cabin color scheme, illuminated power window and lock switches and three new colors available for all trims. The XLS four-wheel drive with a four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission has been discontinued.


The 2003 Ford Escape small SUV comes in many trims: XLS Value, XLS Sport, XLS Popular, XLT Popular, XLT Popular2, XLT Sport, XLT Premium and Limited. There should be a trim to fit any need. The XLS models have 15-inch wheels, power door mirrors, rear wiper and rear defogger. The XLT trims add 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights. The Limited then adds automatic and delay-off headlights, a rear sensing system and heated door mirrors. There are a number of option packages. Some stand-alone options include a trailer hitch receiver, power moonroof and an engine-block heater.


On the inside, the XLS trims start off with remote keyless entry, tilt steering wheel, air conditioning, power steering, am/fm audio with cd player and cloth seats. The XLT trims add in a power driver seat and speed control. The Limited then throws in a premium audio system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, leather upholstery and leather trim on the steering wheel.

The cabin is rather spacious for this class with lots of cargo room. The quality of materials has been improved and the design and layout are respectable, but not overly stylish. Controls are easy to reach and use and the overall comfort of the interior is one of the best in this segment.

Performance & Handling

Standard on the Escape XLS two-wheel drive comes standard with a two-liter, inline four-cylinder engine that produces 127 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque. It is matched to a five-speed manual transmission. The three-liter V-6 develops 201 horsepower and 196 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most powerful engines available in a compact SUV. The V-6 is standard on Escape XLS four-wheel drive, XLT and Limited and comes mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds with this setup. Two-wheel drive models are front-wheel drive. The performance of the four-cylinder is definitely lacking, especially with the Escape loaded or towing. The V-6 is the best in class and while the fuel economy isn’t very good the performance exceeds what is expected of a small SUV. The V-6 models will handle all traffic situations easily, but be careful and judge well with an Escape equipped with the four-cylinder.

The handling and braking is at the top of this class making the Escape a confidence-inspiring and fu to drive SUV. Aside from sharp bumps the Escape is relatively smooth riding for a good performer. Wind noise can get a bit distracting.


For 2003, all trim levels come equipped with dual front airbags. Four-wheel disc antilock brakes are standard on XLT and Limited trims and optional on the XLS trims. Side airbags for the front seat occupants are optional on XLS and XLT and standard on Limited. A new reverse sensing system is standard on the Limited trim. Crash test scores are a mixed bag. In NHTSA testing the Escape earned five out of five stars for side-impact and driver safety, four stars for passenger safety and three stars for rollover safety. But in IIHS testing the Escape didn’t fare so well receiving the lowest score of ?Poor? for side-impact safety and the second lowest score of ?Marginal? for frontal offset crash safety. Be careful how you crash your Escape.

EPA Fuel Economy

Ford Escape four-cylinder: 20/25 mpg city/highway
Ford Escape V-6: 17/23 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • V-6 power
  • Cargo capacity
  • Interior comfort
  • Handles like a car

You Won't Like

  • Limited range because of small gas tank
  • Standard four-cylinder is underpowered

Sum Up

A small SUV that offers big things.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Isuzu Axiom
  • Kia Sorento
  • Honda Element
  • Subaru Forester

See the New 2015 Escape.

Front & Driver Side View

Similarly Priced Vehicles