Buyer's Guide

2021 Ford Escape
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2021 Ford Escape MODEL OVERVIEW


  • Agile, fun handling
  • Standard active safety tech
  • Efficient hybrid and plug-in options


  • Cut-rate cabin materials
  • Thrashy three-cylinder base engine
  • Flat, unsupportive driver's seat

Ford's well-known compact crossover competes in a crowded class with a decent-sized interior, efficiency, and an entertaining driving experience. Introduced in 2001, the Escape has gone on to sell millions of units and help define its segment. The redesigned fourth-generation Escape went on sale for 2020.

Turbocharged gasoline engines are standard; hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are also available.

What's New

  • The Escape Hybrid is now available in SE and SEL trims
  • On the SE trim, a power-adjustable driver's seat is now part of a Convenience package (it was formerly standard)
  • The SEL trim and above now get Ford's SecuriCode keyless entry keypad
  • Road sign recognition has been added to the Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus driver-assist suite
  • The Titanium trim now includes a memory function that tracks seat and sideview mirror settings
  • New paint color choices:¬†Antimatter Blue, Bronze Fire, Carbonized Gray, and Iconic Silver

What We Think

In the competitive compact crossover arena, the Escape manages to feel distinctive. It's actually fun to drive, thanks to its zippy turbocharged engines and light-on-its feet handling. Ride quality is mostly comfortable, but large impacts can overwhelm the suspension.

The Escape's cabin feels spacious, though it can't match the feeling of spaciousness in the cabin of the segment leader, the Honda CR-V. Points for practicality are earned by its large cargo capacity and sliding second-row seat. Its Sync 3 infotainment system is quick and user-friendly, but it's not the latest Sync 4 system some 2021 Fords have received.

Most of our complaints are about the cheap-feeling interior. There's a lot of hard plastic, which the sharp displays and wood-look trim in high-end models can't distract from. Also, the seats could be plusher and more supportive. One curiosity: The starter button is placed behind the steering wheel, requiring an awkward reach to press.

An upbeat demeanor and good practicality give the Escape appeal, but more refinement would elevate its status. We think the Hybrid model is the best way to Escape.

Performance and Fuel Economy

All non-hybrid Escape models use an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Escape's standard engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-three, which produces 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. FWD is standard and AWD is optional with this engine. MotorTrend recorded an 8.4-second 0-60 mph time from an Escape equipped with the I-3 and FWD. That's competitive with the four-cylinder competition, but the I-3 lacks the refinement of those I-4s. Fuel economy rated by the EPA is 27/33 mpg city/highway for FWD models, and 26/31 mpg for AWD models.

Aside from the hybrid and plug-in hybrid, the Escape's other upgrade engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-four. It makes 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, sent to the wheels through standard AWD. In MotorTrend testing, this Escape hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. EPA-rated fuel economy is 23/31 mpg.


The NHTSA gives the Escape a five-star overall safety rating (out of a possible five stars), which averages five-star front and side crash scores with a four-star rollover protection score.

The IIHS awarded a 2020 Top Safety Pick designation to Escape models equipped with LED headlights. The 2020 Escape earned top Good scores in all crashworthiness tests, and those ratings should carry over for 2021. The Top Safety Pick also considered the car's standard automatic emergency braking system, which earned the highest score of Superior all testing. The Escape's enhanced driver-assist suite also got a Superior score in vehicle-to-vehicle testing, but only the middling Advanced score in vehicle-to-pedestrian testing; in some tests speed wasn't reduced as much as with the standard system.

Standard active safety and driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic high beams. Models equipped with Ford's Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus system have adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition. A semi-autonomous parking system is also available.

Cargo Space and Interior Room

Behind the second row, the Escape's cargo area measures between 33.5 and 37.5 cubic feet, depending on whether those seats are slid forward. When the second row is folded down, cargo capacity expands to 65.4 cubic feet.

Front-row headroom is 40.0 inches in the Escape, very close to 40.1 inches in the Honda CR-V. Second-row headroom is equally close, at 39.3 inches in the Ford and 39.2 inches in the Honda. The Escape has an advantage in front-row legroom, offering 42.4 inches to the CR-V's 41.3 inches. Second-row legroom is closer, at 40.7 inches in the Escape and 40.4 inches in the CR-V.


The entry-level Escape S trim is equipped with tiny 4.2-inch infotainment and gauge cluster displays for managing basic vehicle functions. Starting with the SE trim, the infotainment display increases to 8.0 inches and gains touchscreen functionality, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The Titanium trim gets built-in navigation and a 12.3-inch digital gauge display. A six-speaker audio system is standard, and a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium setup is available.

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