Ford’s Escape is Canada’s second most-popular small SUV (sport-utility vehicle). Such success is a testament to great marketing, outstanding drivability, slick styling, and a bagful of high-tech features that put this little rig among the industry leaders in connectivity, infotainment and driver-assist electronic nannies.

Escape interior.

Most important to me, you simply cannot buy a mainstream compact SUV with better driving manners. The Escape responds quickly to driver inputs, stands tall and planted in corners and has a super-solid highway ride.  Visibility? Good. Seats? Front buckets are best in class. Cargo space is about average for the class, ditto for rear-seat space.

The Escape’s cabin design is busy, busy, busy, with all sorts of chunky pieces and what-not dotting up the dashboard and centre console. The design is straight out of the “let’s-throw-a-deck-of-cards-in-the-air” school of incoherent design.

This  is in part a response to the need for Ford’s designers to find a place for all sorts of controls and vents, knobs, a big colour screen, steering wheel controls, cupholders, storage bins…  Ford has spent this decade re-positioning itself up-market as an industry leader in technology. The result is a lineup filled with electronic goodies, all of which require designers to figure how to make the gizmos accessible to drivers.

And despite the cabin’s design jumble, actually accessing Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius satellite radio and the rest is quite straightforward. I am not a big fan of the aesthetic jumble inside the new Escape, but the functionality is just fine.

What’s truly shocking to me is how poorly the Escape performs in terms of the basics. That is, the completely renovated 2017 Escape is NOT a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Among the Escape’s immediate rivals, the Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 are all on the IIHS’s list of safest little rigs.

The Escape does not rank among Canadian Black Book’s top three compact SUVs with the best resale value, either. Jeep’s Wrangler and the RAV4 are there, however, as is Nissan’s now-defunct Xterra.

As for reliability, the Escape is not ranked among the top three in J.D. Power’s three-year Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). Likewise, Ford struggled with quality issues in Consumer Reports’ research. The Ford brand is ranked 21st out of 31 brands in CR’s latest brand study, which also ranks the Forester No. 1 in the compact SUV class.

Nonetheless, 46,691 Canadians bought an Escape last year – second in this class to the RAV4 (49,103). Ford Canada and its hundreds of dealers push the Escape with all the energy and enthusiasm of Tom Brady eyeing the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary in the Super Bowl. In particular, shoppers should look for regular, frequent and targeted discounts to move the metal. Drive a hard bargain before sealing an Escape deal and be aware that it’s easy to turn a $25,000 or $30,000 Escape into something approaching $40,000 by just ticking on a few options.

So Ford’s Escape may not rate among the leaders in many objective research categories – resale, crash test, quality – but it is stylish, technologically sophisticated, functional and entertaining for anyone who likes to drive.


Base price: $29,799. As tested: $38,339. Freight: $1,690.

Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged (179 horsepower/177 lb.-ft. of torque).

Drive: full-time four-wheel drive.

Transmission: six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.7 city/8.3 hwy using regular fuel.

Comparables:  Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Chevrolet Equinox, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mini Countryman, Mitsubishi Outlander.

THE LOOK: Solid stance, balanced proportions, and just enough cuts and angles in the sheetmetal to make things interesting to the eye. Titanium red paint is very sharp.

THE DRIVE: The little 1.5-litre turbo four is more than adequate and gets decent fuel economy using regular. Ford’s electric steering is only slightly vague. Body roll is well controlled in the corner. Responses are quick. And on the highway, this small rig feels planted and substantial.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS: Ford makes a long, long, long list of options available – including voice recognition and such. And you’ll pay for all of it. Infotainment management is not the big issue it once was with Ford. Programming your car is a clean and straightforward process.

THE CABIN/STORAGE: Lots of room and the seats are excellent. The cargo area is about average for this class. Two adults can be comfortable in the rear.

THE BRAND: Work in progress. But until Ford sorts out the basics of quality and crash testing, the brand will remain second-tier and totally mainstream.

WHY BUYS? All sorts, but the biggest chunk is the family buyer.



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