Best forFamilies looking for a crossover vehicle that handles like a sedan, but with the power of an SUV
Top BenefitsA powerful engine, MyKey for personalized parental controls, very minimal blind spot
ConsiderationsLow ceiling within cabin, small cup holders, limited legroom in the second row
Bottom lineThe Ford Escape is a compact and manoeuvrable crossover, great for families transitioning from a car to an SUV. Easy and fun to drive, each trim level comes with cool safety features like Personal Safety System that analyses occupant conditions and crash severity before deploying the airbags in a crash and the MyKey feature that allows you to program your seating preferences and set limits on audio volume and speed limit for new drivers. The top trim level with additional options can be had for under $40,000, which is noteworthy in this segment.
The Escape has been a mainstay of Ford’s SUV lineup since its introduction in 2000. This crossover SUV offers more room than a sedan and sits higher in traffic, but it’s more compact and doesn’t feel as much like driving a truck compared to many larger SUVs. Translation: It’s a simple transition for drivers who are used to cars. To figure out whether the Ford Escape is ideal as a family vehicle, editors put it through its paces—driving in the city and on the highway, installing a car seat, loading strollers in the rear cargo area, evaluating the safety features and more. We also arranged loans to parent testers, who took it on short and long day trips, loaded it with groceries and strollers, and installed car seats. Both our parent testers and Today’s Parent Approved editors were pleased with its performance both in the city and on the highway and were impressed by its safety features and the quiet interior of the cab while cruising.
It’s worth noting that our editors and families test-drove the Ford Escape Titanium edition, a top-line trim that was equipped with the optional Safe and Smart package.
Several safety features come standard on all trims of the Ford Escape—from the base model S to the top-line Titanium—and what sets the Escape apart is some of these features aren’t part of standard offerings from other automakers. In addition to airbags, a rear-view camera, emergency brake assist and tire pressure monitoring are standard on all models. One of the more unique features is Ford’s SOS post-crash alert system, which, if you’re in an accident, draws attention to the vehicle and its location by sounding the horn and flashing the lights.
Another unique safety feature our editors like, especially for families with tweens and teens is Ford’s MyKey, which allows you to limit the top speed of the vehicle and the audio volume. You may not need this today, but it’s going to offer loads of peace of mind in a few short years when your kids start driving.
If you’re looking for high-tech safety features, Ford’s Safe and Smart package is available as an add-on for the SE, SEL and Titanium models. The package includes Ford’s Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, which uses radar to identify cars in your blind spot and traffic behind you as you’re backing onto a street or out of a parking spot (a feature parent testers found particularly helpful). The Lane-Keeping System, meanwhile, can not only alert you if you’re drifting (the steering wheel vibrates), it can also activate steering torque to help guide you back into the centre of the lane when you’re using lane-keeping aid mode. There’s also Adaptive Cruise Control to automatically slow you down as traffic in front of you slows, and then accelerate to your preset speed after traffic clears. Forward Collision Warning does exactly what it says—warns you about a potential collision—but it also comes with brake support, which activates with the warning to give you full responsiveness when you hit the brakes. One parent tester noted how reliable the braking system was during a period of icy conditions. They said that despite the road surface being a mix of both pavement and ice, the Escape Titanium maintained consistent stability. Auto high beams and a windshield wiper de-icer is also included on the Titanium.
If parking is one of your least favourite things about driving and you want some help, you’ll need to opt for the Titanium edition to get Enhanced Active Park Assist (it’s not available on other models). Not only does it steer you into or out of a parking spot, it also helps identify parking spots the Escape can actually fit into, gives you instructions to help you get out of a parking spot when you’re so close to being blocked in, and warns you if you’re too close to anything on either side.
Our parent testers were overwhelmingly positive about how comfortable the Ford Escape is to drive with ample lumbar and head support. All the controls you need to access while driving—such as climate and volume—are comfortably within reach, and it’s easy for the driver to see all the passenger seats.
The S model Ford Escape comes standard with six cupholders, cargo floor hooks, a centre floor console with an armrest and sun visors with dual vanity mirrors. The Escape Titanium edition includes heated driver and front passenger seats and a heated steering wheel. The steering wheel on the Titanium trim only has one heat setting, but it gets toasty quickly and heats all the way around, unlike some heated steering wheels that just warm up your "10 and 2" positions. The heated seats have three heat level settings that are easily accessible to the driver. The driver’s seat can adjust its recline, forward and backwards position and lumbar support.
You’re probably considering a crossover SUV because your family is growing and you find there’s a real need for more space in your vehicle. Everything from strollers to groceries to sports equipment needs to get packed in, with plenty of room left for you and the kids. The Ford Escape offers 964 litres of cargo space in the rear—if it’s difficult to picture what that translates to, consider this: our editors found a full-size stroller (the UppaBaby Vista) fit easily into the cargo area with lots of room left for grocery bags. A double stroller on the other hand, may be a tight squeeze, so we suggest bringing yours with you when car shopping just to make sure it will fit in the cargo area.
The cargo space is flat, with no lip, so you can easily slide objects out—no awkward reaching, bending or lifting required to get your things out of the cargo area. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 ratio (meaning two seats fold together, leaving the other outer seat to fold independently) and lie flat to create a greater surface for larger items to be placed on. The process to fold them down is simple: push a button to fold the headrests down and then pull a lever on the side of the seat to fold it down. Our editors noted the seat backs have some weight to them, so returning them to their upright position required some heft.
How you open the rear liftgate will depend largely on which trim you purchase. The Escape S and SE models feature a manual liftgate, while the SEL has a power liftgate, meaning that with a push of a button, you are able to effortlessly open and close your trunk. Accessing the rear cargo area is made easier on the Escape Titanium thanks to a motion-activated, hands-free power liftgate: simply wave your foot under the centre of the rear bumper and the liftgate opens, and then press a button to close it. Rear liftgates that open this way have gained a reputation for not working on the first attempt, requiring several waves of the foot like you’re doing the Hokey Pokey in the parking lot, but our editors found it worked on the first try with the Escape.
The Fuel economy of the Ford Escape varies a little, depending on which trim you go for. Kilometre for kilometre, the Titanium edition uses a little more gas than the other trims, but that’s because it has a more powerful engine.
On the road, the Escape Titanium consumes 11.5 L per 100 km in the city and 8.8 L per 100 km on the highway—on par with other crossover SUVs. According to Ford’s published fuel economy ratings for the Titanium edition, typical use that includes both city and highway driving should net out around 10.3 L per 100 km. With a fuel tank that has a capacity of just shy of 60 litres, you should be able to get over 500 kilometres of driving from a fill up. But you should note that the Titanium requires premium fuel, which is going to drive up your costs at the pump.
The SE and SEL have the best fuel economy among the Escape trims, offering drivers 10.2 L per 100 km in the city and 7.8 L per 100 km on the highway, while the base S edition falls in the middle, with 11.1 L per 100 km in the city and 8.1 L per 100 km on the highway.
Our testers and editors all had fun driving this crossover: it was easy to navigate narrow city streets and everyone felt confident on the highway. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Titanium edition we drove produces lots of horsepower and torque that translates into a zippy response when you need it. (It’s worth noting that different trims have different engines, with the Titanium offering the most horsepower.)
Navigating in city situations like parallel parking on a street and backing into parking spots in shopping malls are aided by Ford’s Parking Assist feature and the included rear-view camera. While the parking assist feature is only available on the Titanium model, the rear-view camera is standard across all trim levels of the Escape. Along with an image of what is behind you, the rear-view camera display features guidelines to further help lead you safely into place.
Our editors enjoyed their time in the Titanium edition, manoeuvring through and merging between busy streets and tight suburban roads. They were even able to perform a tight U-turn without a fuss. Our editors were also impressed with the visibility they had around the vehicle while driving—the curve of the mirror and size of the Escape really work together to help minimize the driver’s blind spot. Parent testers agreed, reporting that checking their blind spot was easy in this vehicle.
While driving, our testers were impressed with how quiet the interior of the Escape was. They agreed that the vehicle kept out traffic noise and found their napping little ones were left undisturbed, even when the engine revved during a merging onto the highway (a true win on long road trips). Our editors were equally impressed, finding outside noise was kept to a minimum when driving through a busy area of the city.
It’s rarely easy to install a car seat, but there are factors such as how much interior space your car provides that can make a difficult task less so. Installing a car seat in the Escape proved to be a challenge for our editors. While the doors open wide enough, the door frames themselves are quite narrow and short making it awkward to get a car seat into the vehicle. The tight squeeze was more noticeable in this vehicle than in other crossovers we’ve tested.
During testing, our editors found the Ford Escape had a lower roof compared to other vehicles in the segment, making the interior space a little on the tight side. While workable, the limited space made positioning oneself over the car seat (in order to tighten the belts) a bit of a challenge. That being said, all of our parent testers described installing a car seat in the Escape as "easy" and most found their car seat fit nicely into the second-row passenger seat. In order to accommodate a convertible car seat in the rear-facing position, our editors had to move the front passenger seat forward, but not enough to render it uncomfortable. One tester shared a similar experience—fitting two car seats in the second-row resulted in a bit of discomfort for her and another adult in the front seats.
There are two sets of LATCH/UAS anchors in the rear seats and three tethers available for car seat installation. Our editors found the anchors in the Escape quite accessible. Our parent testers said they were able to get two car seats in the second row and still have room for a third person to sit in the middle. Editors found getting a baby out of a rear-facing car seat required some caution to prevent a bump to the head or elbow on the narrow door frame.
While the entertainment system of the S base model is pretty basic as far as modern systems go (both AM and FM radio with a CD player and MP3 option), it does feature Ford’s Sync system, allowing you to connect your phone via Bluetooth in order to make calls, play music and access certain compatible apps. SirusXM becomes available when you move up to the SE trim, and SYNC 3 and SYNC Connect become available at the SEL base trim. The Ford Escape Titanium comes equipped with a Sony Audio System including 10 speakers.
Now in its third generation, SYNC 3 (standard on both the SEL and Titanium trims, and optional on the SE) allows you to use your smartphone to control climate in the vehicle, download and access apps and connects with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to make calls, listen to voicemail and read and reply to text messages. Our parent testers appreciated that they could use normal language to interact with SYNC by saying things like “phone mom,” or “get me directions to the closest gas station” rather than a set of pre-determined commands often found in vehicle voice command systems. The navigation screen in the Ford Escape Titanium also acts just like you’d expect your smartphone to by allowing you to swipe and pinch and zoom—the screen is exclusive to this model of the Ford Escape.
A feature of SYNC is Fordpass, a free app that allows you to start your vehicle remotely, locate it on a map (think finding your car after a game or in a crowded mall—or, worst case, if it’s stolen), and even check the fuel level and search for nearby gas stations, with fuel price listings.
One tester appreciated that the smooth, quiet ride of the Escape had her little ones snoozing on both short and long drives, allowing her and her husband to enjoy their music. Our editors were also fans of the Titanium’s sound system.
Price is a huge factor when you’re shopping for a new vehicle. The Ford Escape has a base price of $25,199, which puts it among the most budget-friendly starting prices among crossover SUVs. The top trim Escape Titanium edition starts at $36,299, but the Safe and Smart package will add $1,195, bringing the total to $37,494.
Even adding the Safe and Smart package keeps the Ford Escape Titanium under $40,000 which is an important number since it still falls well below many competitors’ best offerings.
Our parent testers were impressed with their time behind the wheel of the Ford Escape Titanium. All of the parent testers who drove the Escape gave it well above average ratings across the board for quality, ease of use and value. Both the driving experience and the passenger experience was enjoyable for both testers and editors alike. Editors found the SYNC system worked well and was easy to use. They told us the ride was comfortable and the safety features like the Blind Spot Information System and lane departure warning were comforting and helped increase their confidence on the road. Our editors were particularly impressed with Ford’s MyKey safety feature—which will come in handy when your little ones get their license (in the far-off future, of course). All of our parent testers felt the Ford Escape was worthy of the Today’s Parent Approved seal and none would hesitate to recommend it to other families. As a crossover SUV that handles with ease, the Ford Escape is a great option for those looking to upgrade size without compromising on zippiness and manoeuvrability.
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