The photo on Ford’s website speaks volumes about the Ford Escape’s mission.
It shows a couple of clean-cut types enjoying their lattes while seated on the cargo floor of a shiny new Escape with the hatchback open. They’re parked beside a shimmering lake where another in their gang is quietly fishing beside a kayak.
The image is the very essence of peace and tranquility as opposed the frenetic rock-crawling and sand-spraying scenes that Ford uses to market the rugged-looking 2021 Ford Bronco and the Bronco Sport.
The current Escape and Escape Hybrid, redesigned for the 2020 model year, are much different than the previous versions. The styling has not one crease or right angle. Instead, it’s all curvy shapes from front to back.
The new model is about six centimetres longer, about five centimetres wider and there’s a modest increase in distance between the front and rear wheels. Owing to the new Escape’s lower profile, body height is reduced by five-plus centimetres, while maximum cargo volume gains enough room for a few extra grocery bags.
The trendy interior and controls include a rotary dial that replaces the traditional shift lever, and a touch-screen that sticks out atop the dashboard. Drivers can reconfigure the available 12.3-inch electronic gauge and info cluster according personal preferences.
The rear seat can be adjusted fore and aft for more legroom, or folded flat. The seat-adjustment feature is only available in Escapes with gasoline engines and is not offered in the hybrid model.
The Hybrid — the first such Escape since the 2012 model year — is equipped with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and two electric motors to produce a net 198 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. The motors are kept whirring by a lithium-ion battery pack, which is smaller by two-thirds when compared to that of the previous Escape Hybrid.
A continuously variable transmission directs output to the front wheels with all-wheel-drive as an option.
The Hybrid’s fuel consumption is rated at 5.4 l/100 km in the city, 6.3 on the highway and 5.8 combined. That compares with 8.6/7.1/7.9 for the base gasoline-powered Escape.
By contrast, the new-for-2021 Escape Hybrid plug-in makes 221 horsepower and can travel up to 60 kilometres on battery power before the gasoline engine engages.
The plug-in model costs about $4,800 more than the $34,650 Hybrid, a price that includes destination charges. All-wheel-drive is not available with the plug-in.
As with most hybrids, only the illumination of the dashboard gauges lets you know that the Escape is ready to roll. Other than a distant electric-motor whine, there’s mostly silence once under way. When gaining speed, only a muffled exhaust sound advises that the internal-combustion engine is running. At that point, you’ll likely forget that you’re riding in an electrified vehicle.
Note that the brake pedal feels more sensitive when slowing down as it converts kinetic energy into electrical energy to help replenish the battery pack.
The Escape Hybrid’s suspension is clearly tuned for a cushy ride and the absence of extra ground clearance means the available AWD system should stand for All Weather Drive.
The base Escape SE Hybrid comes with the usual conveniences, but ordering the premium package gets you Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 safety tech that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and pedestrian detection. The optional Titanium trim comes with a navigation system, power front seats, premium audio and a system that will parallel or angle park the Escape for you.
Clearly, the Escape is well tailored to urban duty where the top priorities are comfort and staying safe in traffic. The Hybrid adds fuel savings and smooth, quiet power delivery to the package. That will also come in handy for sneaking up on placid lakes to sip lattes and fish with friends.
What you should know: 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid
Type: Front- /all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle
Engine (h.p.): 2.5-litre I-4 with electric motors (198/221)
Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT)
Market position: Following a long absence, Ford has reintroduced a gasoline-electric power system to the Escape. It’s a smart move given the popularity of competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
Points: New body styling is more car-like than utility vehicle in appearance. • Hybrid unit makes respectable power. • Interior provides sufficient space for rear-seat passengers and is also reasonably quiet. • Possibly the better financial choice than the front-wheel-drive-only plug-in hybrid model that costs about $4,800 more.
Driver assistBlind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); front and rear emergency braking (opt.); inattentive driver alert (opt.); lane departure warning (opt.); pedestrian detection (opt.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 5.4/6.3 (FWD); Base price (incl. destination) $34,650
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
- Base price: $47,450
- A lively performer that makes a combined 219-h.p. No optional plug-in model.
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
- Base price: $44,800
- Plug-in only model can run on electric power for 14 miles at up to 65 mph.
Kia Niro Hybrid FWD
- Base price: $28,750
- Compact wagon’s 139-h.p system gets great mileage. Plug-in and EV are opt.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media