Did you know that the Ford Escape was among one of the first compact SUVs to be offered with a hybrid powertrain? Well now it is back with the all-new 4th generation 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid. But it’s always been in the shadows of the Honda CR-V & Toyota Rav4. Are the new updates enough to make this a top competitor?
Engine – The new generation Ford Escape is offered with gasoline only engines and even a plug-in hybrid variant. But this model is a traditional hybrid that just does its own thing to provide the best fuel economy possible. This Escape Hybrid is powered by a 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine with aid from a 96 kW (128 hp) electric motor that gets its power form a 1.1 kWh battery pack. The total system output is 200 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque (149 kW & 210 Nm). It’s not the fastest compact hybrid SUV, in fact it’s one of the slowest to 100 km/h, but it can get up to highway speeds without impending anyone that may be behind you. If you’re gentle on the throttle pedal, the 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid can accelerate from a stop to around 100 km/h on just electricity alone. It can also maintain steady drives for short periods on electricity only. After-which, the gasoline engine will start up to recharge the small 1.1 kWh battery.
Depending on how gentle you are on the throttle, the Ford Escape Hybrid can achieve some pretty remarkable fuel economy figures. It is officially rated for 5.5 L/100km (42.7 MPG) in a city and 6.4 L/100km (36.8 MPG) on a highway for this AWD variant. During my time with the Escape Hybrid, I drove it for a total distance of 766 km, 425 of which were electric only km (the trip computer can tell you that). My overall fuel economy figure was 4.8 L/100km (49 MPG) which is much better than the claimed fuel economy numbers.
Transmission – Power is sent through an eCVT transmission and onto all four wheels. A front wheel drive variant is available. The eCVT is not like other newer CVT transmissions. It doesn’t try to replicate virtual gears and instead just holds engine rpms to whatever the computer deems necessary for acceleration or battery charging.
Braking – The 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid recovers some energy from when slowing down. However, there’s a limit to how much power the system can recover from braking. According to the “tachometer”, the Escape Hybrid can recover up to 35 kW of power before the normal steel brakes take over braking duty. The changeover from regen braking to normal braking is seamless. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid.
Handling – In the past, the Ford Escape has been known as a more sporty driving compact SUV. Unfortunately this new generation Escape doesn’t feel quite as sporty to drive. Steering effort is light which is great for tight parking lots but not so much for an engaging drive down a twisty road. Granted, this is meant to be more of a city SUV rather than a sporty SUV like the Mazda CX-5.
Ride Comfort – Around town or on a highway, the 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid is quite comfortable. The suspension absorbs bumps with ease and it doesn’t make the SUV feel floaty over rougher roads.
The seats are soft which further aid in providing comfort on longer journeys. The driver gets a 10-way power seat while the passenger only gets a 6-way power seat (if equipped).
Interior Space – The Escape Hybrid offers a lot of room for front occupants. At 6’4”, I have no issues with leg or head room. The rear seats are also commodious for adults although if you want more head room, opt out of the panoramic sunroof. The rear seats fold 60/40 and are also sliding for more leg or cargo space. The trunk unfortunately is not quite as commodious as the rest of the cabin. 974 L (34.4 cu-ft) of cargo can fit behind the second row and 1,852 L (65.4 cu-ft) can fit with the rear seats folded. Both of those figures are a bit less than the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid & Toyota Rav4 Hybrid.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – When the 2021 Escape Hybrid is being driven by the electric motor only, it is dead silent in the cabin on city streets. On a highway, the road noise starts to intrude a bit but it’s definitely not deafening. When the gasoline engine turns on to recharge the battery, it’s fairly quiet. It’s only when the gasoline engine provides direct power to the wheels does it become annoyingly loud, especially since the eCVT holds the rpms in one spot while the Escape Hybrid accelerates up to speed.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Unlike last year’s Ford Escape, the hybrid variant is now available across three different trim levels; SE, SEL, or Titanium. The SE trim starts at just $32,099 CAD ($28,030 USD) with the top Titanium trim starting at $36,999 CAD ($33,600 USD). This particular demo vehicle was the mid SEL trim with the Technology package, Ford Co-Pilot 360 package, and panoramic sunroof. The as tested price is $41,700 CAD ($35,440 USD).
The infotainment system is still the Sync 3 which works well and is easy to get used to even if you’re not familiar with it. There are also tips next to each feature in the settings menu in case you don’t know what the feature does or changes. Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity are standard.
Interior Design – “Functional” is probably the best word to describe the interior design of the 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid. The controls are easily within reach and there are plenty of storage spaces for small items or drinks. I also like the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
Exterior Design – From the outside, the new Escape kind of looks like a Porsche Macan… that is if you’re looking at it from a long distance and you squint. It has a lot of smooth curves from the front to the back. The front headlights are probably the most intricate design feature of the Escape. The only design feature that some may not like is the fish mouth grille. Overall, I’m ok with the exterior design of the new Escape Hybrid.
Warranty – The 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid comes with a 3 year / 60,000 km basic new vehicle warranty and a 5 year / 100,000 KM powertrain warranty. However, the hybrid components are covered by an 8 year / 160,000 km warranty. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For USA warranty, click here.
Overall, the Ford Escape Hybrid still has a bit of an uphill battle against other compact SUVs depending on what you’re looking for. It’s not the most powerful, it’s not the most spacious, and it’s not the best looking. Having said that, it’s not far off from the competition. It’s strong suits are in providing excellent fuel economy numbers and it is one of the least expensive compact hybrid SUVs on the market right now.
Thank you to Ford Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Ford.ca