Oh look, another RAV4 or CR-V. Ford hopes your quest to escape automotive sameness will end with the new Escape. Finally redesigned, the 2020 Ford Escape crossover is ambitious and charming, but this isn’t a picture-perfect story. We tested the 2020 Escape’s two non-hybrid engines to determine where it fits into an enormous field and to pose the question: Can you really put a three-cylinder engine in a compact family SUV?

First off, the answer is yes. Slower Escape drivers who blast the radio may never know how many cylinders are under the hood. The 2020 Escape’s 179-hp 1.5-liter turbo-three moves the Ford with plenty of authority—and our objective test numbers bear this out. On the test track, our front-drive 2020 Escape 1.5T tester hit 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. Accelerate that quickly, however, and you may hear what sounds like TV static from the front of the car.

“It will sound like it’s broken to people unfamiliar with how turbos work,” editor-in-chief Ed Loh said.

Step up to the 250-hp 2.0T model, and you’ll notice the extra oomph. Our $39,775 2020 Escape Titanium 2.0T tester managed a 6.9-second run to 60 mph. If you’re only shopping Escapes and have a lead foot, go for the 2.0T. But if the idea of a 40-grand Escape gives you pause, most MotorTrend editors are right there with you. The 2020 Escape Titanium 2.0T’s track-tested acceleration isn’t much quicker than the Honda CR-V 1.5T (7.5–7.6 seconds) or the Mazda CX-5 Signature, which is quicker (6.4 seconds), more attractive, and more upscale inside.

The Escape’s appeal grows once you throw it around a corner. The new Ford shifts directions with a lightness that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Focus or even a last-gen Escape. On the figure-eight course, which evaluates cornering, braking, acceleration, and the transitions between them, the front-drive Escape 1.5T’s performance of 28.2 seconds at 0.62 g (average) would have placed it just on the slow side of our enormous comparison test of compact SUVs. As for the all-wheel-drive Escape 2.0T, that heavier but more powerful model finished the figure eight in a slightly improved 27.7 seconds at 0.64 g (average). Stay tuned for our impressions on the 2020 Escape hybrid and plug-in models.

Where we’d like to see immediate improvement across the Escape line is the interior. One quick note: Our testers were pre-production prototypes, and it’s possible some of the issues we saw will be addressed before cars reach dealers. But MotorTrend editors panned both Escapes for cheap-feeling interiors, a couple found the driver’s seat uncomfortable, and the engine-start button’s location is a bit awkward. Too bad, as the interior is otherwise respectable for those not seeking spaciousness matching that of the comparison-winning, SUV of the Year-earning Honda CR-V. And Ford gets points for applying a cool geometric pattern to the Escape SE 1.5T’s cloth seats as well as to both crossovers’ doors.

There’s plenty of space for four, and the rear seats—which can move about 6 inches forward—have an easily accessible backrest recline lever. The cargo area can handle 33.5 to 37.5 cubic feet of your stuff (depending on the rear seats’ position), but there’s no lever back there to fold down the rear seats.

Although the 2020 Ford Escape hasn’t been safety-tested as this is written, even the base S has the Co-Pilot360 package, which includes blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, and a lane-keeping system. Go all out on the Titanium, and Ford throws in a new Evasive Steering Assist system and adds lane centering to the adaptive cruise control also available on other trims.

As you may have guessed, the 2020 Escape’s sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. If you can, at least start with the 2020 Escape SE, which replaces the S’ tiny 4.2-inch infotainment screen with an 8.0-inch unit complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Escape SE also upgrades the exterior from the S’ black grille and door handles, and upgrades the headlights, too. Higher on the 2020 Escape’s trim walk, you’ll find a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster—a cool feature in this class, one that makes me want to cycle through the drive modes just to see the graphics change.

We’re thrilled Ford has redesigned the Escape, which had grown stale and placed sixth of nine in a comparison back in 2016. The new 2020 Escape looks like nothing in its class, and some will find its overall package appealing. We more or less do, too, but—when focusing on the non-hybrid 1.5T and 2.0T models—nothing jumps out at us as game-changing. Still, if you want something different from MotorTrend favorites such as the excellent Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, add the 2020 Escape to your shopping list.

2020 Ford Escape SE 1.5T 2020 Ford Escape Titanium 2.0T AWD
BASE PRICE $28,190 $37,780
PRICE AS TESTED $28,885 $39,775
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 1.5L/179-hp/177-lb-ft turbo DOHC 12-valve I-3 2.0L/245-hp/275-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,314 lb (59/41%) 3,714 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE 106.7 in 106.7 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 180.5 x 74.1 x 66.1 in 180.5 x 74.1 x 66.1 in
0-60 MPH 8.4 sec 6.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.6 sec @ 84.5 mph 15.3 sec @ 89.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 128 ft 123 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.78 g (avg) 0.76 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.2 sec @ 0.62 g (avg) 27.7 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not yet tested Not yet tested
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY Not yet tested Not yet tested
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB Not yet tested Not yet tested

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