Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A blue 2021 Ford Escape is shown from the side parked on the street, with a woman in the foreground.

Escape-ism: the 2021 Ford Escape

Ford introduced the Escape at the turn of the last century, a car-based, unibody crossover instead of the pickup bases of other SUVs. In 2005, the Ford Escape became the first mass-market hybrid SUV. Not content to rest on its history, the 2021 Ford Escape takes all of the benefits of its predecessors and the Ford brand to stand out in the crowded compact SUV market. This isn’t just any small SUV. The 2021 Escape is lower, wider, and longer than its predecessors, which translates to a lower center of gravity and more fun handling, hugging all the curves when driving the highways and still small enough for a city commute and busy parking lots.

Power and Performance

Assembled in Louisville, Kentucky, the 2021 Escape will come in four trim levels: the S, SE, SEL, and Titanium. The base engine is a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder EcoBoost, and the upper SEL and Titanium trims have the choice of a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost gas engine. The 1.5-liter brings 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, while upgrading to the 2.0-liter takes you to 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.

If you prefer a hybrid powertrain, all models except for the S have the option of a 2.5-liter full hybrid or plug-in hybrid engine. Both of these engines will give you a net of 200 horsepower, and the full-hybrid engine will also give you 155 lb-ft of torque. If you’re looking for the best fuel economy, the full hybrid engine is the way to go with 44 MPG city and 37 MPG highway with front-wheel drive. Opt for the available all-wheel drive, and you’ll only lose 1 MPG from your city range.

The gas engines come with automatic start-stop technology. This means that, for greater fuel efficiency, the engine cuts off completely at stops like red lights. You’ll never even notice when it starts back up as you hit the gas. Even the smaller 1.5-liter gas engine has enough torque to comfortably merge and pass on the highway, and the 2.0-liter, when properly equipped, can tow up to 3,500 pounds. With 3,500 pounds, you can easily tow a camper or a trailer with a couple of jet skis, ATVs, or even horses.

Another fuel-efficient perk of the Escape engine is that if you get the all-wheel drive version, it comes with Disconnect. This means the system can tell when you don’t need all-wheel drive and adjusts appropriately. Switching all-wheel drive off to front-wheel drive saves power, energy, and gas, but you still have the traction and capabilities of all-wheel drive when you need it.

The tan interior is shown from the drivers side on a 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid.

Make it Your Own Escape

While at least eight colors are available on all of the 2021 Ford Escapes – new colors for 2021 including blue, bronze, gray, and silver metallic paints – you can only add a panoramic Vista roof on the three upper trims. On the S, you have black door handles and grille surround, but on the upper trims, these change to body-colored handles and a chrome grille surround. Heated side-view mirrors are standard on all but the S models, as is signature LED lighting.

If you’re looking to haul some equipment on your family outings, the SE has optional roof rack side rails, which are standard on the SEL and Titanium models, and these upper-level models have roof rack cross bars available, as well. There’s also a host of trailer hitch- and roof rack-compatible ways to carry your bikes, kayaks, and more. The SE and Titanium also have a hands-free, foot-activated liftgate included as standard.

Also, a head-up display is available on the uppermost trim line so you can see your preferred stats without taking your eyes off the road. While one-touch down driver windows are handy at restaurant and bank drive-throughs on the S and SE, upgrading to the SEL or Titanium models offers standard one-touch up and down windows for all the outbound seats, both front and rear. For further ease, a remote start system is available on the S and SE models and standard on the upper trims.

All Escapes come with some version of Ford’s Sync software, allowing you to make hands-free calls and texts and access your favorite music at least via Bluetooth. The connectivity is via the infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto options. FordPass Connect also comes standard on each Escape, which allows you to use an app to lock and unlock your doors and start your car all from your phone, as well as checking on your oil and fuel levels. A wireless charging pad comes standard on the Titanium trim, as does an auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting, and a Bang & Olufson ten-speaker audio system. Sometimes, it’s the most subtle things that make the most difference.

The SEL uses ActiveX seating material, and leather-trimmed front bucket seats are standard on the Titanium. All but the S come standard with a ten-way power-adjustable, heated front-row seat. The passenger seat adjusts four ways on the lower trim models, but six on the Titanium. A leather-wrapped heated steering wheel is standard on the SEL and Titanium models, and with the Titanium, you can also upgrade to a dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control.

Cargo space is larger in the 2021 Ford Escape hybrid models than previous incarnations because the liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery sits on the outside of the body, under the second row of seats. The second-row legroom bests the rest of the class and even larger SUVs, boasting a full 40.7 inches with 39.3 inches of headroom in the regular models and 38.9 inches of legroom with 39.3 inches of headroom in hybrid models. To make your rear-seated passengers feel even more at home, a backseat armrest is available on the SE and standard on the upper trims. While more comfortably seating five adults, the 2021 Ford Escape is comparable in length to many passenger cars, making it easier to parallel park and maneuver a tight parking lot than its peers.

Plus, there is plenty of cargo space. In the hybrid models, there is a maximum of 34.4 cu.ft. of cargo volume behind the rear seats and a total of 60.8 cu.ft. available with the seats down. Regular models get even more room with a max of 37.5 cu.ft. behind the back row and a total available cargo volume of 65.4 cu.ft. So, no matter which model you choose, there is plenty of room for you and all your things.

A red 2021 Ford Escape is driving through the rain with the headlights on.

Safety Specs

The standard 2021 Escape safety package includes the Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology with blind-spot monitoring, a cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, and pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking. This is on top of the standard airbag system featuring dual-side driver and front passenger, driver knee, front seat-mounted side-impact, and Safety Canopy roof-based airbags. A rearview camera comes standard on each 2021 Ford Escape, with a reverse sensing system on the SEL and Titanium.

The uppermost trim also comes standard with a universal garage door opener and has available active park assist. Also available on the SE and SEL is adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane-centering assists – these come standard on the Titanium. When activated, besides helping you stay in your lane, the adaptive cruise control will adjust your speed based on speed limit signs and slow or stop if the traffic ahead does, then accelerate to the previously set speed when the stoppage clears.


There are a lot of crossovers on the market. However, the 2021 Ford Escape pulls from the best of the car and SUV worlds in handling and hauling, respectively, all while backed up by the history of the Ford brand. The 2021 Ford Escape comes with some excellent standard features while still striking a cool crossover look, and whichever motor you choose, you’ll be able to keep up with traffic. Escape your boring commute or head out of town for the weekend with a comfortable and capable 2021 Ford Escape.