Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A grey 2020 Ford Escape is driving on a dirt road with mountains in the background.

How Ford Continues to Modernize One of its Signature SUV

Look at any list of top-ranking compact SUVs, and chances are the Ford Escape will show up near the top. In today’s automotive climate, compact SUVs are a dime a dozen. Sure, one could argue that their high-demand is warranted due to the fact that compact SUVs do an excellent job of balancing power, utility, and fuel conservation all at once. The Ford Escape is a stand out in mastering this complicated balancing act. With origins dating back to the turn of the millennium, the Ford Escape has continued to hold a solid place in the market. As we are introduced to a new lineup of Ford vehicles, we’re, of course, interested to see what the results of a comparative match up of the 2020 Ford Escape vs 2019 Ford Escape might look like. Between 2020 and 2019, the Ford Escape has seen quite the facelift, and we’ve yet to determine whether the choices Ford has made were either good or bad.

The Legacy of the Ford Escape

Meant to appeal to family-centric drivers and the occasional adventurer, the Ford Escape bridges the gap between large SUVs like the Ford Expedition and truly compact hatchbacks like the 2020 Ford EcoSport. Since 2001, the Ford Escape has made quite a mark on the Ford family lineup, running in competition with the growing crowd of compact SUVs. That said, the Ford Escape has never been a powerhouse. Typically sporting small four-cylinder engines and roomy but not spacious interior specs, the Ford Escape shouldn’t be expected to tow tremendous loads of cargo or take on any rigorous off-road trails. However, in that same instance, the Ford Escape has always been a vehicle that could tow if you wanted it to, and if fitted with 4WD, could take on some light to moderate trails. It could do it all without using too much fuel. So this is what we’ve come to expect of both the 2019 and 2020 Ford Escape, a vehicle that is a jack of all trades, yet a master of none.

The Initial Appeal

A white 2020 Ford Escape, which wins when comparing the 2020 Ford Escape vs 2019 Ford Escape, is parked on a dirt path.

One glance at both the 2019 and 2020 Ford Escape, and right away you’ll notice a stark difference between these two compact SUVs. The front grille alone is a dramatic step forward from the 2019 model. Gone are the iconic four silver bars, and in its place is a simple black grille, that clearly pulls inspiration from the latest Mazda lineup, which is hardly an issue in our book. Couple this newer charming face with the sharper edges and angular LED accented headlights the 2020 and 2019 Ford Escape look only vaguely related. The 2020 Ford Escape is also a little larger than its 2019 counterpart, offering 37.5 cubic feet of cargo space, compared to the 2019 model’s 34.

As with the 2019 model, if you want to purchase a 2020 Ford Escape, you’ll be given the option of one of four different gas-powered configurations the S, SE, SEL, and Titanium. That said, for the 2020 model, Ford has reintroduced a hybrid option to the mix, giving drivers the option of expanding an already impressive offering of fuel economy.

While both vehicles share similar DNA, as we take a deeper look at the two, we can tell that Ford has made some pretty big changes for their flagship compact SUV. While other automakers have refreshed models before, Ford certainly took things to the next level when transitioning from 2019 to 2020.

More Power in a Smaller Package

Compact SUVs are never really known for their tremendous power, but to a certain extent, we can expect something that at least matches the vehicle well. The 2019 Ford Escape’s base engine was okay, but considering you only got 168 horsepower and 170 lb-ft worth of torque out of a 2.5-liter iVCT four-cylinder engine, the results weren’t exactly showstopping. The 2020 Ford Escape isn’t necessarily a game-changer either. However, it manages to provide much more power out of a smaller engine build. The 2020 Ford Escape is powered by a 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that earns 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft worth of torque. So, while not leagues ahead of the 2019 iteration, the 2020 model certainly carves an advantage over its predecessor. Add that smaller yet more powerful engine with 8-speed automatic transmission, and the 2020 Ford Escape easily outperforms the 2019 model with its comparative 6-speed automatic transmission as standard.

At the top Titanium trim of both vehicles, drivers can expect a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, though, the 2020 model outsteps the 2019 version by a small margin. The 2019 Ford Escape Titanium with a turbocharged engine gets 245 horsepower compared to the 2020 models’ 250 horsepower. Both top-trim models can be fitted with either a front-wheel drivetrain or Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive, which perform quite similarly on the road.

That said, the 2020 model expands its value by offering a hybrid version. This hybrid model utilizes the thrust provided by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which outputs 198 horsepower and 153 lb-ft worth of torque. Official EPA ratings have yet to be released on the 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid, or the gas-powered model for that matter, but we can expect it to be marginally higher than the 2019 model. On the subject of hybrids, Ford also has plans to unveil a 2020 Ford Escape plug-in hybrid in the Spring of 2020, expanding the potential of this value-packed compact SUV.

A Step Forward in Technology

A close up of the infotainment system and the drivers display inside of a 2020 Ford Escape is shown.

In some ways, the 2019 Ford Escape was a bit of a disappointment. As other competitor compact SUV automakers packed their vehicles with comprehensive safety and infotainment technology as standard, Ford was stumbling a bit. Base models of the 2019 Ford Escape came with the bare basics, including cruise control, a six-speaker audio system, and a small 4.2-inch infotainment screen. The 2020 Ford Escape updates things a little bit, adding Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, and the ability to control drive modes. While infotainment tech has upgraded in the 2020 model, the truly remarkable step forward comes in the level of active safety features.

When the 2019 Ford Escape was released, active safety tech was widespread amongst competitors. And yet, Ford asked for drivers to spend a bit more to get features that were considered standard in other vehicles. While you could get a rear-view camera, and other safety basics, you’d have to pay more for features that are now offered as standard in the 2020 model. Step into the 2020 Ford Escape S, and you’ll find features that were once exclusive for higher trim options. Active safety like an innovative Lane-Keeping System, Cross-Traffic alerts, and Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, all come at no extra cost to the buyer. This is a huge step forward for the Ford Escape and is certain to draw former critics to Ford’s side of the court.

Refreshing a Modern Classic

Ford’s remodel of the Ford Escape is a clear example of how automakers take criticism and feedback from their customers and implements these comments without a dramatic rise in cost. While the 2019 Ford Escape was certainly a great compact SUV, the facelift it received for 2020 is bound to push this modern classic up the ranks, making it one of the best compact SUVs out on the road today.