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A grey 2020 Ford Escape, which wins when comparing the 2020 Ford Escape vs 2020 Kia Sportage, is driving around a rocky corner.

Small SUV Comparison: 2020 Ford Escape vs 2020 Kia Sportage

Few vehicles are as popular as the small SUV. Sometimes called crossovers, these vehicles combine the comfort and drivability of a sedan with the convenience and versatility of an SUV. They are also the ideal vehicle choice for young families, older couples, and young urban professionals (yes, Yuppies). This popularity has fueled demand for these sporty little SUVs, driving competition between the major auto manufacturers. Ford recently upped the ante by introducing an all-new Escape for the 2020s. This is a complete redesign and sports several key feature upgrades and updates that are sure to cause competitors to take note, and up their game as well. One of Ford’s biggest competitors is Kia, the South Korean powerhouse that has moved to the forefront in sales of various cars and SUVs worldwide. One of their vehicles, the Sportage, is a small SUV that has thrilled drivers with its combination of convenience and dependability. So, how do these two fine crossovers stack up against each other? Both seat up to five passengers have an easy access hatchback for storing cargo and come in front-wheel-drive standard with adaptive four-wheel drive available as an upgrade. However, there are many key differences between them, which we will explore when we compare the 2020 Ford Escape vs 2020 Kia Sportage.

Trim Levels and Pricing

Both of these crossovers are very affordable and unlikely to bust anyone’s budget. The 2020 Ford Escape’s base model is the S, which has an MSRP of $24,885. There are four other trim levels: SE, SE Sport Hybrid, SEL, and the top-of-the-line Titanium. Yes, the SE Sport Hybrid features a hybrid engine. The base model 2020 Kia Sportage is the LX, with an MSRP of $23,990, only slightly below that of the Ford Escape S. Kia offers three other trim levels for the Sportage: S, EX, and SX Turbo. While Kia has a slightly smaller price point, Ford offers an extra trim level to buyers making the outcome of this area: Even.

Engines and Performance

Ford has taken the Escape to a new level by offering drivers four different engine options. The standard engine is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost Engine with auto stop-start technology. If you have never driven a vehicle with auto stop-start, it may take a little getting used to at first, as the engine turns itself off when you step on the brake at red lights and in traffic jams, conserving fuel and reducing emissions. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, the engine restarts, which can be jolting the first few times it happens. As a result of this technology, this four-cylinder engine can produce incredible fuel efficiency; 27 MPG in the city and 33 MPG on the highway. This 1.5-liter engine produces 180 horsepower and 177 pounds to feet of torque. There is also a larger gas engine option, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine with auto stop-start technology. This engine produces up to 250 horsepower and 275 pounds to feet of torque on its four cylinders, providing a great deal of power. Surprisingly, this does not hurt its fuel efficiency as it produces up to 23 MPG in city driving and 31 MPG in highway driving. Both of the gas engines feature an 8-speed automatic transmission, giving you maximum control.

The biggest news for the 2020 Ford Escape is that it also features two alternative energy options to drivers. You can choose between a Hybrid 2.5-liter iVCT Atkinson-cycle I-4 engine and a Plug-in 2.5-liter iVCT Atkinson-cycle I-4 engine. Each of these utilizes a lithium-ion battery to improve fuel economy. They also feature an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission to improve overall performance.

A red 2020 Kia Sportage is driving past trees.

In contrast, Kia only offers two engine options on the 2020 Sportage. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter I-4 that can produce up to 181 horsepower and 175 pounds to feet of torque. The EPA estimates that drivers using this engine will get up to 23 MPG in city driving and 30 MPG on the highway, comparable to the bigger 2.0-liter EcoBoost on the Ford Escape, and significantly less than the standard 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine. Kia also offers a 2.0-liter Turbo I-4 engine that can produce 240 horsepower and 260 pounds to feet of torque. The fuel efficiency on this engine is 20 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway.

While both the Ford Escape and the Kia Sportage have good figures for cars in this class, the Sportage does not compare to the fuel economy on the Escape. In all cases, drivers who opt for a four-wheel-drive over a front-wheel-drive will experience slightly fewer mileage figures. Regardless, based on the numbers, the outcome for this area is in favor of the Ford Escape.

Interior and Cargo Space

One of the main complaints from drivers about small SUVs is that they can sometimes feel cramped. While this was the case with early entrants into the market, both the 2020 Ford Escape and 2020 Kia Sportage should provide enough room for you and your passengers.

The engineers at Ford have done an excellent job of maximizing the space on the new Escape. Front seat passengers will enjoy a spacious 40 inches of headroom, 57.6 inches of shoulder room, and 42.4 inches of legroom. Rear seat passengers won’t feel squeezed with 39.3 inches of headroom, 56 inches of shoulder room, and 38.8 inches of legroom.

The figures for the 2020 Kia Sportage are also good but offer slightly less room to its passengers. Front seat passengers receive 39.3 inches of headroom, 57.1 inches of shoulder room, and 41.5 inches of legroom, while rear-seat passengers get 39.1 inches of headroom, 55.1 inches of shoulder room, and 38.2 inches of legroom.

The main difference in capacity has to do with the space for cargo. The layout of the Ford Escape provides quite a bit more room for your stuff than the Sportage. The Ford Escape has 37.5 cubic feet of space in the trunk, which expands to 65.4 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded down. In comparison, the Kia Sportage offers 30.7 cubic feet of space in the trunk with 60.1 cubic feet when the back seat is down. In terms of space, the outcome is again in favor of the Ford Escape.

Towing Capacity

A blue 2020 Ford Escape is towing a boat past a lake and trees.

One of the reasons to buy an SUV of any size is the ability to tow trailers. This feature is undoubtedly one of the best with the Escape and the Sportage. The 2020 Kia Sportage has been rated to tow up to 1,653 pounds. This is comparable to the 2020 Ford Escape when it is equipped with either the Hybrid or Plug-in engine. However, this rating increases significantly for the Escape when it has a gas engine. The Escape with a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine can tow up to 2,000 pounds, while the Escape with a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine can tow up to an astounding 3,500 pounds. The outcome for this area is to the advantage of the Escape, yet again.

Standard Safety Features

The engineers at Ford and Kia have taken the time to design vehicles that will keep you and your passengers safe while driving and in the unfortunate event of a crash. Both the Escape and the Sportage come with plenty of airbags to protect the passengers. In addition, both automakers offer plenty of optional safety features on their two vehicles. But, when you compare the 2020 Escape S to the 2020 Sportage LX, you see that Ford has given its base model more standard safety features.

The Ford Escape S comes equipped with the Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology. This package includes a rearview camera, curve control, traction control, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, a lane-keeping system, automatic high-beam headlights, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, an SOS post-crash alert system, and BLIS (blind spot information system) with Cross-Traffic Alert.

Many other automakers reserve smart safety features like these for their premium trims. This is especially the case with BLIS, with the comparable system on the Kia Sportage LX requiring drivers to pay extra to obtain this safety feature. The 2020 Ford Escape S provides more standard safety features than the 2020 Kia Sportage LX, making the outcome of safety in favor of the Escape.

The Results Are In

As already made apparent, the 2020 Ford Escape has many advantages of the 2020 Kia Sportage. While the Sportage has slightly lower price tags, the Escape has more options, more power, lots of passenger and luggage room, higher towing capacity, and lots of more standard safety features. Overall, the outcome of the 2020 Ford Escape vs the 2020 Kia Sportage is entirely in favor of the Escape.

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