Great auto design is not easy to come by. There are plenty of vehicles out there that do a good job of checking some boxes, but few check them all. That said, automakers everywhere attempt to reach that gold star standard and promote their own vehicle as being the end all be all. In some instances, these claims can be accurate, but these occasions are few and far between. Two top-rated vehicles commonly compared are the 2020 Ford Escape vs 2020 Nissan Rogue, a pair of compact SUVs that certainly stand far from the already crowded field of similar vehicles. Both are quite different from other compact SUVs, and beneath their unique chassis offer plenty to love and enjoy. That said, in our search for finding that automotive diamond in the rough, we’ll compare these two similar SUVs and see which is more deserving of being considered the superior compact SUV.
Quirky Yet Charming
Both the 2020 Nissan Rogue and the 2020 Ford Escape are good looking vehicles and are a refreshing departure from other competitor vehicles that somehow fall into the trap of looking too similar to a minivan. The Nissan Rogue, for instance, looks more similar to an all-terrain crossover like that found in the Subaru lineup. Meanwhile, the Ford Escape takes the classic compact SUV styling and puts a twist on it with a rather peculiar, yet charming front face design. No matter what your opinion may be, it is hard to argue against the Nissan Rogue and the Ford Escape’s powerful level of exterior individuality. However, it is impossible to judge an SUV based on appearances alone.
The 2020 Nissan Rogue starts at a rather affordable $25,300 MSRP and gives drivers one of three trims to choose from the S, SV, and SL. At first glance, this total spread of trims does feel very limited and can be disappointing for drivers who want a little more variety behind their vehicles. However, it seems with the 2020 Rogue, Nissan has gone for a more streamlined approach. Instead of giving drivers a dizzying array of options, they seem to have catered to an audience who take the ‘less is more’ perspective to heart. While this isn’t inherently a problem, it does limit the Nissan Rogue in terms of powertrain options and additional features.
The 2020 Ford Escape starts lower than its competitor at $24,885 MSRP, and give drivers five trims to choose from. While five isn’t exactly way more than three, those additional trim options matter, and it can give the automaker a bit more room to add in additional powertrains and features. That’s not to mention that Ford has implemented a hybrid powertrain in both the SE and Titanium trims, which is certainly a big bonus for Ford. Having a Hybrid powertrain doesn’t make the Ford Escape a surefire winner, but it does help support their case.
A Mixed Bag of Performance
Compact SUVs are never meant to be particularly powerful, but a great one ought to hold its own on the pavement, while also giving drivers a variety of powertrain options to choose from. Through this diversity of powertrains, drivers have a better chance of finding the engine, transmission, and drivetrain that matches their unique automotive needs. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the 2020 Nissan Rogue.
No matter what trim option you buy, you’ll be settling with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque; these aren’t high ratings, even for a four-cylinder. You’ll also be stuck with a CVT, which is okay, but we’d have liked to see more diversity here as well. That said, you will get to have the option of either a front-wheel or all-wheel drivetrain. Even with an all-wheel drivetrain though, the weak engine power won’t allow you to take full advantage of the 8.4 inches of ground clearance off-roading. The main purpose of all-wheel-drive in this instance is to provide greater traction and support when road conditions aren’t their best.
The 2020 Ford Escape, by comparison to the Nissan Rogue, is dizzyingly overcomplicated, but in this instance, it’s not a bad thing. The 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine already outperforms the engine in the Nissan Rogue, with its seamless delivery of 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. This option utilizes an 8-speed automatic transmission, and with an all-wheel drivetrain equipped, can be made into a truly capable vehicle. The 2020 Ford Escape also brings more to the table with the optional upgrade to a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that is rated at 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. On top of that, you can adjust both engines based on five particular drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Snow/Sand. Then there are the hybrid trims which use the combined 200 horsepower and 209 lb-ft of torque offered by the gas and electric engine to make for some truly remarkable performance on the road.
A Neck and Neck Race
Beyond performance, both the Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape are evenly matched competitors. While the Nissan Rogue has greater cargo space, measuring in at 70 cubic feet, the Ford Escape isn’t far behind with its 65.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Both base models of the Ford Escape and the Nissan Rogue provides a well-established package of safety features as standard. Things like automatic emergency braking, active lane control, automatic high-beam headlights, and blind-spot monitors are often considered a luxury in some vehicles, however, for both Nissan and Ford, these features should be expected no matter what model you pick up.
Where things begin to differ is in terms of the infotainment screen. While other competitor models add in sizeable touchscreens packed with powerful software into even their base models, Ford has dropped the ball in the Escape by offering a 4.2-inch LCD screen that isn’t touch activated. Sure, the LCD screen comes with an AM/FM radio and Bluetooth connectivity, but it does not compare to the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility found in the Nissan Rogue. The Escape does provide a standard upgrade to a SYNC 3 touchscreen on the SE and higher trims, though. The base model of the Nissan Rogue also offers a rather affordable bonus package, which can equip the base model with heated front seats, and additional exterior bells and whistles. Although it ought to be mentioned that when you upgrade the Ford Escape to the SE model, you’ll find luxury-level features such as a 10-way power driver’s seat, keyless ignition, heated mirrors, and a much larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Nearly Equal Competitors
On the surface, the 2020 Nissan Rogue and the 2020 Ford Escape are pretty evenly matched. Although, when you get down into it and compare the powertrain and additional packages offered by the Ford Escape, the Nissan Rogue struggles to keep up. While you’ll spend less and get more in the 2020 Nissan Rogue, if you want to drive a compact SUV that is truly far and above the rest, you’ll want to opt for the Ford Escape instead. Although, it goes without saying that whichever SUV has caught your eye, we highly recommend taking it on a test drive before you sign the dotted line. While one car may look good on paper, it can feel a whole lot different behind the wheel.