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A red 2022 Ford Escape SE Sport is shown driving on a desert highway.

The 2022 Ford Escape SE: EcoBoost, Hybrid, or Plug-In Hybrid?

Anyone interested in buying a new 2022 Ford Escape may be facing a tough decision about which Escape to buy, as both turbocharged and hybrid options are available in several trims. Each type of powertrain has benefits that can be obvious, like savings on fuel, but the Escape also offers slightly different features depending on which powertrain you choose. Comparing each trim could get overwhelming, but here we will compare one of the most popular trim options people are likely to buy: the SE trim. As the second trim level, the SE offers more standard features than the entry-level S trim but remains affordable for most buyers interested in a small SUV.

Three powertrain options are available at the SE trim level: a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine, a 2.5-liter Hybrid, and a 2.5-liter Plug-In Hybrid (the Escape’s fourth engine, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost, is only available on the SEL and Titanium trims). Every 2022 Escape SE will share certain features in common, such as Ford’s Intelligent Access with push-button start, Ford CoPilot 360 safety features, and standard skid plates for underbody protection. Ford also makes standard the SYNC 3 infotainment system with voice activation, which is intuitive to use and relatively easy to learn on the eight-inch screen. In addition, FordPass Connect with WiFi is standard, which offers remote access to features like locking or starting the Escape using the app on a smartphone.

Inside the SE, sliding second-row seats can move forward and back to allocate space to either second-row legroom or cargo space, though rear-seat legroom changes depending on which model you purchase. The front-row legroom is the same for all models at 42.4 inches. Each of the SE trims has options that can be added regardless of powertrain, with conveniences like heated front seats, remote start, and heated exterior mirrors for making cold weather more comfortable. A powered liftgate can be added if you prefer that over the standard manual liftgate, and voice-activated navigation is another convenience across the SE trim choices. Now, let’s break down each powertrain to see how they differ in features, both standard and available.

A white 2022 Ford Escape SE is shown from the side parked near a hiking trail in the mountains.

The SE EcoBoost

Though upper trims have the choice between two EcoBoost engines, the SE trim can only come with the standard 1.5-liter I-3 engine that makes 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque and is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel efficiency is 28 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway, and the option to tow up to 2,000 lbs is available with the proper equipment. Every EcoBoost-powered 2022 Escape can choose to add all-wheel drive, but the SE trim comes standard with front-wheel drive and 17-inch wheels. On the inside, the SE EcoBoost has more interior space available, which means this is the SE with the most rear legroom. If you expect to travel with adults or tall teens in the rear seats on a regular basis, you will have 40.7 inches of legroom available when the sliding rear seats are adjusted as far back as they can go.

One downside to choosing the SE EcoBoost is that it comes standard with single-zone manual climate control, although dual-zone automatic climate control is an option that can be added if you prefer. Other optional equipment available for this SE model includes a heated steering wheel and heated front seats for those who live in cold climates, features available for all SE models. For those who may need to use the roof for cargo, black roof rails can be added. To give the interior more light, a panoramic sunroof is another available feature. Finally, Adaptive Cruise Control is a great optional feature available for this model, particularly if you do a lot of highway driving. With the features list now complete, we can take a look at how the Hybrid stacks up against the EcoBoost.

SE Hybrid

In place of the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine, the SE Hybrid comes standard with a 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle I-4 hybrid engine that is paired to a continuously variable transmission. This powertrain makes 200 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque and can tow up to 1,500 lbs. Fuel efficiency increases to 44 MPG in the city, and 37 MPG on the highway, a vast improvement over the gas engine. The Hybrid doesn’t offer quite as much power as the gas engine, nor does it have as much towing capability, though most buyers are likely to be pleased with the energetic responsiveness of the acceleration and handling. This engine does come standard with front-wheel drive with the option to add all-wheel drive.

When it comes to features, there is one large difference from the EcoBoost engine: standard dual-zone climate control. Shared features like standard 17-inch wheels and the option to add the panoramic vista roof and black roof rails are the same. The option to add heated features like exterior mirrors is the same as the SE EcoBoost, but one drawback is the loss of rear legroom due to the need for battery storage, which takes legroom down to 38.9 inches. That’s a loss of almost two inches, which could be enough to change your mind if you have tall passengers using your rear seats. However, this small change may not make any difference for most buyers.

A woman is shown charging a red 2022 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid.

SE Plug-In Hybrid

The last engine option for the 2022 Escape SE is the Plug-In Hybrid. It shares the same engine as the Escape Hybrid but has a larger battery and more powerful electric motors. To get the most out of this model, you will need a place to charge the Escape, and most people will find installing a home charging station will be the most convenient option. Ford does offer a home charging station, though it does cost extra to have this installed. Ordering a charging station from Ford costs $799 before taxes and fees, but this price may well be offset by your fuel savings, depending on how much you drive. The Plug-In Hybrid is rated for 105 MPGe and can cover 37 miles on battery power before the gasoline engine kicks in.

A drawback of the SE Plug-In Hybrid is that it only comes with front-wheel drive. There is no option to add all-wheel drive to this model, though the tow rating is the same as the other hybrid at 1,500 lbs. Legroom also suffers in the Plug-In Hybrid, just like in the Hybrid. Some options are removed, with no choice to add roof rails or the panoramic sunroof. You do, however, get standard 18-inch wheels and dual-zone climate control. Charging may be the biggest inconvenience here, particularly if you don’t have a place to install a home charging station, because you will still have to visit the gas station, too.

How the Models Compare

Depending on which features you value most, each type of powertrain has its advantages. If you must have all-wheel drive, roof rails, or the panoramic sunroof, stick to the EcoBoost or Hybrid. For the most rear legroom, choose the EcoBoost engine. To get the best fuel efficiency, the Plug-In Hybrid is the answer. The best towing comes from the EcoBoost, though anyone who wants the option of more towing power will have to opt for the SEL or Titanium trims. With the more powerful 2.0-liter I-4 engine in those upper trims, you can tow up to 3,500 lbs, an option not available for the SE. Overall, however, the SE trim level offers plentiful features most buyers will appreciate regardless of the engine, and the ride quality and comfort of any SE cabin will make for pleasant excursions.