Ford Escape Hybrid Front QuarterEnlarge Photo
I just spent a week in the most fuel-efficient SUV in America and was left beaming with national pride. The Ford Escape Hybrid has the right combination of fuel economy, comfort and utility to compete in the cutthroat compact SUV market. If your household consists of anything less than a married couple, three kids and a dog, the Escape Hybrid may be the right vehicle for you. If you need to tow anything, look elsewhere.
The Escape Hybrid goes up against the class leading Honda CR-V, the infinitely configurable Toyota RAV4, the cult favorite Subaru Forester and GM's Saturn Vue among others. Though it easily bests all of those vehicles in efficiency, it does have some vulnerabilities.
Acceleration in the Escape Hybrid is by no means scintillating. Press the pedal to the floor and the 2.5 liter inline four-cylinder buzzes like a hive full of drones protecting their queen. We estimate getting to sixty from a dead stop takes about ten seconds, which is at least competitive with the four-cylinder offerings in this class.
Fortunately, acceleration isn't the primary gauge of performance in a compact SUV and the Escape Hybrid has plenty of other desirable driving attributes. The ride is compliant and comfortable and cornering is respectable for a vehicle of this size. The intelligent four-wheel drive system made me wonder if I was actually seeing snow on the ground on a winter day in Chicago. (The answer was, "yes.") It was stellar on slick pavement and gravel. My brief stint with the Escape prevented me from taking it off-road, but 8.3 inches of ground clearance should allow for an occasional light duty trail romp. The brakes give the driver plenty of feedback. The widely criticized sponginess of previous generation Escape Hybrid brakes is long gone.