The 2013 Ford Escape has undergone an extensive redesign; I call it a success for small families and not just for the obvious reasons like comfortable seating and decent storage.
The Escape Titanium with all-wheel drive, my test car, had a turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that offered great power for getting around town, highway merging and anticipated passing. What made me happiest was the standard remote start feature. During a snowstorm, I loved coming out to a crossover that was all warm and defrosted.
The only thing trumping this was the optional Parking Technology Package ($995) and most notably, the Active Park Assist. With the push of a button while trolling for parallel-parking spaces, the Escape's sensors will detect a spot that will fit the five-seater. It alerted me to the space, which looked ridiculously small, with a chime. I lined the Escape up and then let go of the steering wheel. I used the throttle and brake and put the Escape into Drive and Reverse when necessary. The system steered the Escape into the spot seamlessly.
The 2013 Ford Escape S base trim has a starting price of $23,365, including an $895 destination fee. The topline Titanium trim starts at $31,265, but my Titanium test car with all-wheel drive rang up at $35,130.
What's most notable about the Escape's exterior is it no longer looks like a crossover for camping and outdoor play. Gone is the boxy profile; it's replaced by a sleeker capsule-shaped body. On the front end, a smaller slatted grille and large lower shuttered air dams, which open and close during driving to reduce wind resistance and improve fuel efficiency, now grace the front end. A crease along the side adds a sinewy look, and the few creases in the plastic below the thresholds give a sculpted feel of the Escape. Add to it wraparound headlights and taillights and the Escape has stepped into 2013 lookin' fine.
What the Escape juggles so well, even on the outside, is typical family living. The power liftgate is a source of pride for Ford. It's not just a regular power liftgate. There's a sensor under the rear bumper and when you kick your foot under it, the liftgate opens. Most of the time. What's wonderful is if your arms are full and you can't even reach the key fob or press the liftgate's button to open it, you're covered. Most of the time. It didn't work when the key fob was just out of range, which seemed to be when the fob was in my purse and slung over my shoulder.
Once I managed to open the liftgate, the cargo space was good. I had a few bigger boxes and a few flat boxes of stuff to haul, and the Escape housed it easily. Should extra cargo space be needed, the Escape has a 60/40-split folding rear seats.
It was easy for my kids — ages 8 and 10 — to get in and out of the Escape. The doors are a manageable weight, and the handles are easy to tug once kids are tall enough to reach them.
The 2013 Escape has three engine offerings. The standard 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder gets an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg city/highway. The optional 173-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder gets 23/33 mpg with front-wheel drive and 22/30 mpg with all-wheel drive. My test car had the 237-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. With front-wheel drive, this engine gets 22/30 mpg and 21/28 mpg with all-wheel drive. All three engines are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and use regular unleaded gas.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
Ford has thrown a lot of features into a pretty package with the 2013 Escape Titanium. It's easy to like with its push-button start and heated front seats with contrast-stitched leather trim. MyFord Touch was present and accounted for, as was the voice-activated Sync system. Were these goodies enough to keep me happy?
MyFord Touch continues to be a challenge for me. I have to relearn it every time I get in a Ford car. Despite how easy it becomes to use during a test drive, it still requires me to take my eyes off the road to make sure I have made the intended selection on the menu. However, the Sync system with voice-control functions for the stereo, text-to-voice for some cellphones and Bluetooth connectivity is easy to use. Also, the shiny plastic trim that housed the center stack and gearshift reflected light like crazy — and often into my eyes while I was driving.
In the front row, the Escape lacks storage cubbies. It has two cupholders, but when they're in use it's tough to find a place to stash a cellphone. I had to use the center console to house items that would normally sit out in exposed storage areas. This wasn't a bad idea since it kept my smartphone from tempting me while driving. There's also a 12-volt outlet in the center console as well as an aux jack and a USB input.
What did I love the most about the Escape? It wasn't the ambient lighting, though that was cool, and the kids loved changing the colors. It was the quiet cabin, plain and simple. OK, the cabin's quietness paired with a heated seat. I was dazzled almost every time I drove it; I could think my thoughts in some serious peace. That doesn't happen to me every day.
In the backseat, my kids had it pretty good. Each has a seatback pocket to hold a thin book or writing pad. There was ample legroom, and a mostly flat floor made the carpool lane drop-offs easy. What I loved the most was the second row's reclining seatbacks, enabling comfort and good child-safety-seat fit.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample
The two sets of lower Latch anchors in the Escape's outboard seats sit out in the open, making them easy to use. Forward-facing child-safety seats fit well in the Escape, but to fit the rear-facing safety seats, we had to move the front passenger seat forward a few inches. Read the 2013 Escape's Car Seat Check.
The 2013 Escape has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It hasn't undergone IIHS' latest test that simulates crashing a corner of the car into a tree. In crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Escape received an overall safety score of four stars of five. It received five stars in the side-impact crash test and four stars in the frontal and rollover crash tests.
The Escape Titanium has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with anti-roll control, traction control and seven airbags, including side curtains for both rows.
All-wheel drive, a backup camera and a forward collision mitigation system is optional, as is the Parking Technology Package, which includes cross-traffic alert, a blind spot warning system and Active Park Assist.
Get more safety information about the 2013 Ford Escape here.