The compact crossover Ford Escape debuted at the turn of the 21st century. Since then three generations have come and gone, the most recent starting in 2013. On the eve of the fourth generation, hitting dealerships in 2020, the Ford Escape deserves a closer look. Where has the Escape come from? Where has it gone? And which used models are best for buyers hungry for a quality crossover but looking to save a buck?
Luckily, there's plenty on the used lot, since Ford has been selling about a quarter million of these SUVs every year for almost a decade now. Let's review past models so you know what to buy to get the most bang for your buck.
First Generation (2001-2007)
Mazda and Ford teamed up to release the first Escapes. The Escape was one of the first unibody designs, unlike the bigger, brawnier, truck-like large SUVs of the day. So drivers were treated to a larger vehicle with more cargo space and a higher vantage point that still drove like a car. Needless to say, buyers were wowed. The SUV started to become the vehicle of choice for American families.
But the Ford Escape still had roots in a rugged experience, hence the all-wheel drive on offer from year one. The Escape's first base engine was a powerful V6 delivering 130 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque.
Watch out for transmission problems, especially on the 2006 model year. Some drivers reported transmission failure or slippage and sticking. The first and last years of the generation (2001 and 2007) seem to be the best model years for avoiding mechanical and hardware issues.
Second Generation (2008-2012)
Ford began to feel the heat from its competitors, so they released the second generation in 2008. But the underlying car stayed much the same. The Escape took on a beefier yet more angular look. The Escape sports a bolder grill, taller beltline, higher hood and Edge-ier headlights. Though little else changed from the previous generation, the Escape got a serious makeover that made this SUV more pleasing on the eyes. Though there's plenty of power in the 200-horsepower V6, the four-speed automatic transmission hampered more than helped acceleration.
In terms of which model year was better, we recommend a more recent model year. The 2008 had transmission and steering issues, which lessened as the model years went on.
Third Generation (2013-2019)
The current generation began in 2013, and this is when the Escape hit its stride. After 2013, the technical and mechanical issues largely go away. The generation began with a base 168-horsepower 2.5-liter engine and an optional and fantastic turbocharged 1.6-liter that returns 178 horsepower and 33 highway miles per gallon. High-tech features proliferate the upscale cabin. Comfortable seating make the Escape a dream to sit in while nimble handling make it a blast to drive.
Since Ford keeps improving the Escape, the third generation is the best. If you're looking to save a little more money, get the second-generation Escape for an outstanding exterior or the first generation that is just as good as the second, if not better.