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Want a 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid? Look at these rival hybrid SUVs, too

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2021-07-20 David Booth
a car parked on the side of a road © Provided by Driving.ca

So you want a Ford Escape Hybrid. Well, I gotta tell you that it’s almost as big a surprise to me as it might be to you that I’m recommending Ford’s compact electrified sport cute at all. Toyota has been the king of hybridization for so long that it’s a wonder that anyone else even tries to climb that mountain. And with the RAV4 the most popular vehicle in the land not named F-150, getting anyone to pay attention to the hybrid version of the Escape is a bit of a challenge.

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On the other hand, the darned thing averaged some 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres in my mixed use on both the highway and urban streets. That’s better than Natural Resources Canada estimates for the little SUV — 5.9 L/100 km overall — and, more importantly, better than the last hybrid RAV4 I tested. There’s also lots of electromotive ‘grunt’ in this Escape Hybrid. Total “system” horsepower — gasoline engine and electric motors combined at the gas engine’s power peak — is 200 hp.

And even though it shares the same basic gas engine layout as Toyota’s hybridized sport cute — a 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle inline four mated to an eCVT transmission — Ford’s version sounds more civil with less of the thrashing that accompanies hard stabs at the Toyota’s gas pedal.

Throw in a decent interior with an upgraded Sync system and an 8-inch touchscreen, adequate rear seat room and a dashboard that is not hard on the eyes and you have a pretty darned good effort from FoMoCo. My major complaint — and an atypical one since I usually don’t comment on styling — is that the Escape’s exterior is so nondescript that it fairly disappears when parked beside the comparatively butch RAV4. Some people — introverts, I would assume — may prefer the mundane, but I found the looks dated even though it was just redesigned from the ground up last year. It’s also positively sterile compared with the Bronco Sport with which it shares non-hybrid powertrains. If you like to fade into the background, Ford has a compact sport cute for you. It’s also fairly cost effective, our well-equipped SEL starting at $36,749 and retailing for $42,799 with panoramic roof and the Technology Package (power tailgate, excellent B&O sound system, and wireless charging).

You want a RAV4 instead. As far as I am concerned, the best vehicle in the land — hybrid or not; SUV or not — is the PHEV version of the Toyota’s SUV. Being a plug-in — with a big 18.1 kWh battery and two electric motors — it’s more expensive than the more basic Escape. On the other hand, you’ll get a minimum of $5,000 in subsidies (from the federal government) if you buy one and a total of $13,000 off its MSRP if you happen to live in La Belle Province. That takes a little sting off its $44,900 base MSRP. More impressively, it boast 302-hp, scoots to 100 kilometres an hour in just six seconds, can hit upwards of 70 kilometres on battery power alone and then averages about 6.0 L/100 km when the battery is depleted. If you can afford it — and understand that the all-singing, all-dancing XSE (with optional Technology Package) model will cost you almost 60 grand — it’s a great little sport cute.

a car parked in a parking lot

You want to go off-road. Well then, you better get yourself a Jeep then, the Cherokee being the Escape’s direct comparison. Right off the bat, there are no electrified versions of the Cherokee, so bonus points to Ford. On the other hand, Jeep’s 2.0-litre Turbo four is good for 270 horses (forget about the anemic 2.4L base engine). There’s a little less room in the backseats and the Cherokee’s interior doesn’t seem quite as “together” as the Escape’s. That said, UConnect is one of the most user-friendly infotainment systems around and the Cherokee, particularly in its topline Trailhawk guise, is going to be miles ahead when things get rocky and treacherous. On the other hand, the Escape’s ride and handling on-road are far superior. It’s also a darn sight easier on the eyes. Unless you’re going off-road — and, if you are, why aren’t you shopping Wrangler — the Escape is the better bet.

a car parked in front of a house:  2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite © Brian Harper 2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite

You’re loyal to the Blue Oval. The most logical alternative — especially considering I started this comparison with the Escape Hybrid (and also waxed so lyrical about Toyota’s plug-in version of its RAV4) would be the Escape PHEV. Indeed, with there being both 1.5-litre and 2.0L gas-only EcoBoost Turbos as well as regular and plug-in hybrid variants of the Escape, there are no less than four different versions of Ford’s sport cute to choose from.

a car parked in a parking lot:  2020 Ford Escape © Nadine Filion 2020 Ford Escape

Nonetheless, I expect that, as of June 8, many Canadians will be far more interested in Ford’s Maverick mini-truck. Based on the Bronco Sport — itself, a takeoff of the Escape undercarriage — the Maverick is powered by the same 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain as the Escape Hybrid. It pumps out about the same power — 191-hp — and has identical fuel economy, 5.9L/100 km. We really don’t have much performance information about the new mini-truck — other than the fact that to get all-wheel-drive, you have to move up to the 2.0L Turbo version — but we do know it will have a “Flexbed” and a towing capacity of just 2,000 pounds. More importantly, while the Escape plays in a very crowded field, the Maverick is the only hybrid-powered compact truck on the horizon (Hyundai’s Santa Cruz is paired by a couple of 2.5L fours, one of them turbocharged). That makes the Maverick one of the most interesting vehicles launched this year and one consumers shopping in the crossover category should keep their eyes on.

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