We’re comparing two very popular compact SUVs; the Ford Escape and the Volkswagen Tiguan to find out which is the best when they go head to head.
The Ford Escape is one of the brand’s most chic SUVs and it’s dramatically softened compared to its structurally similar sibling the Bronco Sport. It’s available with various engines, they’re all fuel efficient, and it’s a comfortable ride. The Volkswagen Tiguan is decidedly European but aimed squarely at America. It offers just one engine but a much more focused design and execution. Today, we find out which is the better value.
The Ford Escape comes standard with a three-cylinder engine that makes 180 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and gets up to 27 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway. Front-wheel drive is standard though all-wheel drive is also available. Ford also offers a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.
It can tow up to 3,500 pounds and gets 23 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. Finally, a plug-in hybrid is also available with a 2.5-liter engine that makes 192 horsepower but gets 42 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. It can also drive up to 37 miles on electric power alone. Pricing for the Escape starts at $29,345 but can rise above $40,000 depending on trim and options.
Volkswagen approaches the powertrain in a much more simplistic way. It offers a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with just 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. No matter how much one pays, it’s the only engine they’ll get. At best, it’ll get 24 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. It sends power to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. All-wheel drive is available for a slight bump in price across the lineup.
Speaking of pricing, the Tiguan actually costs a little less than the Escape, $28,245 at the bottom end and $38,975 at the top end. Interestingly, VW offers four years or 50,000 miles of powertrain and limited warranty coverage along with two years or 20,000 miles of free maintenance. That’s less than Ford’s powertrain coverage of five years or 60,000 miles but more than the Escape’s three-year or 36,000-mile powertrain coverage. On top of that, Ford doesn’t offer complimentary maintenance at all.
The Escape offers the most punch from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and it’s the clear favorite of the bunch. Considering how small the Escape is, 250 horsepower feels like a lot and that’s especially noticeable on the highway during passing maneuvers.
The base Escape and the hybrid version struggle to change gear and increase speed at any sort of rapid pace. The 2.0-liter doesn’t have such a problem. At the same time, it’s worth noting that none of the Escape trim levels offer the sharpness or driver feedback that we’ve come to love in rival offerings like the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-50.
The Volkswagen falls into a similar trap as the Ford, offering too little power and driver feedback to be engaging. At the same time, we praise Volkswagen’s suspension tuning that utilizes a coil spring setup in the front and a four-link design in the rear. The Tiguan is better at changing direction when compared to the Ford.
Where both cars really succeed at the same level is in terms of overall ride comfort. These SUVs are meant to get the groceries and pick up the kids while sheltering occupants from the world around them. The Ford proves to be a bit less adept when compared directly to the Volkswagen as it’s not as quiet in the cabin but both are good overall at dampening noise and vibration from poor road conditions.
Ford’s interior design for the Escape is heavy on the cheap plastics but the brand jazzes things up with some nice textured patterning on most surfaces. In addition, the seating is spacious and comfortable in both rows. We really like the two-tone seating surfaces available in some trims and the small touches like contrast stitching. The top trims really are very different from the lower-end ones and benefit from a sleeker-looking dash design, a larger infotainment system, and a far better sound system too.
Behind the rear seats, you’ll find 37.3 cubic feet of cargo room which is very large for this segment. Finally, Ford sets a reasonable bar when it comes to the comfort provided by advanced driver safety aids. It offers forward collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring for no extra charge. It also has a five-star NHTSA crash test rating.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is decidedly more upscale looking inside. The design itself feels more modern thanks to less use of plastics and an attractive asymmetrical dashboard. The seat upholstery feels like it’s of higher quality and the panel gaps appear tighter than in the Ford as well. The Tiguan, like the Escape, also impresses with small touches like the door card design, great integrated storage spaces, and an available third row. Granted, that third row is incredibly small but it’s at least available for those who might want it without having to up-size it to the next SUV class.
Two-row Tiguans boast 38 cubic feet of storage space while those with the extra seats get limited to just 12 cubic feet. VW customers benefit from even more safety features including standard adaptive cruise control. Notably, it only has a four-star crash test rating from the NHTSA.
Ford kicks off the Escape lineup with the Active and it comes with 17-inch wheels, a three-cylinder engine, dual-zone climate control, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, two USB ports, and an 8-inch infotainment system. Above that is the ST-Line which gets a skid plate, 18-inch wheels, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The ST-Line Select adds all-wheel drive, a 2.0-liter engine, LED fog lights, and heated front seats. Above it is the Platinum with faux-leather upholstery and a universal garage door opener. At the top of the non-hybrid lineup is the ST-Line Elite. It comes with 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a 13.2-inch infotainment system. Finally, the Escape Hybrid is most similarly equipped to the base model but does have heated seats, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensing wipers.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is available in four trims starting with the S. It gets cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, a 6.5-inch infotainment system, and heated front seats. Above it, the SE adds 18-inch wheels, faux-leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and an 8-inch infotainment system.
The SE R-Line Black is third in the lineup with additional black trim, 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, and parking sensors. Finally, the SEL R-Line adds standard AWD, 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster,
The price points bookending these cars sort of determine the winner here. Both are perfectly fine SUVs but those who can only afford cars near the bottom of the trim levels are best served by purchasing a Volkswagen Tiguan. It offers far more interior features, better driver safety aids, and two years of free warranty coverage.
Those looking to spend $35,000 or more though should forget that the Tiguan exists and go for the Escape. At that kind of price, the Ford offers far better power, fuel economy, and tech depending on your preference.