If you’re on the fence between buying a new or used Ford Escape, be sure to check out this article for an objective side-by-side comparison of the two.
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On sale since the turn of the millennium, Ford’s Escape is one popular little SUV having sold more than 4.5 million units stateside over the past two decades. Last year, the all-new fourth generation was unveiled with a weighty task – cater to both car and SUV customers as Ford has abandoned the sedan segment altogether. To that end, the new model sports a less aggressive front-end design compared to its most recent predecessor and offers two hybrid powertrains.
The third-gen model, which ran from 2013 to 2019, came with the option of three gas-powered motors and a similar trim lineup to the current model. If you’re in the market for a compact Blue Oval vehicle, you may be wondering whether it makes more sense to buy a new or used Ford Escape, so let’s have a look.
The previous generation we’re using for the used Ford Escape came with a trio of engines, all gas-powered and driving the front wheels via 6-speed automatic. Only available on base S models was a naturally aspirated 2.5L inline-4 making 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. Midpack SE and SEL trim featured a turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder with marginally better power figures of 179 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Top-spec Titanium Escapes came standard with a 2.0L EcoBoost I4 producing 245-horse 275 lb-ft of torque. Base models were only offered in FWD guise while SE, SEL, and Titanium could be fitted with AWD.
As part of the fourth generation, new Ford Escapes offer hybrid power along with gasoline options. The base motor, which is standard on S, SE, and SEL trim, is a turbocharged 1.5L I3 producing 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. On Titanium models, the 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder receives a power bump over its predecessor to the tune of 250 horses and 280 lb-ft of torque. AWD can be optioned on the first three trims, but it is standard on the Titanium with an 8-speed automatic handling transmission duty across the gas-powered board.
On SE trim and above, the new Escape can be configured with a hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain. In both cases, a naturally aspirated 2.5L I4 is combined with an 88 kW electric motor for a combined power output of 221 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission sends power to the front wheels or all four, but only with the regular hybrid. The plug-in variant cannot be optioned with AWD. However, it does offer the ability to drive on pure electrons for up to 37 miles.
A used Ford Escape from the previous generation will offer a modicum of fun-to-drive characteristics thanks to four-corner independent suspension, torque vectoring, and curve control. That last feature automatically modulates throttle and braking to keep your Escape upright should you enter a turn a little hot, which is not out of the question if you’re driving the Titanium with its potent 245-horse mill.
Acceleration antics aside, with the bigger 2.0L motor, it’s possible to tow up to 3,500 pounds, but of course it is also the thirstiest, achieving 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway in FWD setup. The base, 2.5L motor has similar ratings at 21/29 mpg for city/highway driving. Opting for the EcoBoost 1.5L engine brings 23 mpg around town and 30 mpg on the highway in FWD or 22/28 mpg, respectively, when equipped with AWD.
For 2021, the Ford Escape shares many of the driving features found on its used counterpart as well as a Top Safety Pick award from IIHS, while both models earned a 5-star crash rating from NHTSA. A notable difference on the new Escape is its standard Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). This includes forward collision warning with automated emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Some of those systems were optional on the third-gen model but AEB, for example, was not available.
Fuel efficiency is dramatically improved across the board on a new Escape with the wee, turbocharged 3-cylinder hitting EPA estimates of 27 mpg and 33 mpg for city and highway driving in FWD configuration or 26/31 mpg, respectively, for AWD models. Though the 2.0L EcoBoost is more powerful in the new model, it’s actually more fuel efficient with ratings of 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Of course, if fuel sipping is the name of your game, check out the hybrid powertrains that get up to 44 mpg around town and 37 mpg on the open road. As with the third-gen Escape, new models can handle 3,500 pounds of towing when properly equipped.
Entry-level used Ford Escapes keep things simple on the comfort front with cloth seats and manual HVAC controls. Moving up the trim ladder does unlock niceties like a heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, and power-adjustable, heated leather seats. There are even high-end amenities like a panoramic sunroof and hands-free, power-operated tailgate, but you’ll need to outlay a bit more cash. Seating for five is standard and rear passengers will find just over three feet of legroom. Fold down that rear row to access 68 cubic feet of storage space or exactly half that with the back seat raised.
A 2021 Ford Escape is about 2 ½” longer than a gen-three model, which translates to more than 3” of additional rear legroom. However, the max cargo volume actually drops to 65 cubic feet for gas-powered models and a bit less for the hybrids. Manually adjusted cloth seats and a sliding second row are found on the S trim with “ActiveX” upholstery, a fancy way of saying faux leather, found on the SEL and Titanium. Moving up to those trims also opens the gate to dual-zone automatic climate controls, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, and driver’s seat memory settings. Heated front seats are also on hand, but you’ll need a package if leather upholstery is desired.
Whether you’re shopping a new or used Ford Escape, trim structure is the same with base S, mid-level SE, and SEL or fully loaded Titanium models. On the used model, you’ll need an SEL or above if you want Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with an 8” touchscreen display, Apple and Android software, Wi-Fi capability, and the company’s telematics. Lower end models make do with a 4.2” screen for basic functions like audio tuning and Bluetooth connectivity. Additional features like navigation, automatic parking assistance, and a 10-speaker Sony stereo can be found on the Titanium.
New Ford Escapes shuffle things around by making the SYNC 3 system standard on SE trim and above, while adding FordPass Connect with its Wi-Fi functionality to the base model. Dual USB ports are standard equipment but the latest tech, like a 12.3” digital gauge cluster and stereo from Bang & Olufsen, is reserved for the Titanium or via package on other models. Additional options like a heads-up display and Qi wireless charging are features that can’t be found on the previous generation Escape.
Looking over the used Ford Escape market, prices range from $15,000 to $27,000 for a 30,000-mile example, depending on trim level. Specifically, a 2018 Escape SEL with the 1.5L EcoBoost and AWD can be had for a bit less than $25,000. Entry point on a new, base model Escape is $26,800 ranging to over $40,000 for a Titanium plug-in hybrid with an AWD, 1.5L EcoBoost SEL running about $33,000.
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For that $8,000 premium on the new model, owners benefit from more power and better fuel efficiency not to mention a full roster of ADAS. That is one reason to buy a new Escape over a used model. There is also the fuel-sipping hybrid option that makes a 2021 Ford Escape model that much more compelling.