When the Ford Escape first debuted a year into the 21st century, it had a few Y2K bugs. Ford's first little SUV was plagued with production miscues and recalls, hindering the launch of an otherwise appealing machine. Over the past several years, those issues have been sorted out, allowing consumers to feel confident about this appealing compact package, distinguished among so-called sport/cutes with an available V-6 and an agile driving character. A midlife freshening and the segment's first hybrid model for 2005 have kept the Escape in the shopping spotlight, even in the face of newer competitors.
For 2005, the Escape received new headlights and fascias, but these slight changes can't disguise the fact that this basic design is now five production-years old. Despite its age, the Escape is still attractive and maintains its family resemblance with the larger Explorer. Its part-cute, part-tough styling is just inoffensive enough to appeal to a wide demographic. The base Escape still trots on small 15-inch steel wheels, however, while 16-inch wheels are becoming the segment norm. Four new paint colors--Sonic Blue, Norsea Blue, Silver Metallic, and Titanium Green--work to give some variety to the masses of Escapes cruising the roadways.
The Escape has an effective, if mediocre, interior. All surfaces are smooth, and every control is easy to read and well within reach of smaller drivers. However, the revised "modern-faced" gauge cluster looks cheap and toylike. The easy-to-use buttons of the center console look dated and are oversized in relation to their markings. The Escape's seats are arguably overstuffed and too shallow to offer good thigh support to tall drivers, traits shared with other older Ford designs such as the Focus. This interior could be very nice with a little more attention to detail, such as reduced panel gaps.
Ford has done wonders with the F-150, but this generation Escape heralds from a previous design era, with cost cutting readily apparent. Behind the rear seats is 29 cubic feet of open storage space, and folding the rear seatbacks flat opens 66 cubic feet. Both numbers are on par with those of the Toyota RAV4, but fall just shy of the Honda CR-V's.