Ford Motor Company showed two new compact SUVs at this year’s 2019 New York auto show: the 2020 Ford Escape and the 2020 Lincoln Corsair. While they remain cousins under the skin, the image and presentation differ greatly between these two vehicles—so which is better? I did a little comparing and contrasting to come up with an informal winner.
For the Lincoln, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. The Escape is handsome but a bit bland and anonymous, a surprise considering the more distinctive Edge and Explorer. From the sides and rear, the Escape is rather like a movie extra, non-offensive and a bit forgettable, and its coming ubiquity will only make it more so. The Corsair’s headlights have a similar shape to the Escape’s, but its upright grille, wide taillights, and unique, sleek profile give it a distinctly Lincoln look. Lincoln has gone out of its way to make the Corsair look like far more than just a gussied-up Ford, and that counts for a lot.
WINNER: Lincoln Corsair
The Ford Escape will be offered with a 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder, a 2.0-liter turbo four, and hybrid and plug-in-hybrid powertrains, while the Lincoln Corsair gets a choice of 2.0- and 2.3-liter turbocharged fours. We’re a bit skeptical of the Lincoln’s powertrains; its predecessor, the MKC, was pokey with the 2.0 and thirsty with the 2.3. The new Escape is supposed to be lighter than the outgoing model, but Lincoln has made no mention of the Corsair’s weight, and that may not bode well for efficiency. Lincoln says a hybrid powertrain is coming in the future, but the Escape will have it at launch. Advantage: Ford.
WINNER: Ford Escape
This one was more difficult for me to call than you might imagine. The Ford has a great interior with simple, attractive, and nicely laid-out controls, decent trim materials, comfortable seats, and good visibility. A lot of its competitors (coughRAV4cough) seem as if they’re trying a bit too hard and end up coming off as overstyled, while the Escape shows that simplicity can be elegant. But the Corsair’s interior is a real stunner—and completely different from the Escape’s, which itself is commendable. I love the Lincoln’s use of trim and the way the stereo and climate controls float above the center console, and the optional 24-way adjustable seats promise to pamper posteriors of any profile. Lincoln even had the Corsair’s warning chimes performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Compare the Corsair’s cabin to the Cadillac XT4/XT5 or the Lexus UX/NX, and it’s clear that Lincoln has hit a home run. At the end of the day, both cars have well-executed cabins perfectly suited to their intended markets.
Which vehicle will do more for the brand that is presenting it? The Ford Escape has a large, loyal following, and with good reason—it’s always been a practical vehicle with capable driving dynamics, and I expect much the same of the current model. I think the styling is a snoozer, but that probably won’t scare off too many Ford fans. The Lincoln is a lovely vehicle, but to be fair, so was the MKC that preceded it—in fact, some on our staff would argue that the MKC was a better-looking vehicle (from the outside, at least), and it hardly set the sales charts afire. When it comes to the success or failure of a luxury car, brand image plays a disproportionately large role, and that’s one area where Lincoln has struggled. Still, I think the Corsair has the better chance of winning new buyers for its brand.
WINNER: Lincoln Corsair