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2020 Ford Escape Hybrid returns better fuel economy than RAV4 -- with a catch

You'll have to opt for front-wheel drive if you want to best the RAV4 outright.

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This thing sips.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

The latest Ford Escape is a fine crossover, as we found in our first drive and in-depth review of the new model. And if you're looking to keep things extra frugal, the Escape Hybrid is back for the 2020 model year.

Now the EPA has weighed in and said just how frugal it'll be. Estimates published to the EPA's website reveal the 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid will return 44 miles per gallon city, 37 mpg highway and 41 mpg combined. That, friends, outdoes the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. An achievement, to be sure.

Hang on, you don't think I forgot the fact the RAV4 Hybrid comes exclusively with all-wheel drive, did you? I didn't. The RAV4 Hybrid will return an estimated 41 city, 38 highway and 40 combined. The only way the Escape Hybrid bests the Toyota is with its standard front-wheel drive variant.

Opting for all-wheel drive on the Escape Hybrid essential ties the RAV4 Hybrid with estimates of 43 city, 37 highway and 40 combined. In the real world, these are super minor differences, because as they say, "your mileage may vary."

Hybrid crossover shoppers looking for the most efficient model will find the Kia Niro is still the champion, returning 51 city, 46 highway and 49 combined. However, that's for the most efficient FE trim, and the Niro is a little smaller than both the Escape and RAV4. Another option would have been the Chevrolet Equinox Diesel, but Chevy killed the oil-burner earlier this year. Even then, the hybrid systems from Ford and Toyota outdo diesel as the Equinox returned 28 city, 38 highway and 32 combined with AWD.

The battle between Ford and Toyota will continue into next year as both ready plug-in hybrid versions of their compact crossover models. Ford's aiming for 30 miles of all-electric range from its PHEV, while Toyota said its RAV4 Prime plug-in should go 39 miles on a full charge.

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