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2020 Ford Escape vs. Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4

By the numbers, Ford's all-new compact crossover SUV faces strong competition.

Ford

The 2020 Ford Escape marks the introduction of the fourth generation of the Blue Oval's compact crossover SUV. Since its launch in 2001, Ford has sold 4.5 million examples in North America. Last year alone, Ford sold 272,228 units in the US, making the Escape Ford's strongest-selling product behind its F-Series pickup, America's best-selling vehicle.

Dig a little deeper, though, and those sales figures aren't quite as rosy as Ford might want them to be. Other compact crossover SUVs such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4 are more popular. The RAV4 outsold the Escape by more than 150,000 units last year, for example, although some of the RAV4's dominance was due to the previous-generation Escape growing long in the tooth.

Will an all-new 2020 Escape be enough of a leap ahead of last year's model to help Ford grab more market share? Let's look to the specifications to see if this new SUV has the goods to take on the segment's best.

Engine and transmission

Many consumers see electrification as the future, so the availability of not only a hybrid, but also a plug-in hybrid Escape is a forward-thinking move on Ford's part. No competitor on the chart below is available as a plug-in hybrid, so that should give the new Escape a leg up on its main competition, especially with an all-electric range projected to be greater than 30 miles. (Mini, Mitsubishi and Subaru do offer PHEV competitors, but they aren't particularly popular.)

The most powerful Escape will come with a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Its horsepower figure is beaten by the similarly powered Chevy Equinox, but the Ford offers 15 more pound-feet of torque. The Escape's 1.5-liter engine, equipped as standard on most trims, offers power that seems average, until you realize that it's coming from three cylinders instead of four. The three pot can also deactivate down to two cylinders, which should keep the least-expensive Escape fuel-efficient.

Sharing a maximum tow rating of 3,500 pounds with the Equinox, the 2020 Escape is one of the stronger haulers in this grouping. The best the RAV4 can do is 1,750 pounds. The CR-V sits at 1,500 pounds, while the best the Nissan Rogue can do is a weirdly specific 1,102 pounds.

Engine and transmission comparison

Vehicle Engine Power (hp) Torque (lb-ft) Transmission
Ford Escape (1.5) 1.5L turbo I3 180 177 8-speed automatic
Ford Escape (2.0) 2.0L turbo I4 250 275 8-speed automatic
Ford Escape Hybrid 2.5L I4 198 n/a CVT
Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid 2.5L I4 209 n/a CVT
Toyota RAV4 2.5L I4 203 184 8-speed automatic
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2.5L I4 219 n/a CVT
Nissan Rogue 2.5L I4 170 175 CVT
Nissan Rogue Hybrid 2.0L I4 176 144 CVT
Chevy Equinox (1.5) 1.5L turbo I4 170 203 6-speed automatic
Chevy Equinox Diesel 1.6L turbo I4 137 240 6-speed automatic
Chevy Equinox (2.0) 2.0L turbo I4 252 260 9-speed automatic
Honda CR-V (2.4) 2.4L I4 184 180 CVT
Honda CR-V 1.5L turbo I4 190 179 CVT

Tech and safety

In base S trim, the 2020 Ford Escape will offer standard in-car Wi-Fi, but that's about it. If you want Sync 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on an 8-inch touchscreen, you'll have to step up to the SE trim level. Other available tech features include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, wireless charging for mobile devices and a 575-watt Bang & Olufsen premium audio system with 10 speakers.

The Honda CR-V is stingy with standard features, offering a 5-inch LCD instead of the 7-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto featured on the CR-V's top three trims.

The rest of the SUVs in this comparison are better equipped from the start. The RAV4 features a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, while an 8-inch touchscreen and Qi wireless charging are available. Compared with the Toyota, the Chevy Equinox is even better equipped as standard. Right off the bat, it features a 7-inch touchscreen, simultaneous Bluetooth streaming for up to two devices, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and Wi-Fi. The Nissan Rogue also comes with a solid set of standard goodies, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a 7-inch touchscreen and satellite radio.

The Escape is much more competitive with its standard driver-assistance features. Right out of the gates, the Escape features automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and automatic high beams. The Rogue features the same suite of driver-aid tech, as well.

The RAV4 is missing the Escape's and Rogue's standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, but it makes up for that with standard adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition. The Equinox and CR-V, in contrast, come standard with essentially no advanced driver-assistance features.

Cargo space

Compared with the 2019 Ford Escape's 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats, the 2020 model is 3.5 cubic feet more capacious, which helps it stay competitive with its stronger-selling rivals. Curiously, when it comes to space with the second row folded, the 2020 model is down 2.6 cubic feet compared with the 2019 Escape. That means the Escape is one of the smaller cargo-holding SUVs in this comparison. The new Escape features a second row that slides 6 inches fore and aft, to prioritize cargo or second-row space. If you want to carve out more passenger room, your cargo capacity goes down to 33.5 cubic feet, or 30.7 cubic feet on hybrid models.

To its credit, hybridization doesn't eat into the Escape's cargo capacity with the same ferocity as it does with the Rogue Hybrid. But Toyota's RAV4 Hybrid is the real champ here, offering the same level of cargo space regardless of whether it's electrified. Chevy's Equinox, meanwhile, is just flat-out small in this company, while Honda's CR-V is pretty darn roomy for all your stuff.

Cargo volume comparison (cubic feet)

Vehicle Seats up 2nd row folded
Ford Escape 37.5 (34.4 hybrids) 65.4 (60.8 hybrids)
Toyota RAV4 37.5 69.8
Nissan Rogue 39.3 (27.3 hybrid) 70.0 (61.4 hybrid)
Chevrolet Equinox 29.9 63.9
Honda CR-V 39.2 75.8

Headroom and legroom

Hybridization also doesn't make a difference to the RAV4's passenger compartment measurements, but it does affect the Escape's back-seat legroom. For some reason, the hybrid Rogue features more second-row headroom than its conventionally powered counterpart. Although it's the underdog in terms of cargo space, the Equinox is pretty competitive with its cabin measurements. So is the CR-V, despite being a cargo-hauling titan.

Headroom/legroom comparison (inches)

Vehicle Front headroom Front legroom 2nd-row headroom 2nd-row legroom
Ford Escape 40 42.4 39.3 40.7 (38.9 hybrids)
Toyota RAV4 37.7 41 39.5 37.8
Nissan Rogue 41.6 43 38.5 (39.7 hybrid) 37.9
Chevrolet Equinox 40 40.9 38.5 39.9
Honda CR-V 40.1 41.3 39.2 40.4

Pricing

Pricing is yet to be released for the 2020 Ford Escape, but based on the 2019 model's $25,200 base price (including $1,095 for destination), you can expect the new Escape to start at several hundred dollars more than the current model. Plug-in hybrids are usually several thousand dollars more than their conventionally powered competition, so based on the 2019 Escape Titanium's $33,715 asking price, one could speculate that the top-of-the-line PHEV Escape might command nearly 40 grand.

If the Rogue Hybrid can get away with costing less than $34,000, a loaded 2020 Escape Hybrid might be able to undercut the loaded RAV4 Hybrid's near-$38,000 asking price. On the conventionally powered side of things, non-hybrid 2020 Escapes should be priced pretty evenly with the competition.

Compact crossover SUV pricing

Vehicle Price (incl. destination)
Ford Escape S FWD $26,000 est.
Ford Escape Titanium PHEV $39,000 est.
Toyota RAV4 LE FWD $26,595
Toyota RAV4 Limited Hybrid AWD $37,375
Nissan Rogue S FWD $25,965
Nissan Rogue SL Hybrid AWD $33,935
Chevrolet Equinox FWD L 1.5 $24,995
Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier 2.0 $36,895
Honda CR-V LX FWD $25,395
Honda CR-V Touring AWD CVT $35,195

Based on numbers alone, the 2020 Ford Escape is in the hunt but fails to stand out. But the addition of a plug-in hybrid variant, a regular hybrid and (perhaps to a lesser degree) a three-cylinder model with cylinder deactivation might be compelling enough to spruce up the sales numbers of what was once the most popular compact SUV in America.