Car Review: Updated 2017 Ford Escape SE has plenty of room and zoom

WASHINGTON — The small crossover market has taken over the automotive industry as sedans seem to wane in popularity. Ford has had a sales winner with the Escape crossover for many years and it only seems to be growing in sales. Ford is well aware that they need to keep this popular ride fresh. For 2017, the Escape has numerous updates to help it better compete in the white-hot small crossover segment.

It’s not a huge change outside but you can tell the front-end styling is a bit softer around the edges and more rounded. The front grill is large and more truck-like while the headlight cluster seems to sweep back and up the hood a bit. It gives the front end a more modern look without drastically changing the entire look of the popular crossover. Some pretty dramatic creases on lower door panels and fender bulges are stylish on this crossover. Even the rear side glass has an interesting shape that adds to the appearance.

My tester had the larger 18-inch wheels, a $595 option, that further helps the Escape in the looks department. The SE is the middle trim level and starts at around $25,200. It seems like a value since it looks better than the base S trim level for less than $2,000 difference in price.

Choosing the SE trim level also gives you more power from turbo engines. The SE comes with a standard 1.5L EcoBoost that will be OK for some. Others can spend an extra $1,300 and go for the 2.0 EcoBoost and have 245hp; turning the normal crossover into a speedy Ute that most of the class can’t keep up with. The power is nice to have, especially when passing or easily moving a loaded Escape without issue.

The trade-off is a decrease in fuel economy. I only averaged 23.8 mpg of mixed driving when the sticker says 25 mpg.

Handling is also good for a small crossover. It seems on par with the likes of the Mazda small crossover. If you choose the larger engine, I would also spend the extra for AWD as my FWD tester could have benefited with a little extra grip of all four wheels putting the power down. Even with the handling prowess, the ride was compliant on the varied street surfaces I encountered.

Noise is low on the highway as well, so it’s not tiring on longer trips. The view outside is good with good sightlines — except for the thicker A pillars between the front windshield and front doors.

Inside, the 2017 Escape is a pleasant place to be. Nice materials are used throughout the cabin. The tester was also equipped with the $1,595 SE leather comfort package that adds leather, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels nice. The front seats offer a pretty comfortable ride for longer trips with a lot of adjustments for the driver’s seat.

Rear seat space is generous for a small crossover with ample leg and headroom for just about anyone. The new Sync 3 works much better than the previous MyFord Touch. It’s easier to connect a phone and the touch screen responds much better. But for nearly $32,000, I was surprised the Escape didn’t have a push button start.

The 2017 Ford Escape SE is a small crossover with space and the get-up-and-go from an optional powerful engine that helps its stand out in the crowded marketplace. Now with updated looks and improved technology, the Escape SE is a fun-to-drive crossover with room for the family.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.