The new 2020 Ford Escape SE Sport Hybrid offers plenty of performance along with all of the usability one expects from an SUV.

The compact sport-utility market is more competitive than ever, and Ford Motor Co. introduced its latest iteration of the Escape for 2020 and immediately became a top competitor — especially the automaker’s hybrid model.

I spent a week behind the wheel of the 2020 Ford Escape hybrid and found a bunch to be pleasantly surprised with, starting with the 2.5-liter inline-four combined with an electric motor that puts out a nearly-immediately available 200 horsepower.

It is mated to a continuously variable transmission, or as they describe the IVCT, and those often come with some issues, but in the case of the new Escape hybrid, I felt like it performed fairly well. As mentioned, power was nearly instant and plentiful throughout the lower end of the power band. It dissipates a bit as you hit say, highway merging speeds, but it offers more than enough giddyap for that too, but it’s just a different feeling is all.

(Ford preparing off-road version of its all-new Escape SUV.)

Despite it being a nicely shaped rectangle on wheels, I felt like the Escape hybrid was pretty nimble. A few passes on a twisty road near my home allowed for a bit of a test and I’d say it passed with room to spare. It’s not a high-performance vehicle, but body roll was kept to a minimum and it was able to handle curves at speeds higher than I expected, which is really about the most one should expect from a small ute.

I can say all of this “putting it through its paces” may have impacted my mileage as it came in at a surprising 29 mpg combined during my time in it. I expected it would be a bit higher since it’s supposed to hit 41 mpg combined.

The Escape did have one failing, and I should probably amend that to read THIS Escape had one failing. Whenever I placed it in reverse, I heard a strange hum. Checking with others who have driven this vehicle, they did not share this experience so I’m going to chalk it up to just this test vehicle: a strange humming noise in the back.

Considering the amount of technology in the new Escape, a small hum after a few dozen automotive journalists have spent weeks trying to see if it’s more go-kart than tank probably speaks to its durability than lack thereof. However, checking to see where this hum was coming from — it seemed to come from the rear of the vehicle — led me to discover that this model didn’t seem to come with a spare tire — full-size or donut.

When I lifted the cover, the space was empty, save a can of fix-a-flat. Again, not certain if that’s because the spare needed to be replaced and the company simply hadn’t gotten around to it yet or if it’s “one of those” vehicles that seems to think a can of foamy goop will solve every problem.

However, it did also lead me to notice that that there was more space in the cargo area than I expected, and it can be accessed by the push of a button on the key fob or inside the vehicle. To be fair, my brain knew the 2020 Escape was supposed to offer more cargo space, but when you see it in the driveway, it simply doesn’t register.

(Ford unveils 2020 Escape.)

In fact, after I stopped scratching my chin in wonder, I recalled that while I was the launch event for the new Escape, the company bragged that engineers had figured out how to put four golf bags in the cargo area without having to fold the rear seats down. This of course make sense because if you need to fold down the rear seats, you probably don’t need to haul more than two sets of golf clubs.

But overall, the new Escape offered plenty of interior space both for cargo and its passengers. To be fair, I’m not a small man – and I don’t mean that I’m tall – and I felt perfectly comfortable in the front and rear seats. The heated seats performed well and are a must have in a climate like Michigan.

Part of the reason the new Escape felt so roomy was the panoramic roof that allows so much light into the cabin. Looking through the roof does allow you to almost miss the exterior of the new Escape. In the past, they’ve been pleasant little boxes on four wheels. However, designers were clearly looking to a slight more sophisticated — not complicated – look and I’d say they achieved it. It’s not an exterior design that makes you say wow, but more of something that makes you nod appreciatively, like classic furniture or architecture.

The “wow” is left for the vehicle’s electronics. Ford bills the new Escape as its smartest-ever small SUV. It features a range of impressive new technologies, like Ford Co-Pilot360 driver-assist technology. The driver-assist measures can take some getting used to. In fact, the first night I drove the Escape, it decided I was getting a little too close to the shoulder and moved me back into my lane. It was quick, but not violent. In fact, it was soft enough that I thought I’d done it myself — until I tried it again on purpose.

My current daily driver doesn’t have that kind of tech so it was a bit unnerving. However, Ford does make all of its technology easy to track through an available heads-up display and a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster. Having all that helpful support and technology isn’t any good unless you can quickly determine what it is and why it’s working. Some of the driver assistance tech includes Active Park Assist 2.0 and Evasive Steering Assist.

Additionally, the driver can pick from several driving modes, including normal, eco, sport and slippery, plus snow and sand conditions. My time in the vehicle didn’t really offer me any chance to put any of these modes through their paces, but it’s good to know if I’m ever forced to drive down a beach and then up into a snowy mountain pass on the same day, I’ll be ready.

(Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring set to be brand’s second PHEV.)

In all, I was pleased with the new Escape. In fact, it got me thinking it could be a contender for a future purchase. Currently I drive a midsize sedan with enough new tech to make me happy, but in a couple of years, I’ll probably be looking to make a change and I hadn’t really considered a small SUV as a possibility. If I – or you – decide the new Escape SE Sport Hybrid is the choice, it’s good to know it’ll come in at about $34,000 so I can start saving my pennies now.

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