On the outside, the 2018 Ford Escape delivers a capable and confident stance that can be sometimes city and sometimes rugged – which is a welcome change from many other milk toast options in the class.

Start/Stop Tech

Maybe more interesting than the optics on the outside are the technical offerings on the inside. The 2018 Escape is the first Ford vehicle to make Auto Start/Stop technology standard with either of two EcoBoost engines, 1.5-liter EcoBoost and 2.0-L turbocharged EcoBoost, as well as the Base models that are powered by a 2.5-L i-VCT 4-cylinder engine.

For those who have not experienced the Auto Start/Stop technology, this allows the engine to shut down during stops, so the vehicle emits zero emissions and burns no fuel. Inherently, this saves you money at the gas pump and helps Mother Earth stave off CO2 impacts on the climate.

Top Seller

As one of Ford’s most popular vehicles (F-150 rules the roost) and as the leader in one of the most competitive segments in the industry, where it contends with dozens of other compact crossover models, the Escape carves out a leadership role by offering a great base price, outstanding drivability and a reasonable ‘fun factor.’

Escape is offered as an S, SE, and Titanium trim, as well as an all-new SEL trim. The front-wheel-drive 5-passenger Escape starts at $23,850 for the entry-level S model and climbs to $32,045 for the luscious Titanium model.

Performance

Three four-cylinder engine choices are available, all are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift semi-automatic shifting for additional performance and control. Look for a 2.5-liter powering both the S and SE making 168 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque and the 1.5-liter four-cylinder that boasts 179 hp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque is standard on the SEL. My Titanium tester was equipped with the 2.0-L twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder that delivered a raucous (and fun) 245 hp and 275 lb.-ft. of torque.

The turbocharged Escapes feature active upper-grille shutters to streamline airflow at highway speeds. Standard on the other two four-cylinder engines is the aforementioned fuel-saving auto start/stop technology.

Auto Start/Stop technology impresses with fuel economy ranges from 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway in the front-wheel-drive S model, 23/30 in the FWD SE and SEL, to 20/27 for the AWD Titanium.

All-wheel drive, available on SE, SEL, and Titanium trims, ensures power is distributed as needed for maximum traction under a variety of road conditions, and also allows light off-roading.

Comfortable Surroundings

A nice blend of premium materials makes the Escape a pleasant ride at any level. Storage capacity is impressive with split-folding rear seats that allow 34 cubic-feet of cargo with the rear seats up – and 68 cu.-ft. with the seats folded flat. The Escape has a towing capability of up to 3,500 pounds.

This cute crossover has an impressive suite of standard safety features; available driver-assist technologies include adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, lane-keeping, and an enhanced active park assist system. Of note is a driver alert system that uses data from the lane-keeping system to detect signs of fatigued driving and provide a warning on the instrument cluster.

Overall, there is a good reason the Ford Escape is so popular. It easily appeals to normal commuters, families and some young active adults who need lots of flexibility. If you are shopping in this class, you cannot afford to not take a look at Escape.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication