Available early 2023. Preproduction model shown. ST-Line Elite in Rapid Red (extra cost paint). Optional equipment shown.

By Veeno Dewan.

For 2023 there is a real focus on technology and safety in the Ford line, and the compact- sized Escape CUV range is no exception. This year’s model has some major updates including revised  trim levels and a new ST-Line model. The new lineup consists of the Active (previously called the S), ST-Line, and Platinum (replacing the Titanium). All versions except the Active model are available as hybrids and as plug-in hybrid variants.

The 2023 changes include a mini spare tire, an eight-inch digital instrument panel screen upgrade, and as standard LED reflector headlamps. On the safety front the excellent Ford Co-Pilot360 safety suite which includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, emergency front braking and automatic high-beam headlamps, is now standard fare.

The 2023 Ford Escape offers a few powertrains. The base engine is a turbocharged 1.5L EcoBoost three-cylinder with  180 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. The   ST-Line arrives with a turbocharged 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine producing 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Both engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission. The PHEV uses the same engine and hybrid system to make  a total of 210 horsepower combined and a useful everyday EV driving range of 60 kilometres on a fully charged battery.

The Active and ST-Line trim lines are front-wheel drive but can be optioned to all-wheel drive  The ST-Line Select, Platinum, and ST-Line Elite are AWD only, while the PHEV is strictly FWD.

Models are available with as standard or optional  features depending on buyer preferences. Dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, panoramic sunroof, wireless phone connectivity, premium Bang & Olufsen 10 speaker sound systems and a lot more are on offer. The 2023 Ford Escape line starts from  $32,849  to $43,379. The ST-Line starts at $40,349, while the ST-Line Elite is  $47,379 and are also available as hybrid versions. The PHEV comes in a single trim level at $47,499. We tested the ST Elite Hybrid model priced at $55,474 including options , destination and delivery.

The ST version as tested arrives with mainly cosmetic upgrades and the tested model had a snazzy black mesh grille, new LED headlights with reflectors, and an appealing looking  new fullwidth light bar feature   like the  F-150 Lightning. The hood is also slightly revised.

Interior wise, the ST-Line trim has a racier looking cabin with contrast colors and stitching details. There is a  flat-bottom sports steering wheel with contrast   stitching, and carbon fibre accents. Plush leather seats with upscale perforated quilting fare also available for a rather premium looking cabin.

The interior also feels quite spacious in both the front and rear, plus the  optional panoramic sunroof makes for an airy cabin. Seats, legroom, and head room are all decent enough. The cabin has plenty of flexible cargo space with 896-litres. The useful front and rear sliding back seat offers  974L when moved fully forward. Folding the seats flat opens up even more space.

Safety is high, and the Escape arrives with features including forward collision mitigation with auto braking and blind spot monitoring, the now as standard Co-Pilot360 Assist is impressive, adding adaptive cruise control with lane centering and an upgraded  navigation system to the infotainment feature that now the latest generation Ford Sync4 version.

On the road, the Ford Escape impresses with a good turn of speed and retains its composure even through quick corners. Handling is also very agile and there is a comfortable  smooth ride for occupants. The Ford is  noticeably from inside the cabin. A supple ride and a tight turning circle make the Escape an easy to drive vehicle in urban areas. The hybrid drivetrain proves impeccable in terms of transitions and overall driving. Feel. Driving modes include Eco, Normal and Sport along with Snow/Sand Assist and Slippery driving modes for adverse conditions. Normal is the default setting that suffices for everyday driving. Put the Escape into Sport mode and things become more dynamic with a  tightened throttle and steering feel. The  all-wheel drive system disconnects the rear wheels under most driving conditions for fuel economy and pairs up the drive shafts when traction is needed.

To sum up, not a lot to complain about. Some of the feature controls could be actual hard buttons or knobs rather than touchscreen and better placed. Fuel economy for the hybrid id rated at  L/100km:  City 5.6/Highway 6.5/ Combined – 6.0 L/100km.

The Escape is a great daily fuel- efficient ride. It offers a versatile layout for families, is comfortable, and well featured. The new ST  Line model defines the Escape and elevates it to a more premium offering. Very impressive and highly recommended.

2023 Ford Escape Hybrid  ST Line priced from:  $47,379. More info at www.ford.ca