2013-2019 Ford Escape: engines, fuel economy, 4WD system, pros and cons, problems

June 02, 2019
2013 Ford Escape
2013 Ford Escape
2018 Ford Escape
2018 Ford Escape SEL, after the facelift

The third-generation Ford Escape (code name C520) is a sporty 5-seater compact SUV. Driven by stricter fuel economy and emissions regulations, car makers are turning to smaller high-tech engines. The North American Ford Escape is available with three different 4-cylinder engines and comes with front- or all-wheel drive. A V6 is no longer offered. The only transmission choice is a 6-speed automatic.

The Escape combines a comfortable ride with competent handling. The interior is stylish and nicely finished, see photos below. The optional 2.0L EcoBoost turbo is one of the most powerful 4-cylinder engines on the market.

For 2017, the Escape got a facelift with a larger front grille (lower photo), a few interior upgrades and several new features, including Auto Start-Stop. The NHTSA overall crash test rating improved from four to five stars out of five.

The hands-free power liftgate in the Titanium trim is probably the most talked about feature. See how it works in this Ford video.
Is the Escape reliable? What are the reported problems? Which engine is better? Read below to find out.

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Engines: The base FWD Escape models come with an updated naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) 168-hp 4-cylinder 2.5L Duratec (iVCT I-4, the 8-th digit of the VIN number is "7"). It's a simple workhorse with a conventional multi-port fuel injection. This engine has been used in many Ford and Mazda products for years.

2013 Ford Escape 2.0L EcoBoost engine
2013 Ford Escape 2.0L EcoBoost engine

The 178-hp 1.6L EcoBoost ("X" on the 8-th digit of the VIN) is an advanced gasoline turbocharged direct-injected (GTDI) motor. It comes standard on the popular SE trim level. As is often the case with smaller turbo engines, it has seen its share of problems in the early model years. For 2017, it has been replaced with the 1.5L EcoBoost turbo 4-cylinder engine (The 8-th digit of the VIN: "D"). See the photo.

The optional 2.0L-turbo EcoBoost (8-th position of the VIN number is "9") offers 240 horsepower (245 hp from 2017) and 3,500 lbs towing capacity (when equipped with the Tow Package). It's also a gasoline turbocharged direct-injected (GTDI) 4-cylinder engine. Overall, it's a strong motor, but it needs to be maintained well to last and some repairs at higher mileage can be costly. Read also: Pros and cons of buying a car with Direct Injection.

How can I make my EcoBoost engine last longer? To keep your EcoBoost engine in good shape, use high-quality oil, preferably premium synthetic that falls within Ford requirements, and change it more often. There are two intervals in the maintenance schedule: one for 'normal' and one for 'severe' driving conditions; use the latter. A few extra oil changes are always cheaper than engine repairs. It will also help if you replace the engine air filter more frequently; it's not very expensive. Using Top Tier gasoline can prevent some of the problems with direct fuel injection.

Turbocharged engines don't like overheating. Have the coolant level topped up at every oil change and ask to check for any visible leaks. The worst combination for a small turbo engine is driving uphill (or towing) in hot weather with a full load on low-octane gasoline. This is what the owner's manual for the 2019 Ford Escape says on page 142:

For best overall vehicle and engine performance, premium fuel with an octane rating of 91 or higher is recommended. The performance gained by using premium fuel is most noticeable in hot weather as well as other conditions, for example when towing a trailer.

Timing belt or chain: The 2.0L EcoBoost and 2.5L Duratec engines have a timing chain. The 1.6L and the 1.5L EcoBoost have a timing belt. According to the owner's manual for the U.S. 2018 Escape, the recommended timing belt replacement interval for the 1.5L EcoBoost engine is 150,000 miles, which is unusually long. In most other cars a timing belt is replaced every 100K miles or sooner.

Where to download the owner's manual for Ford Escape? You can download the pdf version of the owner's manual from the Ford Owners website.

Fuel Economy: The 2013-2016 Escape with the 1.6L EcoBoost engine is rated at 22/29 mpg city/highway, giving it a range of up to 378 miles (608 km) on one tank of gas. See ratings of other models in the table.

Ford Escape EPA fuel economy: mpg
city/hwy
L/100 km
city/hwy
2013 Escape 1.6L turbo FWD 23/31 10.2/7.6
2014-2016 Escape 1.6L turbo FWD 23/32 10.2/7.4
2017-2019 Escape 1.5L turbo FWD 23/30 10.2/7.8
2013-2016 Escape 2.5L FWD 22/30 10.7/7.8
2013-2016 Escape 1.6L turbo AWD 22/29 10.7/8.1
2013-2015, 2017, 2019 Escape 2.0L turbo FWD 22/29 10.7/8.1
2015 Escape 2.5L FWD 21/30 11.2/7.8
2017-2019 Escape 1.5L turbo AWD 22/28 10.7/8.4
2017-2019 Escape 2.5L FWD 21/29 11.2/8.1
2015-2016 Escape 2.0L turbo FWD 21/29 11.2/8.1
2013-2016, 2018 Escape 2.0L turbo AWD 21/28 11.2/8.4
2019 Escape 2.0L turbo AWD 21/27 11.2/8.7
2017-2018 Escape 2.0L turbo AWD 20/27 11.8/8.7

Ford Escape 4WD system: The Escape AWD system is similar to what many modern compact SUVs have. It's a simple, light-weight on-road system, where the front wheels are always powered and the amount of torque sent to the rear wheels varies according to the road conditions.

Owner reviews: Owner reviews are split: some owners are happy with their Escape, complimenting the solid feel, handling, easy access and power of the 2.0L engine. Others advise staying away, mentioning the number of recalls (2013, 2014) and various problems, mostly with the 1.6L engine, transmission and electrical.

Pros: Sporty looks, solid feel, easy access, competent handling, modern, upscale interior, strong 2.0L EcoBoost engine.

Cons: problems in early models, lack of storage places in the front, 1.6L engine feels a bit underpowered.

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Ford Escape problems: As of May 2019, we found 626 complaints for the 2013 Escape engine on the NHTSA website. The majority of complaints are related to the 1.6L engine stalling and overheating. Ford issued the recall 13S12 to address the issue. Read more in this Consumer Reports article. Given that many 1.6L engine problems are caused by overheating, it's important to keep the engine coolant at the proper level and having the vehicle checked out if the overheating warning pops up or if there are any signs of leaking coolant. Some Escape owners reported that the 1.6L engine overheats even after the recall, see this thread at the FordEscape.org forum.
The recall 14S17 addressed the problem with the wiring harness in the 2.0L GTDI engine of the 2013-2014 Escape that can cause various driveability problems including stalling. Check for recalls at the NHTSA website.

Ford Escape interior Ford Escape interior Ford Escape interior

The code P0234 in the 2.0L engine can be caused by a sticking control valve solenoid, cracked vacuum line or a bad turbocharger bypass valve. The solenoid and a vacuum line are not very expensive to replace.
The Ford service bulletin 15-0162 for the 2013-2016 Escape with the 1.6L engine mentions the problem with the codes P0234, P0245, P0246 and/or P0299. The bulletin recommends inspecting the charge air cooler tubes and vacuum lines and if they are OK, replacing the turbocharger wastegate regulating valve solenoid (located near the turbocharger).
According to TSB 15-0096, a fuel odor in the 2.0L EcoBoost engine might be originated from the PCV (crankcase ventilation) hose. If the hose fails the inspection, it will have to be replaced.
A coolant bypass solenoid is common to fail and cause the code P26b7. It's a fairly simple repair. We found several Youtube videos on this problem.
A stuck-open EVAP purge valve can cause difficulty starting after a fill-up. The purge valve is not very expensive, but it takes some work to replace.
Read about repair options for Check Engine light problems
Rear shock absorbers can fail, causing a rattling noise from the back when driving over bumps. Replacing both rear shocks will cost from $170 to $280.
The service bulletin SSM 46965 for the 2013-2018 Escape describes a problem with an AWD system where after extended driving, the vehicle may exhibit a clunk, shuddering or chattering from the rear axle when turning at slow speed. It feels like the rear axle is binding when turning tight corners. According to the bulletin, the solution is to replace the rear drive unit (RDU) viscous coupler clutch with a service kit. We found the service kit (part) is priced from $260 to $290 online without delivery.
A leaking driver-side front axle seal in the 2013-2014 Escape can cause loss of transmission fluid. According to the bulletin 16-0043, the bushing and the seal will have to be replaced ($250-$370 repair if out of warranty). The halfshaft might need to be replaced too if worn out, which will cost extra for the part.
Quite a few owners mention various electrical and Sync problems. Some owners reported that the dealer did a hard reset by disconnecting the battery to repair some of the issues.
EcoBoost is a direct-injected turbocharged engine. As in all direct-injected engines, the carbon buildup on the intake valves can cause misfiring, hesitation and other driveability issues at higher mileage. We found a few Youtube videos explaining this problem and possible solutions.

Overall: At the time we worked on this review, the NHTSA website showed 15 recalls for the 2013 Escape, 13 recalls for the 2014 Escape and only 4 recalls for the 2015 model. As of November 2019, Consumer Reports rated the 2013 and 2014 Escape 'below average' for reliability, while the 2015, 2016 and 2018 Escape were rated 'above average'. The 1.6L EcoBoost in the 2013 and 2014 Escape has drawn more complaints than other engines. That said, the 2013 1.6L Escape we test-drove didn't have any problems and was fun to drive. We spoke to two Escape owners and both praised the driving experience and the overall quality of the vehicle. We also found several 1.6L Escape models for sale with over 200K miles. Still, the 2.0L EcoBoost is a better option. Of course, the front-wheel drive Escape with the simple 2.5L non-turbo engine is the most reliable and easier to maintain trim level. Among similar vehicles, we recommend Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5. By Samarins.com Staff