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Escape Remake: 2013 Crossover Still has Utility and Capacity but With More Refinement and Style

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The 2013 Ford Escape is a stylish and aerodynamic remake of what has long been a little workhorse SUV.

It has always been an honest and dutiful small sport-utility vehicle that did capably what was expected of it. Even the hybrid model got the expected EPA fuel-economy ratings and the later evolutions of Escape were refined and enjoyable to drive.

No longer trucky or boxy, the sleek lines of the new model incorporate aerodynamic elements to eke out fuel economy without compromise to capacity. There are nearly 40 inches of front headroom, more than three feet of second-row legroom and cargo capacity for a modern family's major shopping trips.

Escape is sold in four trim levels with three four-cylinder engine choices in front- or four-wheel drive with one six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing for the entry model with 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine starts at $23,295, including $825 freight charge from Louisville, Ky.

There is no hybrid model offered, which, instead, is available in Ford's C-Max, a five-door hatchback similar in size to a Toyota Prius V.

The popular seller will be the SE model ($25,895) with standard 178-horsepower, direct-injection, Ecoboost (turbocharged) 1.6-liter four-cylinder. It's rated for 23/33 mpg city/highway and while the engine runs well on regular unleaded, premium gives the peak horsepower and efficiency. That's a small thing to ask for the zip it provides.

The top-line Titanium ($31,195 or $32,945 4WD) with the 240-horsepower, Ecoboost 2.0 liter would be the V-6 substitute for those who like power or need it for towing. It will pull 3,500 pounds versus a one-ton tow capacity for the SE, which would include jet skis, quads, a small boat, etc.

The SE tester was quick off the line and held power to merge with interstate traffic. It is much better soundproofed than its predecessor with tight handling and comfortable road manners. Yank the wheel in an evasive maneuver and the Escape tucks in without roll or wobble. Get hard on the four-wheel discs and stopping is without nose dive or wiggle.

The cab-forward design creates a large dashboard and the windshield surround is rounded off at the base of pillars, which gives the visual impression of sitting inboard from the sightline over the corners of the hood. Over the shoulder views are somewhat complex at the rear corner but not an issue with the rearview camera.

The step-in height is easy and still gives a good, tall view down the road.

Sliding visors are a nice touch to prevent that slice of pesky sun that gets past the dot matrix sunscreen behind the rearview mirror.

There is durable quality to the fabric headliner and visors. Plastics, too, have good textures and colors. The driver area is smartly arranged and there are multiple ports for digital music and 12-volt charging plugs.

The MyFordTouch system connected with my old Android phone in less than 30 seconds, a speed record in my experience.

And the voice-recognition is perceptive to commands - for setting navigation destinations, making music changes or setting fan speed. It actually worked without me shouting or speaking with exaggerated enunciation.

There is a hands-free power liftgate that will open with a wave of your foot under the bumper sensor. Its convenience will grow on the user. There's also Active Park Assist to let the Escape park itself. And it will do it faster than most humans. Learning to trust it will be the first lesson.

The second row has a nearly flat floor and 36.8 inches of legroom. The seatback reclines a few inches and a center armrest is nicely padded with cup holders. A grab handle above each door helps loading all sizes of people.

The Escape is carlike in its drivability but still the little family workhorse it always has been.

2013 Ford Escape

—Body style: compact, 5-passenger crossover in front- or 4-wheel drive

—Engine: aluminum, 178-horsepower, direct-injection, turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder; 184 foot-pounds torque at 2,500 rpm

—Transmission: 6 spd. automatic

—Estimated fuel mileage: 23/33 mpg city/hwy; premium preferred

—Fuel tank: 15.1 gallon

—Wheelbase/length: 105.9/178.1 inches

—Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds

—Front head/leg/shoulder room: 39.9/43.1/56 inches

—Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 39/36.8/55.3 inches

—Curb weight: 3,502 pounds

—Cargo capacity: 34.3 to 68.1 cubic feet

—Turning circle: 38.8 feet

—Standard equipment: remote locking, AC, 17-inch alloy wheels, blind-spot mirrors, halogen headlights, fog lights, 60/40 split folding back seat, floor mats, rear cargo cover

—Safety equipment: Eight air bags, stability and traction controls, roll stability control

—Base price: $25,895, including $825 freight charge; price as tested $28,300 (including $45 package discount)

—Options on test car: Equipment group 201A, $440, including SE cargo management system, black roof rails and cross bars, tonneau cover, perimeter alarm; Ruby Red metallic paint, $395; MyFordTouch with satellite radio and navigation system

—Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain; 5-years/60,000-miles roadside assistance

—Where assembled: Louisville, Ky.

—Competition: Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4

Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at mark.maynard@utsandiego.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage. To find out more about Mark Maynard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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