Second, Interior/Design: <br>2005 Ford Escape Hybrid2. INTERIOR/DESIGN: ESCAPELike the Los Angeles Lakers without Shaq, the Ford Escape Hybrid was missing that one critical piece to puzzle when the whistle blew and the game began: quality, at least when compared to the Prius and the Accord Hybrid.
Wow. Looks like the so-called experts had it wrong -- an SUV isn’t a shoe-in when it comes to interior comfort and convenience, not when you factor in the quality of its construction. Like the Los Angeles Lakers without Shaq, the Ford Escape Hybrid was missing that one critical piece to puzzle when the whistle blew and the game began: quality, at least when compared to the Prius and the Accord Hybrid. Exposed screws, ill-fitting construction, and a general lack of refinement plague the Ford Escape Hybrid. It was also the least comfortable of the three, with front seat bottoms that were too short and too hard, hard plastic armrests on the doors, and tight accommodations for rear seat passengers. There seems to be more people room in the back of the Prius. Worse, cargo room looks to be slightly less than the regular Escape –- perhaps the battery on the back cargo floor, or the vented rear windows contribute to the difference. As far as design is concerned, the Escape is virtually identical to the regular Escape, except for a cool leafy insignia and those rear window vents. There is excellent command seating, and driver controls are easy to use. Putting cargo into the Escape Hybrid is also easy, thanks to a liftover height on an equal plane with carried items, a cube-shaped cargo area, and a rear door that’s easy to close and open. And despite the Escape Hybrid's greater ground clearance, getting in and out is easy on the legs and back. On the road, the whirring and wheezing of the hybrid powertrain was noticeable, but not annoying. Hard acceleration, however, elicits a screaming whine sure to be heard by all drivers.
With a little more practice at building good interiors, with a little more investment in quality materials, with a little more innovation in the area where people put their fannies as well as the innovation under the hood, Ford and its Escape Hybrid would have easily won this category. The Escape has a reputation, after all, as a capable SUV that meets the needs of thousands of drivers. The point revealed in this test is, perhaps, two-fold. First, you can’t underestimate the interior experience, and second –- hybrid or not –- people really ought to look at hatchbacks as a credible replacement to gas-guzzling SUVs.