Though it looks truck-ish and Ford categorizes it among its truck-based SUVs, the Ford Escape is in fact a crossover — originally developed from the Mazda 626’s platform. This endowed the Escape with a number of positive attributes, including a tidy size, easy handling, a smooth ride, and better fuel economy than a truck-based SUV.
Ford introduced the Escape in 2000, as a 2001 model. By that point in the SUV boom of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, many manufacturers, in recognition of the fact SUV’s were being used as the contemporary equivalent of the station wagon, began to move the SUV closer and closer to the car in terms of they way they drove and the features with which they were equipped.
The primary factor driving this switch was the fact the vast majority of SUV buyers never took them off road. Thus, on-pavement behavior became more of an issue than offroad capability in the design briefs for most SUVs by the 2000 model year, and this made the market absolutely ripe for the Ford Escape.