Compact SUV; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,900 – $6,900*

2001 Ford Escape

2001 Ford Escape

2001 Ford Escape interior

2002 Ford Escape

2003 Ford Escape

  • Cargo room
  • Maneuverability
  • Visibility
  • Control layout (early automatic)
  • Noise

Substantial feeling, roomy, comfortable, and even fun to drive, Escape and Tribute earn a slot on the compact SUV all-star team. They’re also eminently sensible alternatives to any number of midsize SUVs, especially truck-based wagons, that are less efficient in their use of space and fuel. No wonder the Escape soon became America’s top-selling compact SUV. Stay away from troublesome 4-cylinder models.


Answering the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, Ford’s compact SUV went on sale in summer 2000 as another four-door unibodied wagon with front-wheel drive or permanent 4WD. However, the Escape offered a V6 as well as four-cylinder power. Honda and Toyota rivals came only with four-cylinder engines. So did the Subaru Forester, which used a horizontally-opposed four-cylinder.

An Escape was 4.6 inches shorter than the CR-V, but virtually equal in other dimensions. The Escape was developed jointly with Ford partner Mazda, which got its own version named the Tribute. Their new carlike platform was a Mazda design, but shared engines came from Ford. Escapes have more rugged styling than the Tribute, and were expected to account for 75 percent of the 135,000-unit annual output.

Escapes came in XLS and uplevel XLT models. The four-cylinder engine was borrowed from the subcompact Focus line, teaming only with a floor-shifted manual transmission. The optional V6 came from the midsize Taurus, mating only with a column-shifted four-speed automatic. Escape’s 4WD automatically sent up to 50 percent of power aft, when front wheel slippage was detected, but a 50/50 split could be locked in using a dashboard switch. No low-range gearing was included.

Antilock braking was standard on XLT models, and optional for the XLS. Front side airbags were optional on both.

Standard equipment included a rear liftgate with glass hatch and wiper, air conditioning, front bucket seats with console, and a CD player. A 60/40 split-fold rear seatback was standard on the XLT. Both versions used 15-inch wheels, but 16-inchers were optional for V6 XLT Escapes.

Yearly Updates

2002 Escape
Model designations were modified for 2002. Base XLS and uplevel XLT versions gained Value, Sport, Choice, and Premium sub-series. This year, XLS editions had a CD/cassette player, while XLTs got a 6-disc CD changer. A shortened automatic-transmission lever was installed later in the model year, to permit easier access to certain controls. A Ford “No Boundaries” roof rack, which could slide back and down to ease loading, also became available.
2003 Escape
A more luxurious Escape Limited joined the 2003 lineup, and instrument panels adopted a new satin-silver finish. Standard equipment on the new Limited included leather upholstery, rear-obstacle detection, and heated front seats and mirrors. Ford’s “No Boundaries” roof rack was exclusive to the Escape XLT Sport. This year’s lineup included Value, Sport, Popular, Premium, and Limited editions.
2004 Escape
Ford’s smallest SUV got only minor equipment changes in anticipation of a redesign for ’05.


transverse front-engine/front- or 4-wheel drive

In the Escape’s first season, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine was standard, offered only with five-speed manual shift. Ford’s 3.0-liter V6 was an option, available only with a four-speed automatic transmission. In subsequent years, XLS Value and Sport models got the four-cylinder and upper-level Escapes were V6-powered. Escapes came with either two-wheel or permanent four-wheel drive.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 127-130
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 135
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual


dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 200-201
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 196-200
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



EPA mileage with 4WD is 22/25 mpg for four-cylinder and 18/23 mpg for V6.

Road Test

Ford’s Escape and its Mazda Tribute counterpart are today’s most capable all-around compact SUVs, and the most refined. With V6 power, they’re also among the quickest compacts, capable of reaching 60 mph in under 9 seconds. Available V6 power and locked-in 50/50 4WD give them a power and traction advantage over the similarly sized but four-cylinder Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Those qualities, plus ample ground clearance and roominess, put them ahead of the Subaru Forester.

Most Escapes and Tributes have the V6, and are likely to have 4WD. The 4WD V6 models summon more power throughout the speed range than any of their four-cylinder rivals. Around-town acceleration, highway merging and two-lane passing are stress-free. An extended-test V6 model with AWD averaged 19.5 mpg with considerable highway driving, while others have managed 17.5 to 19.2 mpg.

Automatic transmissions shift smoothly and promptly, but feel somewhat indecisive on lengthy uphill grades. The 4WD system provides sufficient traction to climb steep, gravelly hillsides; but absence of low-range gearing, or even all-terrain tires, rules out serious off-roading.

Steering/handling beats most rivals, but these SUV’s certainly don’t approach sport sedans. Fast, tight turns can trigger front-end plowing. Still, their steering is exceptionally direct (with Tribute the firmer of the pair), and stability at highway speeds is terrific. Balance and grip are quite good in rapid cornering, with less body lean than other SUVs of similar build.

Suspensions on Escape and Tribute, while different in tuning, feel markedly taut. Models tested did not wallow or float over dips and swells, though some sharp bumps register abruptly. Braking is controlled and satisfactorily strong, though some drivers might find pronounced nosedive in panic stops. Noise levels are not objectionable, but wind roar is prominent at speed and the tires whine on coarse pavement.

An airy, comfortable cabin belies Escape/Tribute’s compact exterior dimensions. Taller riders will wish for more head room in sunroof-equipped models, but clearance is otherwise generous. The rear seat deserves special praise, with leg room exceeding that of most midsize SUVs, enhanced by outstanding foot room beneath the front seats. Doorways are wide, but step-in is higher than on most compact SUVs. Visibility is unimpeded to the sides and rear.

Gauges and controls are legible and well-placed, but the long automatic-transmission shift lever on early models can be awkward to operate and it interferes with the driver’s reach to the radio.

The climate system doesn’t allow independent control of air recirculation or air conditioning. The driver gets an elevated view of the road ahead, and unimpeded vision to the sides and rear.

Interior furnishings are slightly less upscale than those of the Tribute, but both cabins feel solidly assembled with durable materials. No other compact SUV has more usable cargo room. Rear seatbacks easily fold flat once the headrests are removed, and seat bottoms tilt forward. The standard separate-opening rear glass is an added convenience.


Model Tested: 2001 Ford Escape XLT 4WD

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 7

Total: 54


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.1 173.0 70.1 69.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
63.3 15.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.4 39.2 41.6 36.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Door handles
Description: If the door handle is pulled while trying to unlock the door with the keyless entry, the doors will not open. New door latches should be installed. (2001-02)
Heater core
Description: Heater cores have reportedly suffered recurring failures and the most likely cause is electrolysis (the cooling system creates a current much like a battery) requiring a coolant flush and fill and possibly additional ground connections to the engine. (2001-02)
Poor transmission shift
Description: Harsh or late upshifts may occur after transmission repairs due to a problem with the turbine-shaft speed sensor. (2001-02)
Steering problems
Description: In areas where the temperature drops below zero (F), the power steering return hose may leak and a revised hose is available for retrofit. (2001-02)

Recall History

2001 Escape 2WD w/o antilock brakes
Description: Improper rear hubs may cause rear wheels to separate from vehicle. Dealers will inspect and replace if necessary.
2001 Escape
Description: O-ring seats in the fuel line might be damaged, causing an odor or fire. Dealers will inspect and replace affected fuel lines.
2001 Escape
Description: Windshield-wiper linkage can disengage, resulting in possible loss of wiper function. Dealers will inspect and replaced affected wiper linkages.
2001 Escape w/cruise control
Description: The speed-control cable can have a cracked or missing servo cap. Over time, corrosion could interfere with the function of the speed control. Dealers will inspect and replace affected caps.
2001 Escape
Description: Incorrect steering-wheel nut can lead to steering wheel separating from steering column. Dealers will inspect and replace affected steering-wheel assemblies.
2001 Escape
Description: The safety belt latch may malfunction, and release with very little pressure, resulting in its lack of utility in a crash.
2001-03 Escape
Description: On 3.0L engines, the engine could stall at speeds below 40 mph due to a fuel-air mixture error. Dealers will reprogram the Powertrain Control Module.
2001-04 Escape w/ABS
Description: The ABS module connector may have missing or dislodged wire seals. This condition could allow contamination to enter the module connector, creating a potential for an electrical short. Dealers will inspect the wire harness connector to the ABS module for missing or dislodged wire seals.
2001-05 Escape
Description: Certain liftgates serviced with 2004-equivalent components fail to comply with requirements; if liftgate is left unlocked, it could open during a crash.
2001-2002 Escape
Description: Brake master cylinder reserve cap could leak fluid, potentially corroding the ABS module wiring harness connector and leading to melting, smoke, or a fire.
2001-2004 Escape with 3.0L V6
Description: Throttle could stick when gas pedal is fully or near-fully depressed, resulting in very high speeds and difficulty or impossibility braking.
2002 Escape w/3.0-liter V6
Description: Accelerator cable may prevent throttle from returning to idle position, resulting in unexpected increase in idle speed that may lengthen stopping distance.
2003 Escape w/3.0-liter V6
Description: Engine can stall during deceleration.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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