DRIVEN: Jeff Vaughn reviews Ford's small-sized SUV, 2014 Escape

DETROIT (WXYZ) - It's easy to see why the Escape is one of Ford's best sellers. It's sporty, rugged and with the Titanium package the small-sized SUV packs a lot of luxury.

This 2014 Escape, Titanium package, provided to me by the Ford Motor Company, was equipped with a four cylinder, 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine offering superior acceleration, plenty of power and gas-sipping fuel economy. The model is EPA rated 21 city/28 highway.

I took my father, a retired Ford dealer service manager and current used Escape owner, for a spin in the newer version and he used words like "solid" and "peppy." He's right. The Escape is the smallest SUV Ford offers, but it drives like a much bigger and heavier Sport Utility. And the gas-sipping engine is spirited enough you forget it's a four-banger.     

The Escape is almost Jeep-like in its turning radius making the SUV agile on surface streets, but I found the suspension to be rather stiff.  

The exterior is handsome enough with plenty of head, leg and cargo room and the interior really impressed me with its user-friendly controls. 

Here's a list of my LIKES, LOVES and DISLIKES:

LOVE: The interior. I was surprised in the quality of interior upgrades the Titanium package offers. The cut and detail rivals any high-end luxury car in fit and feel. This SUV will fit in off road and at the country club.  

LOVE: The foot-activated lift gate. What an invention! Got a handful of groceries? No problem, just hover your foot under the rear bumper and up goes the rear hatch featuring hands free loading. During my week-long test drive I used this feature often, even when I wasn't carrying a load. Coming from a grimy mountain bike ride, I spared transferring my muddy hand prints onto the paint by using this feature.    

LOVE: Fog lamps that double as turning illuminators. I didn't notice this feature until I was driving in a dimly-lit neighborhood. Each turn of the steering wheel lights up the corner the driver is talking. This, like the foot-activated tailgate, was a nice surprise. Ford has really impressed me with their exterior lighting (take a look at the Pony Projector in my Ford Mustang review) and the interior red accent lighting is nice too.

LIKE: Driver visibility. I found the Escape offered wide views of the road and minimized blind spots. The Titanium SUV package comes with blind spot detection, a nice feature, but it's hardly needed with the tall, wide front and rear windows and slim, slanted pillars separating the side windows.

LIKE: The interior audio turntable control. The centrally located turntable allows the driver to easily manipulate audio choices while driving. The height and reach is at the perfect distance and level allowing me to change radio stations while keeping my eyes on the road.  I did not experience any of the widely reported problems with the MyFord Touch screen.  

DISLIKE: Stiff suspension. Maybe it's the Michigan roads, but I felt the SUV's ride was too jarring, and minus the plushness to make this a daily driver. Great for off-road, but not for the soccer moms and dads that will mostly buy this SUV.

The 2014 Ford Escape Titanium reviewed sells for $37, 350. A base model Escape goes for $22,700.

Click here for more on the Ford Escape.

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