Test drive: The 2021 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid is a shockingly good deal

The Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid combines a four-cylinder engine with electric drive. It can operate as a fully-electric vehicle for up to 37 miles per charge, or as a hybrid rated at 40 mpg the rest of the time.

The Escape Plug-In Hybrid can be charged on a home outlet or at at 240v charging station

The Escape Plug-In Hybrid can be charged on a home outlet or at at 240v charging station (Ford)

The driver can choose when it does what. Either letting it use up the charge before switching to hybrid mode, or saving the charge for when they want to do some zero emissions driving. Another setting allows you to recharge the battery while you’re driving with the engine running, in case you’re running late and need to sneak into the driveway when you get home, I guess.

The Escape competes in the compact SUV class.

The Escape competes in the compact SUV class. (Ford)

The $ 34,340 Escape Plug-in Hybrid qualifies for a $ 6,840 federal tax credit, thanks to its 14.4 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which actually makes it cheaper to buy than the $ 29,740 standard Escape Hybrid … for now. Ford has nearly sold enough plug-in vehicles to run out of credits, so its eligibility will start to sunset soon if the program isn’t extended. The model’s originally planned launch in 2020 was delayed to 2021 du to the coronavirus pandemic, and the 2022 models haven’t hit showrooms yet, which is why my tester is from last year.

A pop-up head-up display is avaialble.

A pop-up head-up display is avaialble. (Ford)

Aside from the powertrain, it’s otherwise largely identical to the rest of the Escape lineup, but only available in front-wheel-drive. The cabin is smaller and not as stylish as those in its closest competitors, the Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid and Toyota Prius Prime, but it’s comfortable and very quiet. The later quality particularly important for a vehicle that can operate in silent electric drive.

The electric motor is only rated at 88 kilowatts, however, which is the equivalent of 118 horsepower. That’s a lot less than the hybrid mode’s 221 hp, but the Escape gets around fine as an EV. I had no trouble climbing mountain roads or reaching highway speeds of 75 mph, and you can fire up the engine anytime you need a boost by pressing a button on the steering wheel.

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Even with one, Escape delivers a driving experience that no one would call engaging or sporty, but has a cushy ride and makes a great daily commuter. It can also be equipped with all the latest electronic driver aids, including a pop-up head-up display and Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 package, which includes automatic emergency brakes, adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist.

The Escape Plug-In Hybrid can also steer itself into a parallel or perpendicular parking space, and will need to stay in one of those for a while to recharge. Filling the battery requires an overnight session on a standard power outlet and about 3.5 hours plugged-in to a 240v charging station. It’s not compatible with a DC Fast charger, because there’s really no need to use one, given the vehicle’s extended-range capability.

As with pretty much any plug-in hybrid, the Escape is best suited for owners with short daily commutes who live in homes they can charge it at, but also want the flexibility to take a long trip now and then without needing to plan ahead, as you do with an electric car. Given the price compared to the regular hybrid, it’s a shocking good deal.

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2021 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid

Base price:$ 34,340

As tested: $ 43,025

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door, front-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder with electric motor assist

Transmission: CVT Automatic

Power: 221 hp

MPG: 40 mpg combined

Electric range: 37 miles

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