Is spending an extra $8,000 for a premium compact crossover worth it?
One of the questions I’ve long been debating is whether buying a more expensive, premium car is worth it. Over the past few decades, even “regular” cars have become more upscale—especially if you order the top-line trim, making it hard to stomach the often near $50,000 price tag that luxury brands want for their entry-level models.
To put this question to the test, I recently spent some time in a new Ford Escape top-line Titanium trim, as well as a BMW X1 xDrive28i. Both are compact SUVs with similar dimensions, both feature 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines paired with eight-speed automatic transmissions and all-wheel drive, and both come with lots of the cool techy features that all the kids want these days. Fully loaded, the Escape Titanium will set you back about $40k, while the well-optioned BMW costs $48,000.
Is the extra eight thousand dollars worth it? Let’s find out.
2020 Ford Escape Titanium AWD: Trying hard to be a premium, small crossover, but missing the mark
The new for 2020 Ford Escape is by no means a bad car, but in this very competitive segment, it’s a mixed bag at best. On the one hand, this compact crossover offers attractive styling, functional practicality, and a lot of features for the money. But despite a punchy turbocharged engine, it doesn’t feel at all sporty behind the wheel, and the otherwise decent interior is sabotaged by way too much cheap plastic.
Although Ford isn’t claiming the Escape as a high-performance vehicle, it was disappointing to find out how unwilling it is to even try and have some fun. The 250 horsepower engine is literally quite good, with a willingness to rev that you often don’t find in these little turbo motors. Still, the chassis and suspension are woefully unprepared for the amount of speed that the engine can create. I attempted to hustle the Escape down a local twisty back road and simply gave up trying after a few miles. Driving enthusiasts should definitely shop for something else.
To be fair, the Escape does offer a pleasant ride and the kind of practicality that has helped make compact crossovers so popular with everyday driving. The interior room is good for the segment, and the seats are nice and comfy.
The Titanium trim comes with a host of cool features, such as adaptive cruise control, active park assist, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and a killer B&O sound system. The Sync3 infotainment system also works quite well, and Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assist technologies is there to help keep you safe.
Unfortunately, all of this cool tech won’t be able to distract you from how Ford cheaped out on the quality of interior materials. I can remember rental cars from the nineties that didn’t have as much hard plastic and generally chintzy feeling materials. Given that much smaller manufacturers like Mazda have figured out how to work a fabulous interior into a sub-$40k car, it’s inexcusable for Ford to be selling something this expensive that feels cheap.
2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i: Fun to drive, but a bit pricey for what you get
Unlike some other BMWs I’ve driven recently, the X1 veritably lives up to the promise of being a high-performance vehicle. Although not exactly the ultimate driving machine, this little crossover is very much willing to play. It’s when you’re not trying to have fun that you realize that it’s perhaps not the best value for an almost $50k car.
The chassis and suspension engineers over at BMW deserve a lot of credit for how well this little crossover drives. The ride is on the firm side, which allows the X1 to remain poised and controlled when attacking a corner, but it’s not unforgiving. If anything, the choice of all-season tires holds the car back, as I was running out of grip sooner than I was hoping.
The X1 comes with only one engine—a detuned version of BMW’s 2-liter turbo, and it might seem underpowered at 228 horsepower. But this is where numbers on paper often don’t translate to real-world performance, as it felt every bit as fast as the Escape. The eight-speed transmission in the BMW is also on a different level compared to the Ford, with rifle-quick shifts that execute fluidly.
Where the X1 doesn’t impress quite so much is as an everyday vehicle. While the Escape feels roomy for a compact crossover, the X1 doesn’t hide it’s small size nearly as well. The optional sport seats aren’t the most comfortable, which, combined with the firm suspension tune, makes for a more fatiguing commute experience than I’d like.
The question of value is also a concern. Our test car looked dashing in its Storm Bay Metallic paint and Mocha Dakota leather interior, but each of these costs over a thousand dollars extra. And without the $5k premium package, the X1 would be missing quite a few of the features found on the well-equipped Escape. So even though the X1 starts at well under $40k, you need to spend a bunch more on options to get a competitive vehicle.
Verdict: You get what you pay for
On paper, the Ford Escape Titanium AWD and BMW X1 xDrive28i are quite similar. And if you were to walk up to them parked next to each other, they do kinda look like brothers from another mother. But as we know, appearances can be deceiving. And after driving them for a week, they proved to be very different vehicles.
Perhaps more pedestrian versions of the new Ford Escape are more compelling, but in Titanium trim, the Escape disappoints. A nearly forty-thousand dollar crossover should drive better and have an interior that doesn’t scream cheap rental car at full volume. If Ford is hoping to attract shoppers who might otherwise buy an entry-luxury vehicle, both of these issues need to be addressed.
Anyone looking for a sporty crossover should be more than pleased with the BMW X1, although for almost 50-large, you can get something quite a bit bigger and more comfortable to help survive the daily commute. Given that I’d be inclined to take the long way home from work, the extra eight thousand dollars for the BMW would be money well spent.
|2020 Ford Escape Titanium AWD||2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i|
|Price as tested||$39,775||$48,645|
|Engine||2.0L EcoBoost I-4||2.0L turbocharged I-4|
|Power (hp)||250 hp||228 hp|
|Torque (lb-ft)||275 lb-ft||258 lb-ft|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|EPA estimate w/4WD||23/31/26 mpg||23/26 mpg|
|Dimensions (length x width x height)||180.5 x 74.1 x 68.6 inches (with roof rack)||175.4 x 71.7 x 62.9 inches|
|Wheelbase||106.7 inches||105.1 inches|
|Ground Clearance||7.9 inches||7.2 inches|
|Passenger Volume||104 cu. ft.||101.2 cu. ft.|
|2nd Row Legroom||40.7 inches||37.0 inches|
|Cargo Capacity behind 2nd row||37.5 cu. ft.||27.1 cu. ft.|
|Max Cargo Capacity (rear seat folded)||65.4 cu. ft.||58.7 cu. ft.|
|Curb Weight||3,551 lbs.||3,697 lbs.|