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Compact SUV Comparison: 2020 GMC Terrain vs 2020 Ford Escape

A black 2020 GMC Terrain, which wins when comparing the 2020 GMC Terrain vs 2020 Ford Escape, is parked in front of an office building.

The compact SUV has quickly emerged as one of the most popular subcategories in the automotive industry. Compact SUVs offer the roominess of their bigger line mates in the two and three-row SUV categories, with the fuel economy and ease of driving associated with smaller coupes and sedans. They truly are a best of both worlds value proposition for car buyers. Two of the most popular ones on the market today are General Motors’s Terrain and Ford Motor Company’s Escape. Both comfortably seat up to five passengers in a roomy passenger compartment, with a two in the front row and three in the back configuration. They also offer plenty of cargo space in the trunk, with additional space available by folding down the rear seat. In addition, both come in a standard front-wheel drive configuration, with all-wheel drive available as an upgrade. However, there are some differences between the two vehicles, so we will compare the 2020 GMC Terrain vs 2020 Ford Escape on a number of key factors.

Safety

One major concern of most drivers of smaller vehicles is safety. People want to know if their compact SUV utilizes the latest technology to avoid collisions and to minimize the impact in the event of an accident. Both GMC and Ford are to be commended for making their key safety features standard on their compact SUVs, even on the lowest trim level models. For example, the entry level 2020 GMC Terrain SL comes with numerous GMC Pro Safety features, including automatic emergency braking, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, hill descent control, IntelliBeam automatic headlamp adjuster, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, OnStar and GMC connected services, passenger sensing system, a rear vision camera, StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with traction control, a tire pressure monitoring system, and Teen Driver. Similarly, the lowest trim level of the 2020 Ford Escape, the Escape S, comes with many features of the Ford Co-Pilot360 system, including pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, auto high-beam headlamps, lane-keeping system, and rear view camera.

A blue GMC Terrain is parked in front of a store front.

Many automakers have used safety features as a tool to up sell buyers to more expensive trim levels by either offering them as add-ons or only offering them on their premium models. That is not the case with Ford and GMC, both of whom have signaled their concern for the safety of their customers and by including these premium safety items on all of their models of their compact SUVs. Advantage: Even.

Engine and Transmission

The 2020 GMC Terrain comes with two different engine options. The standard engine is a 1.5-liter Turbo 4-cylinder engine. This has been rated to produce up to 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. If you want more power, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is available on the SLT and standard on the Denali trim levels, which can produce up to 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The EPA estimates that drivers of the 2020 GMC Terrain with the 1.5-liter engine will have fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon in the city, 30 miles per gallon on the highway, and 27 miles per gallon overall. The Terrain with the bigger 2.0-liter engine will have a lower estimated gas mileage, roughly 22 miles per gallon in the city, 28 miles per gallon on the highway, and 24 miles per gallon.

A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard on the 2020 GMC Terrain, and all models come with a 15.6-gallon fuel tank.

A blue 2020 Ford Escape is parked next to a large green hedge.

The 2020 Ford Escape has three engine options. The standard is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost gas engine. It has been rated to produce up to 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. It produces better fuel efficiency than the comparable 1.5-liter engine on the Terrain, estimated at 27 miles per gallon in the city, 33 miles per gallon on the highway, and 30 miles per gallon combined. However, it is clearly a less powerful engine. There is also a Hybrid 2.5-liter IVCT Atkinson-cycle I-4 engine standard on the 2020 Ford Escape SE Sport Hybrid and the 2020 Ford Escape Titanium. The other engine option is a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, available only on the SEL and Titanium trim levels. All 2020 Ford Escapes feature an 8-speed automatic transmission, and the fuel tank can hold up to 14.7 gallons of gas.

The option of a hybrid is a nice feature of the Escape, and it does get better mileage than the comparable engines on the Terrain. However, the Terrain has a more versatile transmission, produces more power, and holds an extra gallon of gas, making fill-ups potentially less frequent. Advantage: 2020 GMC Terrain.

MSRP and Trim Levels

The MSRP for the entry level 2020 Ford Escape S is $24,885. This increases to an MSRP of $27,105 for the Escape SE, an MSRP of $28,265 for the SE Sport Hybrid, an MSRP of $29,265 for the SEL, and an MSRP of $33,550 for the top-of-the-line Titanium. This is in actuality four trim levels, with the hybrid engine acting as the difference between the two Escape SE models.

The 2020 GMC Terrain also comes in four trim levels. The base model Terrain SL has an MSRP of $26,195, the SLE has an MSRP of $29,595, the SLT has an MSRP of $32,395, and the fully loaded Terrain Denali has an MSP of $39,495. This is fairly comparable to the Ford, but the price point gives a slight edge to the Escape. Advantage: Slight edge to the 2020 Ford Escape.

Infotainment Systems

Both GMC and Ford have developed excellent infotainment systems. Most GMC vehicles feature some version of the GMC Infotainment 3 system. This utilizes a 7 inch or 8-inch touchscreen to combine a 6-speaker audio system with AM/FM stereo and connectivity from Bluetooth technology. In addition, the Infotainment 3 system includes a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, USB charging, and connection ports, and either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, depending on your smartphone. This is included on all models of the 2020 GMC Terrain.

A man is using 4G LTE WiFi on his iPad with the GMC Terrain's infotainment system in front of him.

Ford Sync3 is Ford’s version of an infotainment system, and it is very similar to the GMC Infotainment 3 system. Sync3 utilizes smart technology for connectivity, entertainment, and information, also including Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. However, the base model 2020 Ford Escape S does not feature Sync3. In order to get the Sync3 system on your Ford Escape, you will need to buy a higher trim level. This could explain why the entry level Escape S has an MSRP that is almost $3,000 lower than the SE, the next trim level up. Advantage: 2020 GMC Terrain.

Towing

One thing that many people like to do with their SUV is to tow a trailer for work, sport, moving, or leisure. There is a very surprising difference between the two vehicles. The 2020 Ford Escape with the standard 1.5-liter engine has been rated to be able to tow up to 2,000 pounds. In order to tow up to 3,500 pounds, you will need to buy a higher trim level featuring the 2.0-liter engine. In contrast, the 2020 GMC Terrain is better at trailering, being rated to be able to tow up to 3,500 pounds. This may be due to the greater torque produced by the 2020 GMC Terrain. Advantage: 2020 GMC Terrain.

If you have your heart set on a hybrid SUV, then by all means, go with the Escape. However, if you want an excellent SUV with performance and loads of standard features, the 2020 GMC Terrain is the pick to go with. Regardless of your choice, it’s always best to test drive both models you’re considering to truly make up your mind.

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