Because the new Escort weighs about 120 pounds more than its predecessor, the increase of 22 horsepower does not result in inspiring performance. Acceleration is merely adequate, as before, but the new engine is smoother and quieter. The automatic transmission feels smoother with the new engine, and also downshifts faster for passing and merging. We averaged 23.9 mpg in an LX sedan with automatic, but most of that trial consisted of urban driving. On the
highway, we'd expect well over 30 mpg. Manual-transmission Escorts feel livelier, as expected, and also get better gas mileage than cars with automatic.
A well-tuned suspension helps the Escort absorb bumps better than most subcompacts. Handling on sedans and wagons is competent rather than sporting, though steering feels natural in turns and its on-center sense contributes to stable cruising. Visibility is generally good, but the sedan's rear roof pillars are thick enough to block
the driver's over-the-shoulder view. Road and wind noise are noticeable on the highway, but sedans and wagons aren't much noisier than a Honda Civic. The ZX2 coupe suffers from a lot more road and wind sound--enough to cause annoyance.
Partly due to the extra punch of its stronger engine, the ZX2 drives in a sporty manner. Here too, manual shift is quicker, but the 5-speed gets the engine turning at a buzzy 3000 rpm when traveling at 65 mph. We averaged an impressive 29 mpg with an
automatic ZX2, which is at home on twisting roads, where grip and stability have proved to be good. Body roll in the ZX2 is well-controlled, too. Harder driving in a manual-shift ZX2 averaged 24.5 mpg.
Front head room is generous, even for tall occupants. Leg space is adequate for adults. Rear knee room is tight, as is head room in the coupe. The new dashboard puts gauges directly ahead of the driver. Audio and climate controls sit in an oval "integrated control panel."
Interior storage is adequate, consisting of small door map pockets, a console with cupholders, and a small glovebox. Cargo space also ranks as adequate, and the wagon qualifies as a versatile hauler. The rear seatback folds for additional space, but does not lie totally flat.