For consumers looking for the comfort and versatility of an SUV and the fuel economy of a compact car, Iíve got great news for you.

Iíve spent the past week driving the 2014 Ford Escape, a five-passenger small utility vehicle that absolutely blew me away.

The Escapeís comfort and performance are extremely impressive.

But what totally blew me away was the long list of amenities. Even though this weekís test vehicle was the Escape SE ó the mid-level trim model ó it was like driving a high-end, premium luxury SUV.

It was absolutely loaded. I canít imagine what Ford could add to the top-of-the-line Escape Titanium to improve on the list of amenities, but Iím really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of one in the future.

With a base price starting below $24,000, the 2014 Escape is available in S, SE and Titanium trim levels.

Available in front- or four-wheel drive configurations, buyers have their choice of three available engines.

The base engine is a 2.5-liter I-4 (168 horsepower/170 lbs.-ft. torque) mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Using regular unleaded gasoline, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway.

Two EcoBoost engines are also available on the 2014 Escape:

ē A 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine generates 178 horsepower and 184 lbs.-ft. torque. Also mated to a six-speed automatic and requiring regular unleaded gasoline, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 23 mpg city, 32 mpg highway for front-wheel drive (22/30 mpg respectively for four-wheel drive).

For consumers who plan to do a lot of towing, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine is available and produces 240 horsepower and 270 lbs.-ft. torque. Also mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway for front-wheel drive (21/28 mpg respectively for four-wheel drive) using recommended premium unleaded gasoline, although regular unleaded is acceptable.

Again, performance, handling and comfort are all exceptional. I found the Escape a great vehicle for my everyday commutes to and from work, but it is also well suited for a long road trip with the family ó and includes more than 34 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat (68.1 cubic feet of available cargo room with the rear seat folded flat).

Some of the really cool features include available hands-free liftgate, Ford Sync with AppLink, a new rearview camera and MyKey programmable vehicle key ó ideal for parents with teen drivers.

And thatís just the tip of the iceberg. The Escape also comes with a long, long list of standard safety features.

For anyone in the market for a utility vehicle, I highly recommend the 2014 Ford Escape be added to the test drive list. It is a very impressive vehicle.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

The Nuts and Bolts

MODEL:

2014 Ford Escape

5-seat small utility †

Front-, or four-wheel drive

Trim packages:

S, SE and Titanium

PRICE RANGE:

$24,000-$32,000

ENGINE:

2.5L I4 (168 hp/170 T)

1.6L EcoBoost I4

(178 hp/184 torque)

2.0L EcoBoost I4

(240 hp/270 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

6-speed automatic

EPA: 22/23/22 mpg city, 31/32/30 mpg highway (2.5/1.6/2.0 FWD)

FUEL: Regular unleaded

STABILITY CONTROL:

AdvanceTrac stability control with roll stability control

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 178.1 inches

WHEELBASE: 105.9 in.

WIDTH: 81.8 inches

HEIGHT: 66.3 inches

WEIGHT: 3598-3769 lbs.

TRACK: 61.5/61.6

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 15 gallons

TIRES: 17-, or 19-inch

CARGO: 34.3/68.1 cubic feet (behind 2nd/1st row).