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Ford's new compact CUV has been spotted on American roads.

As manufacturers scramble to update their compact crossover offerings, one automaker has been flying comfortably under the radar: Ford.

The Ford Escape is the fifth-best selling SUV in America in 2018, which pushes it just out of the top ten for overall new-vehicle sales. While that position is nothing to sneeze at, it falls conspicuously short of the true leaders in the market--the Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4.

Not only is the current Escape being outsold by most of its direct competition, it's also lagging behind some compact sedans and even the midsize Camry.

This heavily-camouflaged development mule is the first good look we've had at the compact's upcoming replacement. There's not much to see here, though it seems pretty clear that the new car will be more iterative than inventive.

The real mysteries lie under the metal. While the Escape was one of the segment leaders in engine downsizing and turbocharging, it is also one of few stragglers with a true high-output engine in this class. Subaru will ditch its performance engine with the new Forester; Toyota has no plans to introduce one with the new RAV4.

Speaking of the RAV4, there's also the possibility that the new Escape will mark the return of a competing Hybrid model. It disappeared for the current generation, but with the demise of the C-Max and the dramatic slowdown in Fusion sales, the popular compact CUV segment would be a logical choice for electrification.

We expect the new Escape will debut some time either late this year or early next (perhaps in Detroit), so stay tuned.