Ford Escape Vs. Honda CR-VEnlarge Photo
It's easy to pick out the ways in which the new Escape excels--and the ways in which Honda's crossover carves out an even bigger niche for itself. It boils down to size and fun. If you're looking for the flexible, utility-driven safety specialist, take the CR-V. It's not rated as highly here, but in several critical categories, we've put it ahead of the Escape.
The most important scores for families--quality and comfort--are the ones in which the CR-V shines. It's a little smaller than the new Escape in some critical dimensions, but it delivers more usable interior space thanks to a more upright shape with more efficient packaging. The seats are more plushly upholstered, too--and the flip-fold mechanism that turns the second-row seat from passenger perch to cargo bench is the most clever touch in its class. By comparison, the Escape reads more like a tall station wagon, with the combination of a rather low dash but upright driving position feeling a little more carlike overall.
The CR-V also rules the safety rankings, earning not just a top five-star score from the federal government, and both models earn mostly 'good' scores from the IIHS. Both have a less-than-ideal performance in the new IIHS small overlap frontal test, with the Escape getting an especially low 'poor' rating. The Escape is also a four-star federal performer. It's not a complete smack--down though, as the Escape offers more advanced safety technology like parking sensors and active park assist.
For families hunting down a new commuting appliance, the CR-V works extremely well. That said, after a day's drive in the athletic, attractive new Escape, we'd give it the enthusiast nod, each and every time. Not only does it look the part of a hot hatchback--the CR-V's hunched-over back has nothing on Ford's rally-ready air intakes and rakish angles--the Escape's turbo thrust, ride and handling hold up to repeated thrashings. The electric power steering at least feels like it's in the game; the ride's very well damped, even taut; the 240-horsepower four's able to hit 60 mph in under 8 seconds, even with only a six-speed automatic running plays underfoot. (A pair of less powerful engines are available, too: a 2.5-liter four with 170 hp, and a turbo 1.6-liter four with 178 hp.)
Fuel economy ends up in Ford's corner: the CR-V's top EPA ratings hit 30 mpg, while the best Escape model is rated at 33 mpg highway.
For those times when running around off-road is part of the plan, the Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds, and has optional all-wheel drive, just like the CR-V. Its cabin has much firmer seats with much thinner padding, which telegraphs a sportier feel without delivering discomfort. Its back seats fold forward too, though not with the final flourish of fold-forward fancy that Honda's mustered in the CR-V.
As for features, the Escape triumphs, though Honda's made good progress. The CR-V now has standard Bluetooth, and streaming audio and mobile connectivity are reality. The Escape feels in a class above, if you shop by feature lists, with options for leather, a panoramic sunroof, MyFord Touch's voice-command controls, even a hands-free tailgate that opens or closes with the wave of a foot.
In the end, it's a decision between brand-new and carefully updated crossovers. The Escape's a wholly different vehicle that the faux-truck that was not so long ago discontinued. The CR-V on the other hand has changed in no-nonsense, evolutionary ways, keeping it at the top of the class for the mission it has in mind. Our advice: If you're so busy you barely have time to think of the driving itself, get the CR-V; but if you want a little fun sprinkled in, the Escape stays true to its name.
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