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Honda CR-V and Ford Escape revealed

... full details on the CR-V (pictured), including the vital price, are still secret until launch plans for Australia are finalised.

... with the public unveiling of the latest Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.

The compact SUVs, which drop into the one of the fastest-growing showroom classes in Australia, point to a new focus on design, quality and efficient family wagons for the 'burbs.

They follow the Mazda CX-5 which is already creating lines at Australian dealerships, while ending the life of the good looking but thirsty CX-7, although Toyota is yet to reveal its next RAV4 and it's unlikely until 2012 at the earliest.

The CR-V is the fourth generation of the Honda SUV and looks like an evolution, not a revolution. As it sits at the LA Auto Show it its clearly a little bigger inside, with more features than the current car, but - like the upcoming Civic replacement - does not have the quality that owners have come to expect from a Honda.

The Escape, in contrast, is vastly improved and reflects a focus on quality and comfort, with a touch of 'surprise and delight' thanks to a rear-end sensor that opens the boot with just a swipe of your foot. 

BMW has a similar system in the 5 Series, and promises it for $846 on the upcoming 3 Series, but it's a real winner for parents who battle through supermarket parking lots with arms filled by groceries and youngsters.

The CR-V stays as a five-seater, despite rumours of a third-row bench, with mechanical changes focussed on extra power - 137 kiloWatts from 2.4 litres - a new intelligent all-wheel drive system and a five-speed automatic.

Honda has improved efficiency and even fitted an 'Econ' mode, with visual clues in the dash when the car is being operated for maximum green power. There is a split-fold back seat, a new console approach, six airbags and more.

But full details on the CR-V - including the vital price - are still secret until launch plans for Australia are finalised.

The Escape is also still a US-focussed newcomer, but is coming to Australia in 2012 and certain to pick up a major boost in fuel economy, quality and comfort.

The basic engine for the USA is a 2.5-litre four cylinder with a six- speed automatic gearbox, while Australia is also likely to get either or both of the new 1.6 and 2-litre EcoBoost turbo fours.

“Escape is America’s best-selling utility vehicle, and the Ford team has worked hard to make sure we deliver even more of what small SUV owners really want,” says Ford's global head of production development, Derrick Kuzak.

"It offers the strengths that customers today really value – fuel economy, versatility and new technology that makes driving and living with the vehicle easier and more fun – all wrapped in a sleek, more modern design."