Ford Escape VS Honda HR-V
- Sharp steering
- Sporty accessories
- Peppy engine
- Dated controls
- Tight cabin
- Harsh ride
- RS model added
- Low-speed AEB standard
- Practicality unchanged
- Halogen headlights on base car
- No AWD model
- Full safety pack still only on top-spec
Aussies are now favouring SUVs much more than sedans and hatchbacks, and no segment is more bountiful than for mainstream mid-sizers.
With cars such as the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 finding success by combining practicality, tech and a high-seating position, for small families looking to haul the kids and some gear over long distances, Ford’s Escape should also be in contention.
However, sales of the Escape have slowly decreased this year (possibly due to a new-generation model around the corner), but is the soon-to-be-superseded model lacking any crucial ingredients that will keep it off your consideration list?
We’ve got the Ford Escape ST-Line to find out if it has what it takes to hang with the best in the mid-size SUV segment.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The changes aren't dramatic for the Honda HR-V 2019 model. In fact, you could look at it and not even know this is an updated, facelifted model.
But there are a few nips and tucks here and there that freshen up the appeal of the Japanese brand's small SUV, which first went on sale in Australia back in 2015.
It still has practicality on its side, and the value equation remains reasonably strong, especially on lower-grade models. And now, with some additional range-wide safety gear and a sporty looking RS model, there's arguably more to like than ever before.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Ford’s Escape ST-Line still proves to be a competitive SUV player so late in its lifecycle due its strong foundations.
While the only area it really excels at is its handling performance, thanks to the variant-specific changes, not everyone wants, or even appreciates, a sharper handling family hauler.
Other big letdowns are the in-car controls and in-cabin tightness, which look like they will be smoothed out in a new-generation model due to launch mid-year. But for now the current Escape is still a solid all-rounder.
There are some positive changes to the updated 2019 Honda HR-V. The city AEB system on all models is a welcome addition, and personally, I'm absolutely sold on the look of the RS model, plus the additional effort that has been put in by Honda for this version makes it the most appealing example.
All in all, the Honda HR-V remains a favourite in the small SUV segment - admittedly one with limited choices in terms of drivetrains, and without all-wheel drive - but it possesses other strengths that make it pretty darn appealing.
Aiming to put the ‘sports’ in ‘sports utility vehicle’ (SUV), the Ford Escape ST-Line at least tries to differentiate itself from the usual high-riding fare.
From the outside, the ST-Line scores a sports bodykit and lower suspension, giving this Escape variant a more road-hugging appearance.
Its road presence is also helped by blacked-out (18-inch) wheels, grille, fog light surrounds, roof rails and rear valance. But don’t expect the cosmetic changes to morph the mild-mannered mid-size SUV into a snarling supercar.
Next to its Ambiente and Trend siblings, there's no doubt the Escape ST-Line stands out, but we’ll leave you to decide if it's the right amount of sporty, or needlessly gawdy.
The sporty touches also apply to the interior, which gains leather and cloth upholstery, front sports seats, and red contrast stitching throughout.
We’re big fans of the interior changes, which elevate all the touch points such as the steering wheel, seats and shifter to feel extra special.
Functionally however, the Escape is starting to show its age, especially the multimedia system, but more on that next...
Can't tell the differences? There are a few, with new grille and headlight and tail-light finishes across the range, plus a new front bumper design. Elsewhere, it's hard to pick this as a facelifted model.
There is no denying the RS grade looks the best of this bunch, with its bigger 18-inch wheels and darkened chrome exterior styling highlights, along with the piano black body kit around the lower edges of the car and body-colour rear spoiler, all combining to create a cohesive and smart looking little SUV. The design of the exterior is really well considered.
That's not to say the other models don't live up to the RS, but it's certainly the standout. The entry-level VTi still looks like an 'affordable' model, with its yellow halogen lights and less appealing wheel choice.
The VTi-S and VTi-LX are harder to separate, but there are some design highlights to split them: the wheels are the same size (17-inch) but the VTi-S ones look a little tamer, and it gets body-colour door handles; the VTi-LX has chrome handles and a more attractive wheel design.
The exterior size of the HR-V hasn't changed, apart from the RS model, which is a little longer and a little wider due to its body kit. The measurements are: 4348mm long (RS: 4360mm) on a 2610mm wheelbase, 1772mm wide (RS: 1790mm) and 1605mm tall. It's hardly hard to get into, with ground clearance of 170mm, but for the concerned parents out there you can option side steps for the rear doors.
As you can see from the interior photos, the changes haven't been huge inside, and there are no differences to the interior dimensions. But the practicality - whether you choose a low-spec version with cloth trim or a flagship model with leather - is just about as good as you can expect in this segment.
Measuring 4524mm long, 1838mm wide, 1749mm tall and with a 2690mm wheelbase, the Ford Escape ST-Line offers enough space for either four adults or small families, but is slightly smaller in size than some of its key rivals.
Up front, there is plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room for passengers, but we couldn’t shake the feeling of the cabin closing in around us.
The door pockets are also thin and made up with scratchy hard plastic, though the storage bin between the diver and front passenger is generous and accommodating of larger items such as a big bag of chips.
The rear seats, while usable, suffer from the same failings as the front seats and feel a bit too snug.
Adults can comfortably sit in the two outboard pews, but the middle seat should be relegated to children or people you just don’t like very much.
Headroom is good, but legroom is somewhat lacking, and we had to reposition the front seats to be comfortable in the second row.
The boot offers 406 litres of volume with the all seats upright, expanding to 1603 with the rear seats folded flat. Both admirable figures that mean the Escape can comfortably fit a stroller, groceries, and more.
The Honda HR-V has cabin size on its side.
If you've never sat in one, you will probably be surprised when you do. There's a lot of room, both in the front and the back, and with the driver's seat set in my position (I'm 182cm tall), I had enough space to sit behind that spot.
There's good rear legroom and reasonable width to the cabin, but headroom could be a little better, particularly in the range-topping model with the big panoramic sunroof.
Being a Honda, the storage game is on point. There are cup holders up front, door pockets with bottle holders in each of the doors, and decent loose item storage, too.
Honda's 'Magic Seats' - fitted to all HR-V models - allow the rear seat area to double as a storage space. As you can see from the images, the base of the back seat can be flipped up, which allows you access to a huge space to store long items. You can fit pushbikes in there. Trust me. Or you can lower the seat bases down, and then drop the rear seat backs for a huge boot.
The boot space on offer in the HR-V is terrific for the class, with 437 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats in place, with the boot dimensions expanding to 1462L with the back seats folded flat. The ridiculous floppy mesh cargo cover remains, but you can option a hard tonneau cover for the boot if you want, and there's a cargo liner available, too.
There's a space-saver spare tyre under the boot floor.
Only the VTi model misses out on roof rails, so if you want to fit a roof rack you might need to consider that.
Price and features
Priced at $39,990, before on-road costs, the ST-Line is available in exclusively with in petrol form, and sits below the petrol and diesel Titanium grade priced at $45,840 and $48,340 respectively.
Inside, sports seats replace the standard items. They're trimmed in a combination of leather (accent) and suede, with contrast red-stitching featured on the armrests, shifter boot and steering wheel.
While we love Ford’s Sync system, which is intuitive to use on the go thanks to its big, bright screen, implementation in the Escape leaves a little to be desired.
The screen is recessed to avoid unwanted glare, but the CD player (yes, you can get one in 2020!) nestled above is needlessly chunky and cumbersome.
The buttons found below the screen are also unnecessary when all functions can be handled by the touchscreen.
Further down the centre stack are the climate controls, which, while useable, feel spongey and are not well laid out.
The switchgear in the Escape ST-Line is average when the competition delivers polished and refined controls.
At least the steering wheel-mounted controls are quick and easy to use for the driver, including highly visible and clearly laid out cruise control functions.
Other standard equipment includes, push-button start, a gesture-operated powered tailgate, keyless entry, and automatic parallel parking. The auto parking function is easy to use, requiring only the push of a button and a dab of throttle.
Those after more advanced features however, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, tyre pressure monitoring and lane-keep assist will have to shell out another $800.
So, you want to compare Honda HR-V models? You want to know what you get if you buy the top of the range model vs one of the entry grades? You've come to the right place.
Kicking off the price list is the value-focused VTi, which lists at $24,990 (RRP - that's the price before on-road costs, not a driveaway price). The next model up in the range is the VTi-S, listing at $27,990. Then there's the new RS model, at $31,990. How much is a top-spec HR-V? That'll be the VTi-LX, at $34,590.
Now we're done with the price guide, let's run through what each model is fitted with.
The entry-level VTi model is attractively priced, and scores some points on specifications, too.
Standard features include a 7.0-inch touch screen with in-built satellite navigation system (sat nav, GPS - whatever you want to call it) with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity. Sadly, no model comes with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so you'll just have to sync your iPhone or other smartphone by USB or Bluetooth.
The media screen doubles as a display for the reversing camera. There's cruise control, single-zone climate control air conditioning, and the VTi has projector halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights. You don't even get HID lights on the base spec, which is disappointing.
Step two in HR-V trim levels is the VTi-S, which sees the addition of keyless entry (smart key) and push-button start, auto on/off LED headlights, LED 'optical style' tail-lights, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' side camera system. This version gets roof rails, too, which the base grade misses out on.
The interior of the VTi-S model moves up to chrome and piano black finishes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-bound gear-knob, and the passenger's side vanity mirror is illuminated. Plus you get an extra pair of 12-volt plugs (one in the back seat, one in the rear), and a second map pocket in the back (the VTi has only one).
RS models are the sportiest looking versions in the range, and they get a different steering and suspension tune to live up to the look.
Beyond the stylish model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, the RS gets piano black exterior trim for its body kit, including a lower front spoiler, side skirts, rear spoiler and wheel arches, plus smoked chrome look front and rear elements. This version also has dark chrome front door handles, auto-tilt passenger side mirror, black mirror covers, and additional sound deadening over the lower grades.
The RS also comes with leather seats (well, leather-appointed seats, as Honda puts it) which have been redesigned in this spec and the model above, plus the front seats are heated. It also adds rear tinted windows, auto wipers, alloy sports pedals, and a "smooth sports leather-wrapped steering wheel" with paddleshifters.
At the upper end of this model comparison is the VTi-LX, which builds on the equipment of the models below, with additions such as electric driver's seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric folding side mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, auto up/down windows for all doors, LED interior lights, dual-zone climate control, and front parking sensors.
As before, VTi-LX models have the more comprehensive safety suite, including high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (not active lane assist) and auto high-beam lights (but still no blind spot monitor). We'll run through the rest of the safety technology in the safety section below.
However, the VTi-LX drops back to a 17-inch wheel instead of rolling on 18s like the RS, and it doesn't get the sports leather steering wheel.
While the multimedia system covers off most infotainment needs, there's no DVD player or CD player, and no DAB digital radio, either. The sound system is identical between all four models, with six speakers (no subwoofer).
And if you're wondering about things like a power tailgate or heated steering wheel, the HR-V range doesn't quite go that far in terms of luxury.
Accessories-wise, customers have a range of options to choose from - and it goes well beyond floor mats. There are roof racks, black 18-inch alloy wheels or two-tone silver/chrome rims, a hard tonneau cargo area cover, a ow bar and bike attachment, bonnet protector and even a camping tent. Other ones that might appeal include a rear and front metal-look garnish (the latter is hardly a bull bar or nudge bar - if you want one of those, you might need to shop the aftermarket).
How many seats in the Honda HR-V? Five, and they're very practical!
Oh, what about colours (or colors, depending on where you're reading this!)? Well, there are seven on offer: the new hero colour is 'Phoenix Orange', but there are the usual suspects like 'White Orchid', 'Lunar Silver', 'Modern Steel' (grey), 'Ruse Black', 'Brilliant Sporty Blue', and 'Passion Red'.
Every one of those paint options will cost you $575 more, with only 'Taffeta White' non-metallic paint coming at no cost (RS models aren't available in that colour, but the paint cost is factored in to the list price).
Oh, and this time around there is no purple colour, and the green that looks so appealing on the Japanese market 'Honda Vezel' still isn't offered in Australia.
Engine & trans
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, the Escape ST-Line punches out 178kW/345Nm, making it one of the most potent mainstream mid-size SUVs on the market.
Drive is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Though all this might sound mighty on paper, keep in mind the engine is working to haul a 1700kg-plus SUV, which does tend to dull straight-line performance a little.
Overall, the Escape ST-Line’s engine is a punchy little unit that will happily rev out to its 6500rpm redline, even if it doesn’t produce the most sonorous noise at the top end.
The automatic transmission is also a good, if not great, one, that quickly up-shifts and manages slow-speed around-town duties just fine.
You will be able to catch it out when applying more throttle, though, with the six-speeder unsure when to change down and slow to do so when it makes up its mind.
And if you aren’t happy leaving the Escape ST-Line in automatic mode, there are always the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to play with.
There are no changes to the engine specs of the drivetrain on offer in the updated HR-V.
The engine size and specifications go unchanged for the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, remaining at 105kW of power (at 6500rpm) and 172Nm of torque (at 4300rpm). So, it's no horsepower hero - and there's no turbo engine in sight, which is a shame.
The motor is only available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) - and there is no manual transmission option, as much as we'd like to see a version with a clutch in the RS spec. The CVT has been updated with 'stepped ratios' to "enhance the sporty feel" and provide "more responsive acceleration".
The HR-V sold in Australia remains a 4x2 (front-wheel drive) model only - there are some markets that get an AWD / 4x4 model, but we miss out. Likewise, there's no diesel version, and you can rule out LPG, too.
Does fuel tank size matter to you? The fuel tank capacity of the HR-V is 50 litres. And if you're curious about the kerb weight, the number for the VTi is 1269kg, the VTi-S is 1274kg, the RS is 1294kg and the VTi-LX is 1319kg.
You may want to reconsider fitting a towbar, because the towing capacity ratings of the HR-V are minuscule: 500kg for an un-braked trailer, 800kg for a braked trailer.
You may want to check out our Honda HR-V problems page if you have concerns about automatic gearbox problems and suspension issues, and be sure to consult your owner's manual for information on oil type, capacity and consumption and the correct battery you'll need. Timing belt or chain? It's a chain.
Our two weeks with the Escape ST-Line returned a fuel consumption average of 11.7 litres per 100km, while official figures peg the mid-size SUV at 8.2L/100km.
To be fair, we drove the Escape ST-Line exclusively in inner-city conditions, often during peak hour through Melbourne’s CBD.
Fuel economy for the models in the range is dependent on which variant you choose.
For instance, the VTi model has claimed consumption of 6.6 litres per 100km (so, the fuel consumption km/L figure is 15.1). The RS model claims 6.7L/100km (14.9km/L), while the VTi-S and VTi-LX models claim 6.9L/100km (14.5km/L).
So you can expect fuel mileage to vary slightly between models, but all versions have an 'econ mode' if you want to keep the consumption down. The HR-V can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.
Thanks to its lowered suspension, thicker anti-roll bars and sharper steering rack, the ST-Line doesn’t flounder and sag like other SUVs when introduced to a corner.
Don’t get us wrong though, the changes don’t turn the Escape into a hot-hatch-scaring corner carver, but the ST-Line certainly feels more planted and put together than the vast majority of mid-size SUVs.
In fact, we’d put it up there as one of the best steering mainstream SUVs on the market, alongside the direct and communicative Mazda CX-5.
The by-product though is that the Escape ST-Line is a bit firmer over bumps and uneven road surfaces.
Whilst its not enough to take away from its overall polished and likeable dynamics, buyers who have young families that may prioritise comfort over sportiness will be better off looking at other Escape variants.
The majority of my launch drive time was spent in the RS model, which is - understandably - the version Honda wanted to show off most.
It's a new nameplate for the HR-V line-up, and it has the most visual differentiation compared to the other versions. But it's also the best to drive, with a more fun-focused edge to it.
In truth, the HR-V has never been that much fun to drive. The RS model changes that - to a degree - with a different steering system to the rest of the range. The new variable ratio set-up feels a bit more like real steering in your hand, as opposed to the standard electric system in the other models, which doesn't feel as natural or progressive.
The RS's unique steering requires less effort at higher speeds, but there's a slight downside: in combination with the bigger 18-inch wheels (with wider tyres than any other model in the range), the RS model has a bigger turning circle (11.0m vs 10.6m - or a radius of 5.5, vs 5.3m).
The suspension of the RS model has also been tweaked - the set-up remains a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, although the RS gets a specific tune to the dampers which Honda claims "deliver a more rewarding drive with flatter cornering, greater control and a more stable ride".
It's a decent improvement, with more agility and control to the vehicle over bumps. We drove the RS and VTi-LX, and in comparing those two models it was clear the RS was the better tune in terms of body control and overall compliance, even if it offered a minor penalty to pay over sharp edges at lower speeds. But the RS's suspension never felt too harsh - which is important for a vehicle like this.
The real question is - why didn't Honda just do the RS suspension tune for all HR-V models? Presumably that suspension set-up would be even more impressive on a smaller wheel with a bigger tyre sidewall...
The performance from the 1.8-litre engine isn't terrific, but it definitely gets the job done. You're not going to win many acceleration races, and it doesn't gather speed with as much urgency as some of its competitors that roll with turbocharged engines.
But the revisions to the CVT have been worthwhile - it feels a little more willing when you plant your foot, and there's less droning from the transmission. Plus RS and VTi-LX models gain additional sound deadening to try and reduce road noise, and these versions get different seats to the lower grade versions, too. They feel a bit more plush, then, and not just because of the leather seat trim.
There is no off road review to be done here. While the numbers suggest the HR-V could cope with some rough terrain, (ground clearance mm: 170mm), the off road capability is limited by the fact it is front-wheel drive only.
Sure, you might be able to fit a set of off-road tyres to the alloy wheels, and yes, that would look pretty cool. But I wouldn't go testing the wading depth in my HR-V, if I were you.
That's fine, though - this is a city-focused SUV, and it nails that task.
Cabin design and practicality is where the HR-V still shines brightest, even if it isn't as up-to-date as it could be. There are little things, like the fact that every model is fitted with a space-saving electronic parking brake, and those 'Magic Seats' that are fitted to all variants, that add to the smartness of the space. Admittedly, to be even more enticing, things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be added, plus a digital speedometer.
But all in all, the updated HR-V is an improvement on what was already a very good small SUV.
Ford has kitted out the Escape ST-Line with all the safety equipment you would want in a new car in this class.
As previously mentioned, buyers can also option in adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist and a tyre pressure monitor for an additional $800.
With a long list of standard safety, the Ford Escape was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was assessed in early 2017, which also applies to the ST-Line that was introduced in mid-2018.
The safety rating of the Honda HR-V remains a maximum five-star ANCAP score, which it was originally awarded in 2015.
The safety features list has been improved for this facelifted model, with the addition of a low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) system, known as 'City-Brake Active'. It will warn the driver and apply brake force at speeds from five-32km/h.
The best safety package is still reserved for the range-topping model, which gets full forward collision warning and AEB, plus lane departure warning and auto high-beam. You can't option that tech on the other models, either, which is kind of disappointing. Unlike some rivals, you can't get blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross-traffic alert, or adaptive cruise control. So the high-spec model's kit is good, but not great.
There's a reverse camera on all grades, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' camera on the top three specs. The base model can be optioned with rear parking sensors, and those are fitted to the three higher specs as standard, with the top spec model gaining front park assist sensors.
If you need to fit a baby seat, you'll be pleased to know there are two ISOFIX anchor points in the outboard rear seats, plus three top-tether attachments.
All HR-V models have six airbags.
A lot of people search "where is the Honda HRV built?" Well, firstly, it's the HR-V - hyphens are important. And secondly, you might be surprised to learn the answer is not Japan, it's Thailand.
Like all new Ford Australia models, the Escape ST-Line comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, along with five-year anti-corrosion assurance.
Service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, with the first service due in two months/3000km.
The first full service will cost $360, while the second is $495 due to a brake fluid replacement that needs to be done every two years.
Service number three is back at $360, but the fourth service jumps to $750.
The Escape’s service schedule repeats this pattern until the 150,000km/10-year service, which requires a drive belt and radiator coolant replacement, increasing the cost to $895.
Honda has a strong ownership plan compared to some of its small SUV rivals.
With a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, it's among the best in the class. No need to worry about an extended warranty, like you might if you bought a Toyota C-HR or Suzuki Vitara. No model in this segment has anything better than the warranty that Honda offers.
As for capped price servicing, the plan spans up to 10 years or 100,000km - meaning service intervals of 12 months/10,000km, whichever occurs first. The service costs are pretty well under control, too, with the average capped price service costing $296, before additional consumables.
See our Honda HR-V problems page for issues, complaints, common faults and defects. It should be able to help you gauge the reliability rating of the car.