Honda CR-V VS Ford Escape
- Great practicality
- Good value
- Walk away locking
- Advanced safety kit only on top-spec
- Sunroof limits rear headroom
- CVT drones on
- Sharp steering
- Sporty accessories
- Peppy engine
- Dated controls
- Tight cabin
- Harsh ride
Honda's CR-V is one of the original compact SUVs, and when it appeared in Australia in 1997 its only real rival was the Toyota RAV4, so it didn't leave us with much choice. It was a case of that one or the other one.
Now that's all changed, and there are currently more than 20 different mid-sized SUVs under $60k on sale in this market.
All that could change with the arrival of the fifth generation CR-V. We went along to the Australian launch to see if the CX-5 has anything to be afraid of, and found out a lot more in the process, including that it might be worth waiting before you buy one.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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have slowly decreased this year (possibly due to a new-generation model around the corner), but is the soon-to-be-superseded model lacking any crucial ingredients that will keep it off your consideration list?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|
In the mid-sized SUV world the X-Trail is known for being super practical, the Mazda CX-5 for its looks and the way it drives, and now the new CR-V slides into the gap between them. Great value, practical and good to drive, the sweet spot in the range is absolutely the VTi-S; well equipped, with the option of AWD. Keep your eyes peeled though for when Honda updates the base grades with advanced safety kit. We'll let you know when it does.
Is the CR-V going to steal you away from the Mazda CX-5? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
This fifth-generation CR-V looks like it found a gym and reappeared as a beefed-up version of the last model. The dimensions don't lie – the new CR-V is 11mm longer at 4585mm end-to-end, it’s 6mm taller at 1679mm for the FWD and 4mm more in the 1689mm AWD.
At 1820mm across, it's 35mm wider and the wheelbase is 40mm longer. Ground clearance is also up by 28mm in the FWD at 198mm, and 38mm in the AWD, with its 208mm.
Just look at the pictures, there are those swept back headlights, that huge black and chrome grille, adorned with an oversized Honda badge, the muscular front wheel guards, which seem to push up and make the bonnet bulge.
From the back the CR-V looks wide and planted, but busy with all those creases and angles. While the profile isn't as sleek as others, such as the CX-5, it’s designed for practicality.
You might not have noticed, but the A-pillars either side of the windscreen are super thin to improve visibility.
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...
While the new CR-V misses out on a sleek profile, it gains in practicality. Tall, wide doors which open at almost 90 degrees to the side of the car make getting kids (and yourself) in and out a lot easier.
The tailgate opens high enough for me at 191cm to just walk under, and the low load lip means you don't have to hammer throw your shopping over the bumper into the boot.
Cargo space is 522 litres in the five seater and 472 litres in the seven-seat CR-V, an LED light which can be flicked on and off is great for when you're fumbling for gear in the dark.
That auto tailgate can sense if there are fingers in the way and will stop just as it touches them but before it crushes them – I know I tested it myself, with my own fingers, and all of them are still on my hand.
The increase in wheelbase means more legroom in the second row and I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of space - that's verging on limo territory.
The third row in the seven-seat VTi-L is cramped for me, and my knees are tucked under my chin, but your kids will love it - unless they're giants.
Climbing into the third row isn't too much of a challenge – the footpath-side seat slides and flips forward to open up a little pathway through to the back.
Each row has two cupholders (yup, even in the VTi-L's back seats) there are small bottle holders in the rear doors and bigger ones up front.
The centre console storage bin is excellent – you can configure it several ways.
The lock and go function is excellent, too – walk two metres away from the car for more than two seconds and it will lock itself. You only have to touch the handle to unlock it again.
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.
Price and features
Prices have gone up… and down, depending on which grade of CR-V we're talking about. The entry-level VTi lists for $30,690 (a $900 increase), the front-wheel drive (FWD) VTi-S above it is $33,290 (a $1000 jump) while the all-wheel drive is $35,490 (up $200). The VTi-L has dropped by $300 to $38,990 and the top-of-the-range VTi-LX is down $1500 at $44,290.
Honda says it's added between $2600-$4350 of value across the range with this new model, which sounds awfully nice of them, and going by the healthy standard features list, and in comparison to its rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, and Toyota RAV4, the value for money is good.
Standard on the base-spec VTi is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, multi-angle reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, push-button ignition and proximity unlocking.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds front and rear parking sensors, power tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The VTi-L is the FWD seven-seater and gets all of the VTi-S's features and adds a panoramic sunroof, auto wipers, and heated front seats with the driver's being power adjustable.
King of the range is the VTi-LX, which picks up all the VTi-L's gear and adds leather-appointed seats, LED headlights, tinted windows and an advanced safety equipment package which includes AEB.
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.
Engine & trans
Simple. One engine for the whole range. It's a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol which makes 140kW/240Nm. That's not a great deal of grunt, but it’s more than the same engine makes in the Honda Civic, and at no point did it feel like it needed more oomph during our hilly drive.
The automatic transmission is a CVT. They're prone to making the engine drone loudly without producing much in the way of acceleration. Honda's CVT is one of the best I’ve encountered, though.
Do you need an AWD CR-V? Well, the CR-V is not an off-roader, the on-demand AWD is really for a bit of extra traction and stability in the wet or on dirt and gravel. My advice is to get it if you can afford it and not worry about the fuel bills. The CVT is so good at being economical the difference is almost zilch. Read on to find just how much zilch.
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.
Despite my gripes with CVTs, they are super fuel efficient. In the FWD VTi Honda says it'll consume 91RON at a rate of 7.0L/100km (we recorded 8.9L/100km) then step up to 7.3L/100km in the VTi-S FWD, then 7.4L/100km in the AWD version. The seven seat VTi-L is also officially 7.3L/100km (we recorded 8.3L/100km) and the AWD VTi-LX is 7.4L/100km.
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.
We drove three of the four grades of CR-V at its Australian launch – the base spec VTi, and the VTi-L seven seater, which are FWD, and the AWD only VTi-LX.
Honestly, there is next to no perceptible difference in the way any of them drives, apart from the AWD being more sure-footed on gravel roads.
That engine is a good thing. It's small, but delivers a decent output. Our drive route included hilly country, and it didn't feel underpowered, at all.
The CVT drones on and is joined by quite a bit of road noise from the tyres filtering into the cabin, but the ride is comfortable and the handling impressive for an SUV in this price range.
Visibility is excellent around those super thin A-pillars, but the curvy bonnet limits vision in car parks.
Front seating is comfortable, but the chairs feel too large, and lack bolstering to hold you in place in corners. The back seats are flatter and harder.
All models have excellent brake response, thanks to and electronic brake booster system. And steering is quick compared to the old model, with fewer turns of the wheel required to turn the same distance.
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.
Okay, first up, the new CR-V isn't fitted with Takata airbags, which are the ones at the centre of the current worldwide recall.
The new CR-V has not been given an ANCAP rating yet, but the previous model did score the maximum five-stars.
What you should know, too, is that only the top-of-the-range VTi-LX grade comes with advanced safety equipment such as AEB, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control.
Honda told us at the launch that the advanced safety tech would soon be available on all grades, but could not tell us when. So, you might like to wait until it arrives on more grades.
You'll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts for child seats across the second row, and all grades of CR-V have a full sized spare wheel.
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.
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.