By Emme Hall.
Ah, the mini SUV. Americans love them. Next time you’re at a stoplight, look around. If there are 5 cars around you I’ll bet 4 are small SUVs. In fact, I’ll go even further and bet that one of those 5 is one of the cars we’re looking at today: the 2013 Ford Escape Titanium and the 2013 Honda CR-V EX-L. Both are reliable, practical, and offer good mileage, but to quote a famous B-list movie, “There can be only one.”
The Escape has a few engine choices, but we opted for the 2.0L turbocharged EcoBoost engine. This inline 4 cylinder cranks out 240 horsepower with premium fuel (231 hp with regular) and 270 lb/ft of torque. 60 mph is reached in 7 seconds, and our AWD gets an EPA fuel rating of 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined. The FWD gets of 22/30/25. The only available transmission is a 6 speed SelectShift automatic.
The 2013 Honda CR-V has one choice of engine, a 2.4L 4 cylinder that produces 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. The 5-speed automatic puts power to the front wheels, although we had the AWD option. 60 mph comes in a rather slow 9.4 seconds, but EPA fuel rating makes up for it, at estimated 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. The AWD’s fuel ratings drop slightly to 22/30/25.
The Ford Escape Titanium comes with 19” wheels, a 10 speaker stereo system with iPod connectivity and steering wheel mounted audio controls, keyless entry, heated front seats, and cruise control. Options include navigation, a power moonroof, and perhaps the coolest trick in the book, a power liftgate operated with your foot. A motion sensor beneath the rear bumper detects a swipe of the foot and automatically opens the cargo hold, as long as you have the fob on your person.
Of course, we can’t overlook the Park Assist, available in the Technology package for the Escape. It will watch curbside for an appropriate parallel parking spot, and then do the heavy work of steering while the driver operates the brake and gas. It’s a little too HAL 9000 for my tastes, but I understand that not everyone is confident in their parallel parking skills, especially on a busy city street when you are holding up traffic to do so.
The Honda CR-V EX-L is the top of the line, and the standard features show it. The expected perks like power accessories, cruise control, and keyless entry are all standard, but so are 17” alloy wheels, a sunroof, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, a back up camera, 6-inch informational display, 7 audio speakers with satellite radio, and heated seats. The only options available are Navigation and a Rear Entertainment System. However for some reason Honda doesn’t want your kids to be entertained and you to know where you’re going at the same time, as the two packages can’t be ordered together. Our advice is to go with the rear DVD entertainment system and buy an aftermarket GPS.
The 2013 Ford Escape is based on the Ford Focus platform, making it more fun to drive than you would expect. Sure, it’s no Focus ST, but it’s competent when you get into the twisties. The electric power steering doesn’t have as much feedback as one would like, but it is responsive and snappy. The ride is taut enough to keep body roll to a minimum, but not so stiff that you’ll dread driving over potholes or speed bumps.
The CR-V also has a shared component, but instead of the whole platform, it shares its Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering with the Honda Civic. As a result, the CR-V remains stable under hard braking and even will correct itself when it senses over or understeer. Like the Escape, the ride hits a good spot between stiff enough to keep feeling secure in the corners, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable.
The 2013 Ford Escape Titanium starts at $32,945, while the 2013 Honda CR-V EX-L comes in slightly less at $30,825. While both are excellent choices, the Escape Titanium gets my checkbook. Not only does it have a bit more going for it in the “fun to drive” category, the practicality of a foot-activated liftgate can’t be ignored.