The Best-Selling Small Crossover SUV – We Think We Know Why
In 2014, the Honda CR-V was the eighth best-selling vehicle in the United States and the third best in Honda’s line-up, following the Accord and Civic. So how does this small crossover SUV outsell its 18 competitors, year-after-year? To begin with, it is hard to find much wrong with it.
All trim levels (LX, EX, EX-L and Touring) of the two-wheel (front) drive and all-wheel drive 2015 Honda CR-V come with a 2.4L Direct Injection, 16-valve engine that runs on unleaded regular. Mated to a smooth operating Constant Velocity Transmission (CVT), it puts out 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. Clean Fleet Report’s two-wheel drive CR-V was EPA rated at 27 City / 34 Highway / 29 Combined. In 396 miles of 75-percent/25-percent highway/city driving we averaged 31.9 mpg, which, if the 15.3 gallon fuel tank was run dry, would have taken us 488 miles down the road.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Our CR-V 2WD Touring weighed in at a solid 3,624 lbs., which resulted in a firm, but not stiff or harsh, ride on the highway and around town. Cornering had a planted feeling due to the 18-inch
Best-seller among the small crossovers
wheels and 225/60 All-season tires, MacPherson struts up front, a multilink rear suspension and with stabilizer bars all the way around. Honda has developed a motion-adaptive, electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system that senses your speed and turning effort and effortlessly adjusts the assistance it is providing. This results in smooth cornering without ever getting the feeling that the assisted steering is doing too much.
All CR-Vs come with a CVT that, if you are not familiar with this technology, can take a few miles to get used to. To begin with, when mashing down the accelerator, you will hear and feel the RPMs racing to the maximum until you release the pedal. This is common to a CVT, but is nothing to be concerned with, as once you are at cruising speed, you will never, ever feel a gear shift (as there are no gears in a CVT).
Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the four-wheel, power disc brakes with Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), brake assist and the Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) system.
Driving Experience: Interior
Honda describes the CR-V interior as having a “Smart Interface” design where the instruments and controls are “oriented to the driver for quick readability and easy access” plus “sophisticated styling” that offers an “accommodating interior that offers great cargo carrying versatility.”
A fine interior, just lacking a few knobs
Regarding the first claim, Honda is telling the truth as from the driver’s seat everything you need to know, use or reach are smartly laid-out and in logical, convenient placements. Except, if you read any of my car reviews, you will know I am a big fan of radios having volume and channel knobs. Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent seven-speaker with subwoofer, high-end sound system had neither, which resulted in an infotainment system that was not convenient to change between channels or modes. However, once you found your station or song, the high-resolution seven-inch color display became your friend for navigation, the rear view camera and for selecting between SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3, USB port with iPod connectivity, Pandora interface, SMS text messaging, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone.
Our CR-V Touring had a power tilt and sliding moonroof, power tailgate and heated, black leather seats that were 10-way power adjustable, with two-way memory for the driver, and four-way for the passenger. It was easy to find a comfortable driver seat position, which included power lumber support and a center arm rest/console that was set at the right height. Adding to the interior comfort was a tilt and telescopic steering column, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with illuminated audio, hands-free telephone and cruise controls, and soft touch materials on the dash and door panels.
The CR-V can easily seat three adults in the 60/40 split bench rear seat that has a fold down arm rest with cup holders. Leg, knee and head room – front and rear – were excellent as was the
The crossover payback–room to haul
storage behind the rear seat that has a convenient low loading floor height and boxy shape for hauling larger items.
Other nice interior features are rear air vents, dual zone automatic temperature control, power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors with integrated turn indicators, eight cup holders, carpeted floor mats, center console arm rest, exterior temperature display, remote and smart entry system, push-button start/stop and 12-volt accessory outlets.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The CR-V was freshened for 2015 with a softening of the front end and some added chrome accent pieces. However, it remains a boxy design aft of the windshield with a near-vertical rear end, which squarely places it in the SUV-design mode versus being considered a crossover. However, if you value the storage capacity that this boxy design offers then it is all good.
Safety and Convenience
The 2015 CR-V comes with safety and convenience features including six air bags, remote keyless entry, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with Traction Control System (TCS) and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with brake assist and Collision Mitigation Braking (CMBS.) The Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system was very helpful as were the projector beam Halogen headlights and fog lights.
Pricing and Warranties
Pricing for the 2015 Honda CR-V begins at $23,445, excluding the $880 Destination charge. Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 CR-V 2WD Touring had an MSRP of $32,350, excluding the $880 Destination charge.
The 2015 CR-V comes with these warranties:
The top of the top of the category
- 3-year/36,000-mile New Vehicle
- 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain
- 3-year/36,000-mile Roadside Assistance
- 5-year/Unlimited mile Anti-Perforation
Observations: 2015 Honda CR-V 2WD Touring
The category sales and market share leader for several years, the CR-V continues to be the obvious go-to vehicle when consumers are shopping small SUVs. Others in this category are also very good vehicles and should be on your consideration list when it is time to get into something a bit larger than your compact car, or something a bit smaller than the full-size SUV you have been slogging around in all those years when the kids were living at home.
So, if you want to see why so many people (335,000+ in 2014), chose the CR-V, enjoy the experience of taking a lengthy test drive and you too probably will agree that a CR-V should be parked in your garage.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Road Test: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Road Test: 2015 Mazda CX-5
Road Test: 2015 Ford Escape
Electric Cars, Fuel Cells; Diverse Paths to Fuel Efficiency Highlighted
Here at Clean Fleet Report we had a great year, seeing and reporting to you on a record number of cars, trucks, SUVs and even some two-wheel fuel-efficient vehicles. We had plenty of stories on electric cars, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, clean diesels and very efficient gas-powered vehicles. Beyond that, we reported on significant news and trends you need to know about to plan your next car purchase—or just keep up on the conversation about what’s happening on the leading edge of the automotive world.
So, here, in reverse order, are our Top 10 stories for the year from among the record 69 we published in 2014.
10. Two Wheels Go Electric. We had a sneak peak at the Tesla of electric motorcycles, the aptly named Energica Ego. It has a price up in the “if you have to ask” territory, reflecting its Formula
Two wheels go electric, too!
1 engineering roots and extensive use of carbon fiber and top-brand components. We also noted that Harley-Davidson showed off an electric Harley concept that could indicate they’re looking at the same territory.
9. Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Ford spent a good portion of the year talking about one of the most revolutionary moves in the truck sector—a weight reduction campaign for its best-selling F-150 pickup that involved a move to an aluminum body and the use of lighter weight high-strength steel. With a lighter pickup, Ford was able to drop in a smaller EcoBoost engine and still maintain expected towing and hauling capacities. The truck has just gone on sale at the end of 2014, but the move boosted fuel economy by almost 30 percent, a move needed to counteract competitors like the Ram, which took the diesel route to the top fuel economy in the sector. Not to be left out, GM introduced a pair of new midsize pickups that also will be adding diesel power in 2015.
8. Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Mark. It was hard to pick just one of new breed of compact SUVs/crossovers. We may need to up the ante for the 30 MPG Club because these guys are making it look easy. This year’s batch was led by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, but you could throw in a Subaru or two and not be disappointed. The combination of fuel economy, interior utility, high-tech features and all-wheel-drive capability should help this class to continue to be popular in 2015.
7. Tesla on the Battlefield. We didn’t dive too deeply into the almost daily drama emanating from Palo Alto (just up the road from our headquarters) because we like to focus on the hardware and the significant news that affects that hardware. But we couldn’t avoid a couple articles on Elon Musk’s battle to establish a different sales model of direct sales. He had some success, some losses (sort of like the company’s balance sheet). We’ll continue to follow the company’s progress on this front and any developments on product, which will likely be led by the introduction of the Model X late in 2015.
6. Clean Diesel’s Leader—VW Jetta. Let’s be honest, we love great fuel economy, but really don’t want to give up the fun of driving. Diesel engines are one of the best methods of having the best of both worlds. Hundreds of miles of driving on a tank and the power to effortlessly take on anything the road has to offer. We sampled several diesels this year, but have settled on the Volkswagen Jetta as the standard-bearer of this segment. We like the compact size, the power, the upscale appointments and most of all, an easy 40+ mpg out on the road.
5. The Prius Quartet. You can’t know the Prius. It has led the way for a decade and a half and blazed fuel-economy trails that most other cars have not been able to match. So Toyota decided to make it a family and there are now four variants, all four of which Clean Fleet Report road-tested this year. It’s a challenge figured out which might work the best, but ranging from the diminutive c to the wagon-like V with the traditional Liftback and Plug-In sandwiched in-between, Toyota figures to have the market well-covered.
4. Fuel Cell Electric Cars Arrive! Of course we’ve heard this one before. But this time they mean it! Consider this the second coming of the fuel cell car. We’ve had prototypes running around
An aggressive year for fuel cells
for a decade or more, but now you can buy an FCEV. That is, if you live near the just-beginning refueling infrastructure. Hyundai hit the market first, but Toyota is close behind and Honda not long after them. Mercedes already has dozens on the road and VW and Audi showcased potential challengers. We’ll be keeping an eye of these cars, but from what we’ve driven so far, there is no question about the seriousness of the automakers in bringing FCEVs to market. Hyundai’s fuel cell “engine” was even named by WardsAuto as one of the 10 Best of the year.
3. Kia Soul EV. Cue the hamsters! Electric cars are now cool. The Korean automaker is dipping its toes in the all-electric market (they’ve got a hybrid on the market and a plug-in hybrid coming) with its popular little mini-wagon. We had a fun first drive with the Soul EV and expect to spend some more time in it in 2015.
2. BMW i3. We should have seen this one coming as the Bavarian merchants of speed first dropped a cobbled Mini-E on us, followed up by a pedestrian-
Here come the hamsters!
looking but competent performer in the Active-E. Finally, the real deal arrives and it is every bit the BMW we would expect. Except maybe in its looks, which are more squat than BMW’s SUVs.
When it comes to performance and technology, the i3 is ground-breaking and delivers the driving experience you would expect from a BMW, but without the gasoline (unless you get the REX version that carries a small engine and extends the range 50 miles).
1. Top 10 Electric Cars. This is the big story. We have to choose to pick the Top 10 electric cars available today. It’s still a mix of pure electrics and plug-in hybrids, but the list is growing quickly and the variety of vehicles is looking better than ever. Everything from two-seat mini-sedans to six-figure luxury sports cars are now crowding this list, which we keep updated on a regular basis. The progress being made by automakers is encouraging and the response of the public has been likewise. It’s getting easier to find an electric car that works for your lifestyle and pocketbook. The new players like the VW e-Golf, Kia Soul EV and BMW i3 are making a statement that this is a segment destined to hold a growing portion of the market. Clean Fleet Report will continue to be there in 2015 to make sure you have all the latest news on this group and all of the others out there.
Happy New Year!
Here on links to our Top 10 Stories of 2014
- Top 10 Electric Cars.
- BMW i3.
- Kia Soul EV.
- Fuel Cells Cars Arrive!
- The Prius Quartet: The c and V; Liftback and Plug-In.
- Clean Diesel’s Standard-Bearer—the VW Jetta (2014/2015).
- Tesla’s Battles at the Dealership—two engagements.
- Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Barrier: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5.
- Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Pickups Pick Up MPG. First Drive: Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon.
- Two Wheels Go Electric.
Fuel economy and Zoom-Zoom
How can a small-size car company meet federal fuel economy standards for the next decade if it lacks the resources to develop fuel-efficient hybrids, like larger automakers? If you’re Mazda, you tackle the issue with a holistic approach and
A strong compact SUV contender
innovative engineering that benefits not only fuel economy, but performance, handling and safety as well.
The result? It’s what the little Zoom-Zoom carmaker calls “Skyactiv Technology,” a suite of technological packages in synch with each other that collectively earned the 2015 Mazda CX-5 compact crossover sport utility inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. And not just for the base 2.0-liter four cylinder engine, but also for the larger 2.5-liter four.
Equipped with the smaller 2.0-liter engine, the EPA estimated fuel economy is 31-mpg highway/25 city and 28 combined. There is little fuel economy penalty when choosing the 2.5 as the numbers only drop to 30-mpg highway/24 city and 26 combined.
Three all-wheel drive models are offered: Sport, which starts at $24,395 plus $850 destination charges; Touring priced starting at $26,215; and Grand Touring with a sticker price of $29,220.
Insightful, creative engineering is the core of Skyactiv and the CX-5 was the first Mazda vehicle to feature all of the combined technologies when introduced in 2012 as a 2013 model. At the heart is the Skyactiv-G Engine, a lightweight, efficient four-cylinder that uses direct fuel injection, sequential intake valve timing and a high 13.0:1 compression ratio. These, along with other innovations, achieve excellent power performance while delivering exceptional fuel economy and running on 87-octane fuel.
The little bigger engine that good
The 2.0-liter produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 150 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The larger 2.5-liter engine pushes the output to 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm.
Connected to the engine is the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission. Lightweight in design, the engineering goal was the best attributes of all automatic transmission types — conventional automatic, continuously variable and dual clutch. Mission accomplished, using a small torque converter that delivers smooth starts and shifts attributed to torque transfer efficiency.
Lightweighting, the use of weight-saving materials to improve fuel economy, plays a major role in Mazda’s program. Skyactiv-body and Skyactiv-chassis are terms used to describe the huge reduction of weight through extensive use of high-tensile strength steel. These construction components provide a rigid body and stiffer chassis to optimize steering and handling control. Plus, it helps protect occupants during an unexpected impact.
Whew! That’s a lot to digest, and I only highlighted the details. It does, however, give some insight why the CX-5 feels so darn good to drive.
Zoom-Zoom Road Test
When introduced, the CX-5’s sole engine was the 2.0-liter four. While it was adequate and smooth running, the performance is best described as a single Zoom.
Mazda added the 2.5-liter last year, giving it the credentials to rightfully claim Zoom-Zoom in its advertising. Our Grand Touring all-wheel drive test vehicle approached life with zest not found in other small crossovers, with the exception of the Ford Escape with the 240 horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder.
The engine is quiet and you can feel some muscle when accelerating from a stop or punching the pedal when merging or passing. Power is demonstrated in a refined, enthusiastic way rather than a brute force manner. There’s plenty of energy from the mid to the upper ranges of the power band. Launch to 60 mph is a tick under eight seconds, admirable for a vehicle that weighs in at 3,532 pounds.
The six-speed automatic proved to be a smooth partner to the 2.5-liter four. Shifts — up or down — were as smooth and quick as any automatic-equipped small crossover I’ve driven.
Skyactiv comes alive on the road
What made me appreciate the engine and transmission’s performance was the sweet handling, thanks to the Skyactiv’s attention to chassis details. The suspension is divided between MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the back. The latter has been mounted higher than usual to improve damper efficiency.
Our 2015 Mazda CX-5 was composed under hard acceleration and deceleration, stayed flat as it danced through tight, fast corners and kept its poise right up to the limits of tire adhesion. Although the suspension is skewed toward athletic achievement, the little SUV still dispensed a comfortable, well-behaved ride whether it was on the Interstate or city streets.
As is becoming the norm in this class and others, the steering rack is an electrically assisted system that has a feel close to the Miata roadster. It is communicative, quick and precise at higher speeds, yet light when parking.
The only demerit I gave the CX-5 was a sensitive, slightly grabby brake pedal. I did become used to it, and, sensitive or not, during an urgently needed panic stop, the brakes came through as required.
“Soul of Motion” Design
In addition to Skyactiv, the CX-5 was the first Mazda to introduce its new Kodo, or “Soul of Motion” design direction, which introduced a wide mouth grille. The black, shield-shaped grille and angular wraparound headlights give the front a distinctive and classy look.
In profile, the shape has a swept-back SUV look, with the raked front A-pillar matching the fastback design of the rear C-pillar. In back the style is simple but tasteful, featuring high-mounted taillights that wrap around to sides and a small rear window. Hinting at the CX-5’s performance bent is a pair of chrome exhaust tips.
Mazda carried the smart exterior over to the interior, where I found everything solidly built and smartly designed, if slightly lacking in visual sparkle. Materials and assembly quality are equal to the best-in-class, and there is an abundance of
Pleasing, if unremarkable surfaces great you
soft touch surfaces in the right places.
The prevailing sight from the driver’s seat, save a clear and sensibly laid-out instrument cluster, is a streamlined swathe of dashboard that tapers over a setback multimedia center, with touchscreen functions that operate intuitively. Below the screen, climate control switchgear turns with a gratifyingly solid soft click.
With a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 has one of the roomiest cabins in the small crossover segment. Driver and front passenger have a generous 40.1-inch headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. Six- or eight-way power-adjustable driver seats are offered on all but the Sport trim.
Comfort extends to rear seat passengers who have a plentiful 39.3-inches of legroom and 39.0-inches of headroom. Thoughtfully, second row occupants have plenty of foot space beneath the front seats.
A cavernous interior awaits
Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with 40/20/40-split rear seats. When folded flat, they extend the cargo space from 34.1 cubic feet to a cavernous 65.4 cubic feet.
A surprising standard feature on all 2015 Mazda CX-5 models is push button start. Also standard are the expected power accessories, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise control functions, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and ports for an auxiliary audio jack and USB.
Both Touring models add a rearview camera and a blind-spot monitoring system and the Grand Touring includes niceties like leather upholstery and heated front seats.
Our Grand Touring test driver added the optional Technology Package that includes the Smart City Brake Support system. At speeds up to 19 mph, if you’re coming up behind a slowed vehicle too quickly, the system sounds an alert and preps the brakes for a faster stop. React too slowly and it can automatically apply the brakes to prevent or reduce the severity of a frontal collision.
Is The 2015 Mazda CX-5 For You?
The compact crossover SUV segment is flowing over with some of the best-selling vehicles in the country, which starts with the Honda CR-V, the leader in the sales category. Then there’s the number two-selling Ford Escape. Others fighting for a piece of the market include Toyota’s RAV4, the Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson.
With the exception of the Escape, none of the above comes close to the CX-5’s fun-to-drive personality. The Ford has seductive European styling, but isn’t as roomy as the Mazda. Also, options can push its price close to $40,000.
As for the Honda, well, repeat CR-V owners are not likely to even consider another make. As for new-to-the-segment buyers, they will be tempted by its number-one sales ranking, as they should be.
Where the 2015 Mazda CX-5 stands out from the crowd is its combination of fuel economy, Zoom-Zoom driving behavior, and a competitive price with good value for the dollar spent. That makes it a relative bargain among the compact class.
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Road Test: 2015 Ford Escape
Road Test: 2014 Honda CR-V
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Avant-Garde Styling, Sporty Handling & AWD 30 mpg
Ford’s Escape is one of the two most popular small crossover sport utility vehicles in America — second most popular at the moment — trailing the Honda CR-V in their perennial battle for the top spot in sales.
All new for 2013, the Escape all-wheel drive equipped with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost four cylinder engine earned membership in Clean Fleet Report’s 30 mpg All-Wheel Drive club.
The 2014 edition was unchanged with the exception of adding a backup camera to the standard feature list. The just-now-arriving 2015 model is a virtual rerun of the 2014 Escape.
For 2015 Ford Escape continues with a tiered lineup that includes the base S, better-equipped SE and top-line Titanium. The latter two are available in either front- or all-wheel drive.
Also continuing is a rarity in the small crossover segment—three engines: the base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder and two turbocharged fours that Ford calls EcoBoost. The most popular 1.6-liter EcoBoost’s mission is fuel economy, while the 2.0-liter version has the performance of a V-6 while still delivering rather impressive mpg numbers.
Crisp Design Outside and In
I’m a big fan of the Escape’s exterior design. The penned-in-Europe styling is crisp and modern with excellent proportions. And if you think it looks more like a sleek station wagon with a slightly elevated ride height, that’s essentially what
Sharp looks and well-rounded capabilities
it is: a four-door, five-passenger utility vehicle based on the Ford Focus compact car.
An aggressive front end that’s all grilles and air intakes give the 2015 Ford Escape a look that is more sporty than utilitarian. Sharp lines, muscled-up wheel arches, along with a raked-back and slopping roofline, add to the bold, chiseled look. Dressing up the rump are large angular tail lamps, a small spoiler and dual exhaust tips.
Occupants of the Escape are treated with a nicely designed interior finished with quality looking grained plastics and soft tactile surfaces for the dashboard and door panels. The ambience is one of a modern, normal, substantial, quality car for everyday family use.
Ice blue gauges are large and legible with an LCD information screen between the speedometer and tachometer. The dashboard’s center stack of controls is styled to resemble a mobile phone — one with buttons and keypad, not a touchscreen dominated smartphone. The design is targeted to those familiar with all types of handheld devices. This can be befuddling to some, but there’s little to criticize about the quality of interior materials, which outshines most in the compact crossover class.
Escape has a generous 40 inches of front and rear seat headroom but may not feel as roomy as other compact crossovers such as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, so bring the family with you on a test drive. Cargo volume — 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 68.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded — is also less generous compared with other offerings. The plus is, flipping the rear seats down is simple via a one-touch lever.
Features and High Tech Galore
Ford is quite generous with the Escape’s standard features. Even the base S model gets keyless entry; power locks, windows and mirrors; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; height-adjustable driver’s seat; cruise control; air conditioning; and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
An interior full of tech and comfort
Last year, a rearview camera and Ford’s innovative Sync system become standard. Sync provides hands-free connectivity for communications, navigation, and entertainment services.
No competitor comes close to matching the 2015 Ford Escape when it comes to technology and connectivity or impressing friends and neighbors with novelties.
Optional is the MyFord Touch with navigation. This system builds on Sync, and essentially replaces conventional dashboard buttons and knobs with touchscreen interfaces.
Also available is the Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert to warn of vehicles in the driver’s over-the-shoulder blind spot or those approaching from the sides when backing from a parking-lot space.
In the impress-the-friends-and-neighbors- category is the hands-free power liftgate. It allows an owner carrying the keyless-entry fob in a pocket or purse to unlock and open the power rear hatch by simply waving a foot below the rear bumper.
And then there’s Ford’s Active Park Assist. Wow onlookers as the system identifies a suitable parallel parking space, and literally takes control to steer the Escape into it while you simply modulate the brake pedal.
An impressive feat
Offered only on the base model S is the conventional 2.5-liter 168-horsepower engine. Available in front drive only, it returns an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/30 highway and 25 combined.
Ford’s EcoBoost engines use a turbocharger for an added “boost” of power. To extract the best fuel economy they incorporate direct fuel injection to optimize combustion, and have variable camshaft timing for intake and exhaust efficiencies.
Most buyers opt for the EcoBoost 1.6-liter that puts out 178 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque. It offers the best fuel economy: 23/32/25 [City/Highway/Combined] mpg with front drive and 22/30/25 with all-wheel drive (AWD).
Performance-minded buyers choose the 2.0-liter EcoBoost rated at 240 horsepower and 270 pounds-feet of torque. For its output this engine has surprisingly good fuel efficiency: 22/30/25 with front drive, and 21/28/24 with AWD.
All three engines are connected to a six-speed automatic transmission that directs power to the front wheels.
Escape’s AWD system works via an electronically controlled clutch. Normal operation is front drive, but when a front tire slips it can move power to the rear wheels 20 times faster than the blink of an eye. Working in concert with Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control, it improves handling on dry pavement, as well as wet, snowy or icy roads.
Our test driver was a well-equipped Titanium AWD model that included leather upholstery, 10-way adjustable and heated driver’s seat, an excellent Sony audio system and dual zone climate control. The added options — 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, blind spot detection, Active Park Assist, MyFord Touch with navigation and HID headlamps — added $3,725 to the $31,260 sticker price.
Riding in comfort is easy
I found the ride comfortable even after a few hours behind the wheel, thanks in part to the soft, supportive seat cushion. I particularly appreciated the adjustable steering column and extensively adjustable driver’s seat, which allowed me to find the right driving position and maximize visibility.
If you are like me, and taut, responsive driving is to your liking, you won’t feel shortchanged by the decision to buy a small crossover sport utility. That’s because the 2015 Ford Escape uses the automaker’s “Global C” platform as its basis. It’s the same as the third-generation Focus, which means the mechanicals under the sheetmetal come from one of Europe’s best-handling hatchbacks.
On rural curvy roads, the Escape manages to tread the line between comfort and handling that many small crossovers seem to struggle with. With a suspension tuning that combines quite firm spring and damping rates, there was no nasty crashing or shuddering over rough road surfaces.
It’s much the same story around town. The suspension ironed out the worst of urban lumps and dispatched neglected potholes with ease.
Steering felt well-engineered and corners could be approached with confidence, and, although there was some initial body roll, I never felt like the Escape was unsettled.
There was a polished efficiency to city driving and a decisiveness and willingness to work on freeways and two-lane highways. When I wanted the powertrain to hold a gear, invariably it did so. Consequently, the Escape always felt quick and responsive.
Elsewhere, engineering efforts regarding rolling refinement — stiff body structure, insulation, thick glazing — were evident. Wind noise is controlled well, and the engine is mechanically refined.
As for fuel economy, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost was a little shy of the 27.7 combined mpg of the smaller 1.6-liter we drove last year, but it was still commendable considering the 240 horses. After 289 miles of running around in town and on the freeway, and 40-some miles of frisky driving, the fuel economy readout indicated 26.1 mpg. That’s 2.1 mpg more than the EPA’s estimated 24 mpg combined city/highway.
Starting at $22,610, plus $895 destination charges, the 2015 Ford Escape base model S is competitively priced. The step-up SE is stickered at $25,550 for front drive, $27,300 for AWD. Again competitive, but start adding those nifty options and it can become an expensive proposition
Then there’s the flagship Titanium. Front drive editions are priced starting at $29,510, AWD at $31,260. There are a host of available options that weren’t included on our test drive Escape, and in total can push the price close to $40,000.
Yes, there are less expensive compact crossovers and there are some with more interior room. What you get with the 2015 Ford Escape is an SUV that is secure, confidence inspiring and pleasing to hustle along a back road. It also has a sexy appearance, a top-notch interior along with more connectivity and high-tech features than any competitor.
As an added incentive, the fuel economy is damn good.
2015 Ford Escape | FindTheBest
Honda’s SUV Is Back On Top In Sales
It’s not easy to be the top dog of a vehicle category. Just ask Honda.
The company’s CR-V compact crossover vehicle has been battling the Ford Escape for years, and the two have traded places as the number-one seller in their category several times. CR-V won the top spot in 2012 and 2013, but slid to second place during the first quarter of 2014.
Now it’s back on top. With a strong April 2014, the CR-V claimed the title for the first time this year, and having done so, also
Hondas CR-V doesnt exactly run away from the pack
surpassed the Escape as the year-to-date sales leader.
Among the CR-V’s assets is fuel economy. It earns inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club with an EPA estimated 30 mpg highway/22 mpg city and a combined rating of 25 mpg.
Honda also makes the CR-V easy to buy. There is only one engine, a choice of two- or all-wheel drive and three trim levels. There are only two options, navigation and rear seat entertainment, available on the top trim.
What Makes The CR-V A Crossover SUV?
The CR-V merits crossover status because it shares its platform with the Civic compact sedan. A crossover combines an SUV body style with a car-type understructure. Their one-piece construction, called “unibody,” contrasts with old-school sport utilities that are based on trucks, which attach the body to a separate frame. The body on frame construction provides the ability to tow heavy trailers and haul big loads, but typically sacrifices fuel economy.
A unibody design isn’t as suited to heavy-duty towing or hauling but its lighter weight benefits ride, handling, and fuel economy. The 2014 CR-V is rated to tow trailers weighing up to 1,500 pounds, about average for a four-cylinder compact crossover.
Standing Pat On The 2012 Redesign
The 2014 CR-V styling and interior are unchanged coming off a complete redesign for model year 2012. It is handsomely aerodynamic and rightly proportioned, if less flamboyant than the shaped-in-Europe Escape and the been-to-the-gym Toyota RAV4 (another compact crossover big seller.
Some commentators say the exterior styling is bland. I disagree. Large wheels and bold fender wells combined with sculpted side body panels give a pseudo-aggressive look. In profile, the sweeping roofline has an almost coupe-like appearance.
Plus, I like the now signature vertical taillights. Larger than the previous model, the base extends into the rear body panels in a hockey stick style, and at night you know there’s a CR-V ahead of you.
Interior room is one of the CR-V’s biggest draws, while comfort on supportive seats front and rear are another selling point. Up front, the driver has a high seating position without sacrificing headroom, and in the rear is an abundance of legroom and plenty of space for two child seats. The 60/40 split rear seats recline, but don’t move fore and aft like some competitors.
Cargo volume is vacation-worthy with 37.2 cubic feet of space behind the second row. That’s three cubes more than the Escape and
Honda CR-V interior space is big
about even with the RAV4.
Need more room to haul stuff? A clever mechanism folds the rear seat even with the rear load floor at the pull of a single lever or strap, expanding cargo volume to 70.9 cubic feet — more space than you’ll find in most affordable compact SUVs.
The CR-V’s dashboard is well laid-out and well organized with upper and lower display screens that show settings for Bluetooth mobile phone linking and the image from the rearview backup camera — both of which are standard. The transmission shift lever is located just right of the steering wheel, making room for a large center console between the front seats. Add eight cupholders and an ample number of storage bins, and the CR-V is a crossover that validates the “utility” in “SUV.”
Honda has fashioned an efficiently sized exterior enveloping a smartly packaged interior, but falls short on interior materials compared to the Escape and RAV4, as well as other small crossovers. Fitment is quite good with no panel gaps, however hard plastics that cover the dash and door panels may be durable, but they border on cheap looking. Plus, there is a lack of soft-touch materials in places like arm rests.
Efficient Engine But Just Adequate Oomph
The 2014 CR-V soldiers on with a dual-overhead cam 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that features Honda’s i-VTEC “intelligent” valve control system. Its 185 horsepower is among the highest among competitors, but torque of 185 pounds feet is below the mean. Torque is the force that gets the vehicle moving and is more important to the feel of acceleration than horsepower, which is the energy that keeps the vehicle moving.
Also off the pace with rivals is CR-V’s five-speed automatic – its only transmission. Most top competitive models have an automatic with at least six speeds; the Jeep Cherokee tops others with a nine-speed automatic. In transmissions, more gears provide improved, efficient acceleration and fuel economy. On the plus side, a dashboard “Econ” button configures the CR-V’s transmission to favor fuel economy over acceleration.
What isn’t outdated is Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System. It is more fuel efficient than the CR-V’s previous mechanical AWD, and is quicker to reapportion power from the front wheels to the rears. That benefits traction upon acceleration on snowy, wet or dry surfaces. While not suited for serious off-road use, it is quite capable on gravel and dirt trails.
Short On Gee-Whiz Features
Honda did bring this latest CR-V closer to the class leaders for basic infotainment. It finally installed as standard on every model such modern necessities as Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming, Pandora interface, SMS text messaging and a USB iPod interface.
CR-V interior: better, not best
However, the little runabout lacks the gee-whiz features than a lot of buyers are attracted to and are offered by adversaries.
For example, you’ll find pushbutton ignition on the Escape and RAV4, but not on the CR-V. Same for a power liftgate, which the Escape ratchets up a notch with a hands-free operation via a kicking motion under the rear bumper. And the Escape has a competitive advantage with its Active Park Assist that automatically parallel parks the vehicle. As for an infotainment touchscreen interface, yes on the Ford and Toyota, no on the Honda.
Like others in the class, available is leather upholstery, an upgraded audio system and a navigation system. Unusual for small sport utilities, the CR-V offers a rear DVD entertainment system. However, it is not available if you want the navigation system.
The CR-V’s four is fairly lively, but a tad coarse-voiced at times. It has adequate oomph on hand to dash through traffic and, when up to speed, cruise along with fast-moving traffic. The automatic shifts crisply and is well matched to the engine, keeping it in the revs where it needs to be for good vigor or good mileage, depending on the driver’s right foot.
But it’s difficult at times not to pine for additional power, at little sacrifice in fuel economy, when you have a full passenger load, are driving in hilly topography or passing on a two-lane or merging onto a fast-moving freeway.
Steering has a surprisingly natural feel for an electric system. It’s steady on-center, quick to respond to the driver’s input and the wheel feels connected to the road.
Toe the brake pedal and the CR-V slows right now. Not touchy and no slop.
Mazda’s CX-5 and the Ford Escape are the class leaders for sprightly road manners, but the CR-V is notably pleasant to drive and to ride in. It’s confident in changes of direction and heads into a turn with eagerness. The suspension resists wallowing and floating when encountering road dips and swells. And it soaks up rough pavement with little disruption to occupant comfort.
During our week with the top-of-the-line AWD EX-L Navi (L for leather) we racked up 263 miles. A round trip from Olympia to Bellingham, WA, to visit our oldest son tallied 165 miles of freeway driving. The 33.3 mpg was most likely the result of my setting the cruise control at 67 mph, a rarity for me. Our combined fuel mileage of 27.1 mpg was 2.1 mpg better than the EPA’s estimate of 25 probably because of my conservative freeway driving.
The Compact Crossover SUV For You?
There are a myriad of small crossovers to choose from. They range in price from under $20,000 for bare bones front-drive models, to more than $40,000 for luxury editions.
If you start the buying process by looking at pricing, 2014 CR-V prices will likely appear steep relative to the base prices of
A leading badge of honor?
competitors. That’s mostly due to Honda’s practice against stand-alone options. Instead, the automaker equips each trim level with a fixed set of features that expands as you climb the price ladder. In the end, price differences shrink when competitors are optioned to compete with comparably equipped CR-Vs.
The CR-V starts at $23,775, including $830 destination charges, for the base LX front drive, $25,025 for the LX AWD version. Front drive models can top off at $30,025, our AWD EX-L Navi had a sticker of $31,275.
On a daily basis the Honda CR-V will perform its driving duties admirably, offering affordable commuting as well as providing space for kids, gear and pets. If you prefer a small SUV that’s good at everything to one that’s good at just one thing, and if your four-wheel drive needs aren’t demanding, the all-wheel drive CR-V is outstanding. And that’s why it’s back on top.
Words by Larry E. Hall; photos by the manufacturer
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