It’s a dangerous world out there. Buying a new vehicle has more perils and pitfalls than the Atari game of nearly the same name. Instead of swinging from vines or jumping over obstacles, car shoppers can skip the aerobic workout by simply visiting AutoGuide.com. We’re here to help and we’re glad to do it.
This week Lindsay virtually reached out to us through the tangle of tubes that comprise the Internet. She’s in need of a new vehicle and wants a capable, comfortable SUV to replace her aging Mountaineer. Prior to owning Mercury’s midsize utility she had a number of Ford Explorers. Like a true patriot she prefers to buy American, but she’s not opposed to owning a fo’rin vee-hick-uhl.
When it comes to features Lindsay would love a sunroof and a great sound system. Navigation is a must. Leather, heated seats and a backup camera as well as power windows and door locks are practically required. She’d also love a 100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. In the financial department she has up to $30,000 to spend. Paraphrasing her e-mail, can she drink champagne on a beer budget? Well, technically no because that’s drunk driving, but we’ll do our best to help.
Suggestion #1 – 2013 Ford Escape Titanium
Since Lindsay likes to support America our first suggestion is red, white and blue, Blue Oval that is. The Ford Escape is built in Louisville, Kentucky by a proud domestic automaker. It doesn’t get much more American than that.
Neatly dovetailing with her 30-grand budget is a front-wheel-drive Titanium model. Including destination and delivery charges the window sticker for this vehicle should be right around $29,995. At that price it comes with a variety of must-have features including leather seats, dual-zone climate control and a power liftgate.
It’s got her tech fix, too. The Titanium-trim Escape features the company’s temperamental MyFord Touch navigation and telematics system. High-end Sony audio is also part of the package. Other niceties include fog lamps, heated mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Under the hood this compact crossover is powered by a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. It delivers a full 178 horsepower with impressive turbo torque, 184 lb-ft at just 2,500 RPM.
Based on the company’s fun-to-drive Focus small car the Escape is entertaining on a twisty road. It’s got a nice interior and does very well in crash tests. There are a lot of plusses to this vehicle, but as with anything there are some minuses as well.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Ford Escape Review
The Escape has been on the receiving end of a number of recalls, plus Ford has been slammed in recent quality surveys. Adding insult to injury the company’s fuel-saving EcoBoost engines don’t deliver the economy they promise, and that’s a real problem. According to the EPA it should manage 23 miles per gallon around town and 33 on the highway, scores that result in a combined rating of 26 MPG. Good luck getting that.
Suggestion #2 – 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring
Matching the fun-loving Ford in driving dynamics is the Mazda CX-5. It’s every bit as enjoyable on a curvy road as its domestic competitor, and maybe even more. The range-topping Grand Touring model should deliver the goods Lindsay is looking for.
Under the hood this zoom-zoom-certified crossover is powered by a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. At 184 ponies it puts out a skosh more power than the Escape’s small-displacement EcoBoost engine; torque weighs in at 185 lb-ft. And just like the Ford it’s matched exclusively to a six-speed-automatic transmission. This powertrain combo works very well and delivers more than adequate acceleration.
Under their hoods the CX-5 and Escape are essentially equals, and that parity continues in the content department as well. The Mazda comes with leather-covered seats, tukus toasters, a premium Bose sound system and TomTom navigation. It also comes with a sliding sunroof, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated side-view mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Pricing is always an important consideration when purchasing a new vehicle, but luckily for Lindsay the Grand Touring CX-5 fits her budget perfectly. Optioned with the features she wants including the technology package it stickers for $30,040, including shipping and handling fees.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Mazda CX-5 Review
Beyond pricing, performance and features fuel economy is yet another area where the Escape and CX-5 are within spittin’ distance of each other. The Mazda model stickers at 25 miles per gallon in the city and up to 32 on the highway. It does a couple MPG better than the Ford around town but slightly worse on the open road. In reality there’s likely a significant difference between the two as the CX-5 will probably deliver what it promises.
Suggestion #3 – 2013 Honda CR-V EX-L
Suggestion No. 3 has giant chrome “H” badges on its grille and tailgate. The CR-V is a Honda from stem to stern. This compact crossover is rife with clever engineering, solid construction and a lot of likeable features.
Right off the bat it nails the price point we’re chasing. According to Honda the top-of-the-line EX-L model is worth $29,875, including destination fees. At that level it comes with dual-zone climate control, a navigation system, power windows and locks, cruise control and a multi-angle backup camera. Leather-covered seats are also included, as are heated front chairs. Check, check and check.
Powering the CR-V is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Matching our other two vehicular suggestions it delivers a solid 185 horsepower with 163 lb-ft of torque. However, one downside to this and other Hondas is found just aft of the engine. It’s got an anachronistic five-speed automatic transmission. We live in a time where seven, eight and even nine-speed gearboxes are becoming the norm; a five-speed just doesn’t cut it anymore. On the bright side it’s responsive and smooth.
When it comes to fuel economy this Honda does surprisingly well, given its antiquated drivetrain. The CR-V stickers at 23 MPG city and 31 highway, resulting in a combined score of 26, which is identical to the Escape. Like the Mazda (and unlike the Ford) it will likely deliver on that promise.
Along with its transmission, driving dynamics is another area where the CR-V comes up short. It’s a perfectly fine vehicle but it’s not as engaging as the CX-5 or Escape. This Honda is about reliable, efficient transportation, not carving corners, which is fine because Lindsay is not looking for a sports car, she wants a comfortable replacement for her aged Mountaineer.
SEE ALSO: 2012 Honda CR-V Review
Fun-to-drive may be a trait the CR-V lacks, but it makes up for that in another area: quality. Honda has a reputation for building some of the most reliable vehicles in the world and this compact crossover should deliver the goods. We expect the CR-V to be the most reliable of this trio.
Another vehicle worth considering is the 2013 RAV4. Like Honda, Toyota also has proud heritage of quality, and the company’s RAV4 should deliver decades of faithful service. It also offers the features Lindsay is looking for and an affordable price. But there’s one knock against it, leather seats are NOT AVAILABLE, even on the top-end Limited model. Buyers have to make do with SofTex imitation animal hides. For shame, FOR SHAME!
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is another vehicle that finds itself in Ask AutoGuide’s Dishonorable Mention category. The vehicle delivers a decent driving experience, is well made, attractively styled and comes with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It has no real knocks against it, except one. It costs too much! Appropriately optioned it’s more than two grand too expensive. Since when can Hyundai get away with charging premium prices?
So, what’s the perfect replacement for Lindsay’s Mountaineer? Honestly, just about anything. In all seriousness between the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V, which is the right crossover for her? Each vehicle has its strengths and weaknesses but after carefully weighing these attributes we recommend the Honda CR-V. It’s practically guaranteed to deliver years of trouble-free service, it’s also efficient, quiet and safe; it’s even affordable when loaded with the options Lindsay is lusting after.
As always, good luck Lindsay in your quest for a new car and thanks again for taking the time to Ask AutoGuide.
If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to ask@AutoGuide.com. Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.