Despite American manufacturers’ recent financial troubles, Ford Motor Company is striving to overtake its Asian competitors in quality, economy, and sales. For several years now Honda

has epitomized those attributes. The two companies are now going head-to-head in sales. Two of the vehicles leading that charge are the 2010-2011 Ford Escape and the 2010-2011 Honda CR-V. With a bit of research from the usual reliable sources (Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Motor Trend) we’ve managed to break these two compact SUVs down by category and find the best value for your dollar.

Powertrain: If you choose the CR-V you’d better be happy with the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, because that’s the only option you have. That makes the CR-V a better choice in regards to fuel

efficiency, but power definitely goes to the Ford. The Escape offers a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that outclasses the Honda in horsepower and torque. If that’s not enough, the 3.0L V6 will increase both of those attributes. Ford also offers the better automatic transmission, opting for the six-speed where Honda chose to stick with the five-speed. AWD is an option on either vehicle.

Winner: Ford Escape

Braking/Safety/Handling: Recent Honda vehicles have had a disappointing drop in braking performance. This is definitely not the case with the CR-V. In brake testing it came to a stop from 60 mph in 119 feet. That’s leap and bounds better than the disappointing 154-foot performance of the Escape. Either model exhibited good crash test safety, earning five stars across the board. The CR-V also possesses a more nimble handling and sharper steering as the Ford feels nearly truck-like in its driving capacity.

Winner: Honda CR-V

Cargo/Hauling: Cargo capacity goes to the CR-V here. Its luggage-holding capabilities are 35.7 cubic feet with the rear seatback up. That extends to 73 cubic feet overall when it’s folded down. The Ford is slightly more cramped in the rear, utilizing a total capacity of 66 cubic feet and only 29 cubes with the seatbacks in the upright position. Towing capacity does go to the Ford with its added power, as it can haul up to 3,500 lbs. properly equipped. The CR-V is rated for only 1,500 lbs., but being a smaller SUV, it’s really interior space that counts here.

Winner: Honda CR-V

Comfort/Interior: The design of the Ford is more attractive than previous models, but it is lacking in some very necessary areas. The front seats are rather tall, giving the driver a hovering feeling, and the steering wheel lacks a telescoping feature. The back seat is stiff and features no fore/aft adjustments, which limits rear seating space. The CR-V’s cabin is both functional and well-designed. The wide-opening rear doors are a great feature for parents, as is the conversation mirror which allows the driver to look into the back seat without having to turn around. The back seat both slides and reclines, making for a more comfortable ride for rear passengers.

Winner: Honda CR-V

Amenities/Options: The highlights of the CR-V’s options are really just the navigation system, Bluetooth, and the rearview camera. Other than that, the Escape has it beat in every way. The Sun & Sync package adds a sunroof to Ford’s outstanding Sync technology, and the stereo upgrade is miles ahead of the Honda. The MyKey parental controls are also a nice Ford feature for those families with devious teenagers.

Winner: Ford Escape

Value for the $: MSRP on the Ford starts at $21,020 and climbs to $27,375 for the fully-equipped model. The Honda has a comparable starting price of $21,545, and its eight style options will run it up to $29,745 at the high end.

Winner: Unless you’re really bucking for more power from a small SUV, go with the Honda. Granted, Ford has a nice technology package with the Escape, but overall driving experience and a better interior design belong to Honda on this one.

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