We compare the VW Tiguan, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5.
THE evidence is there on every street. Compact SUVs have become our preferred means of carrying kids and cargo — and new arrivals just keep coming. Mazda has brought out a
model of the CX-5, Australia’s top selling SUV for past four years. Ford facelifted Kuga and renamed it with global Escape badge.
We’re running them against the reigning Carsguide Car of the Year, VW’s Tiguan, the unanimous judges’ choice.
This is Ford’s third attempt in five years at cracking the compact SUV segment.
There are more variants, from $34,000 drive-away to $53,535 drive-away.
We have the Trend 1.5 frontdriver, middle of range, which is $39,050 as tested (including a $1300 safety pack and $550 for metallic paint). The new name also brings a
nose engine, plus an impressive list of advanced — but optional safety tech. Standard are seven airbags, rear camera (with guiding lines that turn) and rear sensors.
The pack adds automatic emergency braking (which now works from 50km/h rather than 30km/h), radar cruise control, lane keeping assistance, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning. These options take the Trend from least equipped to best among this trio.
Update items also include Apple Car Play and Android Auto, built-in navigation with traffic alerts digital radio.
The Trend comes pushbutton start, electronic park brake, cruise control (with speed limiter), auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and privacy glass, among other mod-cons. A power tailgate adds $1200. The cabin is basic but practical; the others have a more up-market appearance but less tech.
Deft touches: digital speed display, dual-zone aircon, two USB ports, a 12V socket and four map lights — plus light and in the cargo area, which expands from 406L to 1603L. The rear seat splits 60-40.
back angle can be adjusted but base doesn’t slide forward. As with the
others, there are two Isofix child seat anchor points and three top tether mounts.
The 1.5 turbo petrol engine replaces the 1.6 that was recalled a fortnight ago following spate of fires, including seven in Australia.
It’s an economical with plenty oomph — and costs about half as much to service the others. As with many modern engines, it demands premium unleaded.
These aren’t supposed be race cars but we checked their 0-100km/h times as an indicator of how they’ll haul the family in the daily grind.
The Escape — slightly faster than VW Tiguan and one second quicker to speed limit Mazda CX-5 handles corners confidently, but the suspension can get a bit busier others over bumps. At times, steering feels too sharp for the size and weight of car.
Mazda expands the range to four model grades — from $34,500 drive-away $54,700 drive-away.
We have Maxx Sport (the second up) 2.0 petrol front-drive at $38,400 driveaway.
Mazda loads the new model with most standard safety kit of trio, including automatic emergency braking (front and rear), rear cross traffic alert blind zone warning. This is in addition to six airbags, view camera
sensors. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are still not available but built-in navigation is standard on this grade. The tablet-style display in the dash looks classy but is a touchscreen.
The cabin has an up-market feel but the door pockets are smaller than others, there’s no digital speed display and the guiding lines on rear camera don’t turn.
The driver’s side mirror is not convex, so it’s hard to see traffic in the adjacent lane. I’d prefer a wider view rather than rely on small warning light in corner of mirror. Unique among this trio, the rear seat splits 40-20-40 and can be dropped via lever cargo area. The back angle
adjusted but base does not slide forward. Cargo capacity is 442L/1342L.
On the move the Mazda is quieter than before — finally muting its road noise on par with rivals.
Performance from nonturbo 2.0 is similar to these peers. Helpfully, it takes regular unleaded.
A downside: the CX-5 is the dearest of this trio to service.
The new steers well, with a plush and almost cushy ride, rather than razorsharp feeling its predecessor.
Despite its premium price, the Tiguan is selling at twice rate of the Escape and Honda CR-V closing gap on Subaru Forester. The range stretches from $39,100 drive-away to $54,580 drive-away.
We tested the 110TSI Trendline DSG front-drive, at $39,900 including $700 for metallic paint.
Standard fare includes automatic emergency braking, rear camera with guiding lines that turn, front and rear parking sensors, large touchscreen Apple CarPlay Android Auto but not built-in navigation.
Radar cruise control and lane keeping assistance (optional on all Escapes standard the top grade CX-5) are not available as an option on this grade.
The Tiguan has most spacious cabin and biggest storage pockets. As with others, it rear air vents. Unlike the it single zone aircon.
The Tiguan is only one among this trio a sliding back seat — to create larger cargo area (from 615L 1665L with the seats down) as well as
angle adjustment. Its 1.4 turbo, smallest of three, does job, albeit on premium unleaded.
The twin-clutch automatic gearbox takes half a second or so to engage but you soon learn
adapt your driving style and release the brake pedal little sooner.
Its biggest asset is the way it drives. The Tiguan has most precise steering and handling feel, yet it’s also comfortable over bumps. That’s a gratifying double act.
The Escape, though more compelling than previously, doesn’t drive quite as well as the others and isn’t presented inside. If optional safety pack were fitted standard, it would have aced this test.
Still a class act, the Tiguan is the best here for space, comfort, practicality and driving feel. But
competition has caught up with more standard features for money. With its impressive list of
safety gear, up-market interior and greater refinement, the CX-5 Maxx Sport wins this round. Undercutting the others on price is a bonus.