FAM­ILY FUN

Com­pared: Lat­est com­pact SUVs for kid and cargo du­ties

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

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 just brought out a new model of the CX-5, Aus­tralia’s top sell­ing SUV for the past four years.

Ford has facelifted the Kuga and re­named it with the global Es­cape badge.

We’re run­ning them against the reign­ing Cars­guide Car of the Year, VW’s Tiguan, the unan­i­mous judges’ choice.

FORD ES­CAPE

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 front- driver, the mid­dle of the range, which is $ 39,050 drive- away as tested (in­clud­ing a $1300 safety pack and $550 for metal­lic paint).

The new name also brings a new nose and 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 safety 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 the least equipped to the best among this trio.

Up­date items also in­clude Ap­ple Car Play and An­droid Auto, built-in nav­i­ga­tion with traf­fic alerts and digital ra­dio.

The Trend comes with push­but­ton start, elec­tronic park brake, cruise con­trol (with speed lim­iter), auto head­lights, rain­sens­ing 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 a light and 12V socket in the cargo area, which ex­pands from 406L to 1603L.

The rear seat splits 60- 40. The seat back an­gle can be ad­justed but the 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 turbo that was re­called a fort­night ago fol­low­ing asp ate of fires, in­clud­ing seven in Aus­tralia.

It’s an eco­nom­i­cal en­gine with plenty of oomph — and costs about half as much to ser­vice as the oth­ers. As with many modern en­gines, it de­mands pre­mium un­leaded.

These aren’t sup­posed to be race cars but we checked their 0100km/h times as an in­di­ca­tor of how they’ll haul the fam­ily in the daily grind.

The Es­cape — slightly faster than the VW Tiguan and one sec­ond quicker to the speed limit than the Mazda CX-5 — han­dles cor­ners con­fi­dently, but the sus­pen­sion can get a bit busier than the oth­ers over bumps. At times, the steer­ing feels too sharp for the size and weight of the car.

MAZDA CX-5

Mazda ex­pands the range to four model grades — from $34,500 drive-away to $54,700 drive-away.

We have the Maxx Sport (the sec­ond model up) 2.0 petrol front- drive at $ 38,400 drive­away.

Mazda loads the new model with the most stan­dard safety kit of the trio, in­clud­ing au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing (front and rear), rear cross traf­fic alert and blind zone warn­ing. This is in ad­di­tion to six airbags, rear view cam­era and rear 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 not a touch­screen.

The cabin has an up-mar­ket feel but the door pock­ets are smaller than the oth­ers, there’s no digital speed dis­play and the guid­ing lines on the 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 a small warn­ing light in the cor­ner of the mir­ror.

Unique among this trio, the rear seat splits 40-20-40 and can be dropped via a lever in the cargo area. The seat back an­gle can be ad­justed but the 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 the 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 CX- 5 steers well, with a plush and al­most cushy ride, rather than the ra­zor-sharp feel­ing of its pre­de­ces­sor.

VW TIGUAN

De­spite its pre­mium price, the Tiguan is sell­ing at twice the rate of the Es­cape and Honda CR-V and is clos­ing the gap on the Subaru Forester.

The range stretches from $39,100 drive-away to $54,580 drive-away.

We tested the 110T SI Trend­line DSG front-drive, at $39,900 drive-away 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 with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto but not built-in nav­i­ga­tion.

Radar cruise con­trol and lane keep­ing as­sis­tance (op­tional on all Es­capes and stan­dard on the top grade CX-5) are not avail­able as an op­tion on this grade.

The Tiguan has the most spa­cious cabin and the big­gest stor­age pock­ets. As with the oth­ers, it has rear air vents. Un­like the oth­ers, it has sin­gle zone air­con.

The Tiguan is the only one among this trio with a slid­ing back seat — to cre­ate a larger cargo area (from 615L to 1665L with the seats down) as well as seat back an­gle ad­just­ment.

Its 1.4 turbo, the small­est of the three, does the job, al­beit on pre­mium un­leaded.

The twin-clutch au­to­matic gear­box takes half a sec­ond or so to en­gage but you soon learn to adapt your driv­ing style and re­lease the brake pedal a lit­tle sooner.

Its big­gest as­set is the way it drives. The Tiguan has the most pre­cise steer­ing and han­dling feel, yet it’s also the most com­fort­able over bumps. That’s a grat­i­fy­ing dou­ble act.

VER­DICT

The Es­cape, though more com­pelling than pre­vi­ously, doesn’t drive quite as well as the oth­ers and isn’t as well pre­sented in­side. If the 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 the com­pe­ti­tion has caught up with more stan­dard fea­tures for the money.

With its im­pres­sive list of stan­dard safety gear, up-mar­ket in­te­rior and greater re­fine­ment, the CX-5 Maxx Sport wins this round. Un­der­cut­ting the oth­ers on price is a bonus.

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