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We're starting a family soon. Which SUV should we buy?

2013 Ford Escape

Ford

Hello: We are a young married couple about to start a family. We are looking to buy an SUV (a 2013 Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5). However, I was recently provided with another option: an entry-level used luxury SUV (2010 Mercedes GLK, 2010 Audi Q5, etc.) for $30,000. I would be interested to hearing your opinion on these choices (for example, value and other factors). – Andrew in Toronto (Sent from my iPad)

Cato: This is our world today. Well, the civilized world. Vaughan isn't part of it. He does not have an iPad, a mobile phone, a laptop computer, PVR … But Andy reads his Globe on an iPad using the app. He probably runs his life through his iPad, including the music in his apartment and the pictures he took at his wedding.

Obviously he's tech savvy. This suggests to me that he'd love all the fancy gizmos in that 2013 Escape.

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Vaughan: Andrew's a cool character all right, but what's this about used cars? We can't possibly have anything to say about a car we've never seen. It could be great or it could be a salvage job from Hurricane Sandy. So let's stick to the Escape and the CX-5 and we'll add another.

Cato: Escape first. I like the looks of the reinvented 2013 Escape, and how it drives and all the techno-bits. I am less thrilled with the recalls. Ford isn't alone in the recall business; Toyota, which lately has been winning all the quality studies, has recalled millions of vehicles in the last few years. But Transport Canada lists four recalls for the 2013 Escape – two for the engine, one for the brakes and one for the fuel supply. Not good.

Vaughan: Yes, but recalls are commonplace these days. All the car companies share parts across platforms, so when there's a problem with Car A, it can also be a problem with Cars B, C and D.

Let's talk about Ford's Sync with MyFord Touch. It works well enough. The voice recognition system understands something like 10,000 words – that's more than Cato – and when you're telling it to change radio stations or turn up the heat or answer the phone, you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

The problem is there are also many buttons all over the steering wheel; I hit a few of them inadvertently and the radio would go off or the cruise control would end. I then used words that the voice recognition system did not recognize.

2013 Mazda CX-5 Mazda Mazda  

Cato: Again, someone from the 21st century would be right at home with steering-wheel controls. They are fairly commonplace for anyone not driving a 13-year-old VW Golf oil-burner like you.

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Okay, we can mostly agree on the Escape, other than the recall issues. If they are a worry for Andy, the next rig to test drive is the Mazda CX-5. What a little handler this one is. Very tight, very responsive. Nothing in this class is as entertaining to drive.

Vaughan: I like the price. A top-of-the-line CX-5 GT with all-wheel-drive lists for $32,750. An Escape Titanium, also with AWD, lists for $37,499. Andy, pocket the 5 Gs.

Cato: Hang on, now. The Mazda comes with a 155-hp engine, while the Escape Titanium has a 231-hp EcoBoost turbocharged four. We're talking apples and oranges, Vaughan. In fact, my complaint about the CX-5 is that it feels a little underpowered.

Vaughan: Cato, Mazda has a winner in this compact sport-ute. The Germans have made some good ones – little SUVs that drive like cars, not tall tippy boxes. Well, the CX-5 is their equal in drivability.

Mazda has a nice little four-cylinder engine with direct gas injection, but I will concede without a turbo. I like it; turbos can be jerky in acceleration and thirsty. Mazda's combination may be just a little on the weak side, but I could happily live with it.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Hyundai Hyundai  

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Cato: Of course. You've been living with a putt-putting diesel Golf for 13 years. Andy, however, might want to live with a remodelled 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe. This one is a good alternative to the CX-5 and the Escape.

The Mazda and the Ford have an edge in ride and handling, but the Santa Fe is wonderfully well-equipped for the money, has a sterling quality history and looks fantastic. A stuffed Santa Fe with the 2.0-litre turbo four – 264 hp – lists for $32,499. You'll pay thousands more for an Escape with about the same equipment and less power – and it has fewer recalls.

Vaughan: The five-seat Santa Fe Sport – I like its aerodynamic styling. Yes, it is loaded with features and they've proven themselves over the years for reliability and quality.

Cato: Exactly. My first choice is the Hyundai, though tech-savvy Andy might like the Escape best of all.

Vaughan: I'm leaning toward the Mazda CX-5. When it comes out with a diesel then I'll really be sold.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE

 

2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4x42013 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Premium AWD

Wheelbase (mm)

269027002700

Length (mm)

452445554690

Width (mm)

183818401880

Track, front (mm)

168516701680

Engine

2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged2.0-litre four-cylinder2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

231/270 lb-ft155/150 lb-ft264/269 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel driveAll-wheel driveAll-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed automaticSix-speed automaticSix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

169315551752

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.8 city/6.9 highway8.0 city/6.4 highway8.3 city/5.4 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$37,499$32,750$32,499

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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