Comparison Test: Five Compact Crossovers Battle For Supremacy

The newcomer 2014 Subaru Forester takes on the big-engine 2014 Mazda CX-5 and stalwart 2013 Honda CR-V, 2013 Ford Escape, and 2013 Toyota RAV4 in our latest comparison test.

By Jacob Brown | Photos By Jason Davis | May 29, 2013

Gadgetry and Infotainment: Consider Us Informed and Entertained

The infotainment system as we know it has only been around since the early 2000s. You probably don't remember what it looked like back then. If you need a reminder, check out the Honda CR-V's in-dash unit, more or less using the same interface Hondas have had since Windows 2000 was a thing.
Functional and easy to use as it may be, Honda needs to destroy it with fire. HondaLink in the 2013 Accord shows us the company can do better with a telematics system. We asked ourselves if we'd be willingly pay $800 for this outdated eyesore on top of the price of a CR-V EX-L. The answer came back a resounding and emphatic "no."
Toyota ups the ante with its Entune infotainment system, a much more modern take on the concept. But as Dorchies notes, its "buttons look like the ones used on the oversized TV remote you buy for your grandparents. They look out of place at that size." However, it comes with redundant radio controls outside the screen--something the Subaru's Starlink sorely lacks. The Subaru makes up for it with the heaps of other technologies like Aha radio, Harmon/Kardon speakers, and EyeSight, a suite of safety systems that includes camera-based lane-departure warning, collision warning, and active cruise control. With the exception of the bright rays of sunrise and sunset, or a foggy windshield or splattered locust swarm blocking the cameras' view, it works like a charm. It's remarkable considering its price point. MyFord Touch is also a pretty trick piece, finally perfected to a point where voice commands will control just about anything on the dashboard. Our Escape Titanium also came with a sensor that can detect when you swipe your foot underneath it, opening up the tailgate. Stewart said she had problems with it: "The liftgate, on all Ford models, doesn't work. It got stuck, wouldn't close, and even when manually overridden, barely worked properly. I had the same issues on the [Ford] C-Max." We also posited this: How often are technologies like the kick-liftgate and MyFord Touch useful? Like other vehicles equipped with MyFord Touch, the Escape's dashboard is compromised, awash in tiny, difficult-to-read buttons. Want to turn up the air conditioning but don't want to pull a paddle and say, "Climate. 68 degrees. Climate. Fan high" only to have a femme bot tell you she can't abide because you mispronounced a word? You're going to have to fumble with nickel-sized buttons located behind the shifter at the bottom of the dash. That just leaves the Mazda, which is functional, yet basic. Its TomTom navigation system's screen is miniscule compared to every other's, but it works without fuss. Sometimes that's all you can really ask for.

The Results

1 Subaru Forester: Untouchable high-techiness makes us forgive its lousy music interface.
2 Mazda CX-5: Sometimes simple is just better.
3 Toyota RAV4: Entune works well, but its exaggerated large-font controls are a bit belittling.
4 Ford Escape: Ford's mission to make everything controllable by voice is compromising design and ergonomics.
5 Honda CR-V: Come on, Honda, we know you can put some effort into a newer design.
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CX5 all the way...  the only car here that has premium feel for low econo price.  Subaru looks old already and CVT plus soft suspension with rather isolating steering feel and mushy breaks can bearly beat CRV and Toyota...

Ranger Minney
Ranger Minney

The Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are good buys and nice looking, not sure about the Toyota, Mazda is sporty...but I can't even look at the Subaru it's just too fugly!

Michael Mabus
Michael Mabus

Subaru or Ford. They're the only ones who passed the new crash test