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The Ford Escape and the Chevrolet Equinox.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and 2018 Ford Escape, two American light heavyweights residing in the heart of the popular crossover segment, are in their third generation. The Escape, in its fifth year since a refresh, remains a consistent top seller in Canada, while the Equinox resides in the middle of the pack just one year after its most recent update. The top-of-the-line models are reviewed here:

Looks

The slimmed-down Equinox is still one of the largest vehicles in its class.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Premier 2.0L : The Equinox shaved 400 pounds from its previous iteration, but still clocks in as one of the largest offerings in this segment. You wouldn’t know it from its front, thanks to an aggressive chrome grille and LED-headlight combination that produces a bold stance, enhanced by 19-inch aluminum wheels and dealer-installed roof-rack cross rails. From the side, a sleek design takes shape, even though the elongated rear end comes off as more minivan than cute hauler.

The Escape has a boxy profile similar to Ford’s other SUVs.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

2018 Ford Escape Titanium: Compared with the smooth lines of the Equinox, the Escape’s boxier approach is reminiscent of its other SUVs, the Explorer and Flex. The style doesn’t show its age, a big reason for the consistent sales. The angle from the side shows off rakish cut lines at the beltline and rocker, as well as roof-rail crossbars for an additional $150 and 19-inch black aluminum wheels that are part of the sport appearance package for another $1,200.

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Interior

The Equinox’s interior has a simple and sophisticated layout.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

Chevrolet Equinox: If there’s one major disparity between the two vehicles, it’s on the inside. The Equinox features a modern horizontal layout that’s simple and sophisticated, elevated by perforated-leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. (Keep in mind, these become cloth seating and plastics down the trim line). Rear passengers have ample head and leg room, as well as a fully flat floor to assist that middle-seat passenger. A plethora of plug-in outlets plus heated seats are provided, although the driver’s seat has just eight power positions.

The Escape’s cockpit has fallen behind the competition.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

Ford Escape: In contrast to the exterior, its cockpit has not held up well over the years. Competitors have upped their game by focusing on luxury, and the Escape’s top Titanium trim shows its age with a thin, firm 10-way power driver seat that only uses leather as a trim. It was difficult to find a comfortable driving position owing to upright, stiff seating and less space all around than the Equinox.

Performance

Chevrolet Equinox: Chevrolet offers two turbo-four gas engines in 1.5- and 2.0-litre forms, as well as a 1.6-litre turbo diesel. This tester came with the bigger gas engine, producing 250 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission (smaller units get six gears). It’s easy to drive and is calm and quiet, with a smooth ride and precise handling. Fuel economy in the 1.5 litre and diesel are near top of pack in the segment, but the nine-speed gearbox still helps it achieve an official rating of 10.9 litres/100 km in the city and 8.3 litres/100 km on the highway. Recommendation of premium fuel for the 2.0 litre may draw scoffs from drivers.

Ford Escape: The Escape has three engines as well, but no diesel. An older 2.5 litre is its base to allow for a starting price at $22,699, followed by the latest 1.5- and 2.0-litre EcoBoosters. To match up against the larger Equinox engine, Ford provided the 2.0-litre twin-scroll EcoBoost version with 245 hp mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It can zip around with precision, showing early-gear quickness and responsiveness to steering inputs. However, fuel ratings are a distant 11.5 litres/100 km in the city and 8.8 on the highway, and our real-world combined test turned up a margin of 1.5 litres/100 km in favour of the Equinox.

Technology

Even at the base trim, the Equinox sports a large MyLink infotainment screen.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

Chevrolet Equinox: From the base trim, consumers are treated to a large MyLink infotainment screen that starts at seven inches and goes up to eight. The value continues with standard features that include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, OnStar, 4G LTE with a built-in WiFi hot spot, heated front seats, a parental-control safety system called Teen Driver and a rear-vision camera. Premier trim adds two USB ports in the back, heated seats throughout, ventilated seats in front, wireless charging capabilities that also act as a handy slot holder for your smartphone and plenty of safety technology.

The Escape’s eight-inch Sync 3 system only comes standard on the third-tier SEL trim.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

Ford Escape: Moving from MyFord Touch to Sync 3 infotainment was a major step forward for the Escape. Unfortunately, the eight-inch Sync 3 touch-screen system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto only comes standard at the third-tier SEL trim, while base Escape owners deal with a miniscule 4.2-inch screen that features voice recognition. Those paying for Sync 3 (also available as an option on second-tier SE for $1,500) will enjoy how easy it is to understand and even more importantly, its instant responsiveness. All infotainment aside, the SEL trim provides torque-vectoring control, heated front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control. Similar to the Equinox, driver-safety technology is only found at its top tier, along with a heated steering wheel.

Cargo

Chevrolet Equinox: With 847 litres of cargo space in the trunk and 1,798 litres behind the first row, it possesses plenty of space for a family of four to travel, but the second row doesn’t fold fully flat. An additional 79 litres of storage space are beneath the rear load for other valuables, as well a hands-free power liftgate in the Premier trim that can be activated by a waving foot.

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The Escape’s rear hatch can be opened with a foot-sweeping motion.

Dave Miller/The Globe and Mail

Ford Escape: If you’re looking for that extra space and a fully flat second row, the Escape has the Equinox beat, with 962 litres of trunk space and 1,926 litres behind the first row. The Escape can also be opened by a foot-sweeping motion.

Verdict

We were able to bring in two vehicles at nearly the same price ($43,890 for the Equinox and $42,689 for the Escape). The 2018 Equinox was favoured for style, technology and connectivity as well as fuel economy, while the Escape won out on cargo capacity. As for performance, it comes down to wanting a smooth ride in the Equinox or one with a little more pep in the Escape.

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