The Great CUV Face-off

By Carrie Kim  on November 23, 2011

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The allure of a crossover can't be denied when it comes to families, and there are three all-new major players that are sure to pique their interest: the redesigned Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. They all may be in the same class, but they each deliver varying degrees of appeal and function for families.

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Dubbed the "Super" CR-V, Honda says the new generation has the functionality of a minivan, the efficiency of a car and the confidence of an SUV. It sounds like a lot of talk, but they delivered on it.

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Families will dig the spacious cargo area and coupled with innovative details that really up the convenience ante for any busy mom or dad, the CR-V really shines. Thanks to the multitasking privacy screen in the back, my groceries would no longer be subjected to being crushed by my daughter's stroller. The screen over the top not only conceals your stuff, but it also can be used to split the cargo area to better organize your stuff. The one-touch lever that folds the rear seats flat is definitely the easiest to use among the three new crossovers.

The CR-V gets bonus points for a huge center console that could hold my purse inside it and a multiangle rearview camera that comes standard on CR-V trims. It has an "eco coach" that changes the gauges from white to green to let you know whether you're driving efficiently. And for a little extra, you can even get a rear entertainment system for the second row, which is new for this segment.

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The all-new Ford Escape wins the Most Dramatic Makeover award in my book. Besides getting a styling overhaul, it takes the love for a mama and her power liftgate to a whole new level. You can bring out your inner Rockette with the Escape's new hands-free power liftgate — just kick your foot under the rear bumper and the liftgate opens. Baby in arms, five groceries bags in your hands and keys at the bottom of your purse? No problem. The car can sense that the key fob is close enough and it responds. This feature alone could earn Ford many votes for Team Escape. Ford is also promising impressive fuel-economy figures for the new Escape, but we'll have to see if they are significant enough to sway us.

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Unfortunately, the Mazda CX-5 lacked any wow features that could get me excited. It's clear that most of the priority was focused on styling and performance here, not innovation. Yes, you'll find a reasonably sized cargo area, attractive looks and even the usual number of cupholders. But, for a new contender in this competitive segment, Mazda really didn't bring anything unique to the table besides its best-in-class fuel economy of 26/32 mpg city/highway that the company wasn't hesitant to share. I guess we'll have to wait until we get the CX-5 on the road to see if the "Zoom Zoom" and fun behind the wheel can push Mazda's new addition forward in the battle between small crossovers.

Carrie Kim is a contributor to Cars.com Family.

Packard 2011 Mazda Honda CR-V Mazda CX-5 Honda Ford Escape Ford 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show Auto Show Crossovers L.A. L.A. Auto Show