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The Ford Escape continues to be one of the most popular options for shoppers in the SUV market. It comes from a trusted American automaker, has a roomy interior, and gives drivers satisfying handling. However, some critics don’t think the Escape is all it’s cracked up to be, especially when compared to a vehicle like the Chevrolet Equinox.

Consumer Reports says you should stay away from the Ford Escape. Instead, the site recommends choosing the Chevy Equinox, proven to be more reliable. While it’s not the most popular compact SUV, the Equinox is an understated alternative to its Ford rival.

Why CR disapproves of the 2021 Ford Escape

The Ford Escape is responsive behind the wheel, but engine hiccups detract from the experience. The base engine vibrates and the transmission sometimes shifts roughly at low speeds. Testers also reported that the Escape’s ride tends to be firm and the brake pedal requires heavy inputs.

The interior quality looks good at a glance, and the cloth seats are surprisingly comfortable compared to the ones in some rivals. However, some panels don’t fit correctly, even on the higher trims. Pricier models also lack surprisingly common features, like auto-up windows and leather steering wheels.

The 2021 Chevrolet Equinox is better

Although it’s slightly slower than the Ford Escape, the Chevrolet Equinox still exhibits a satisfying drive. The base trim has a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. The standard six-speed transmission is louder than you might find in other compact SUVs, but CR says it’s not too intrusive.

The outgoing model offered a 252-hp turbo-four, but that option was discontinued for the 2021 model year. The Equinox’s engine is also less efficient compared to the Escape’s base offering. While it lacks a well-needed punch, the standard motor still contributes to a serene ride and solid handling. The brakes are also easier to operate compared to the Ford Escape. 

The Chevy Equinox’s interior is nothing special and many of the components have a flimsy feel. Despite their drabby appearance, the cloth seats are still supportive and have many adjustability settings. Leather is also an option, as well as heating for both rows.

The driver’s seat provides adequate room for one’s head and shoulders, though visibility is limited at the side and rear windows. CR also appreciated how much stretch-out space can be utilized by backset riders. However, the seatbacks are less welcoming compared to those in the cabin.

Chevy’s infotainment system is easy to use and many functions can be adjusted right from the Equinox’s steering wheel. The base trim comes standard with smartphone integration, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and many USB ports. The menus are easy to navigate, but some testers thought that the font was too small.

There’s a bigger touchscreen upgrade, but CR cautions that it makes fingerprints more visible. For safety equipment, a base Chevrolet Equinox has a forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assistance, a Teen Driver system, and automatic emergency braking. For everything included, that’s a nice value at the Equinox’s entry price of $23,800.

Other recommendations from Consumer Reports

The Mazda CX-5 tends to outshine the Chevrolet Equinox for both owners and CR testers. It has some of the sportiest handling in the segment, paired with a quiet ride and plentiful standard features. However, some of those features are hard to master and the engines don’t get the best mileage.

The Subaru Forester takes the top spot on CR’s compact SUV ratings, along with the highest owner satisfaction score. The standard AWD enhances its capability with little detriment to fuel economy. The Ford Escape is still a respectable SUV choice, but its rivals simply do everything better.