Comparing the Ford Escape and the Kia Sportage seems a bit like watching a bully mess with a weakling. In the past, the Escape has been named the best-selling small crossover SUV, while the Sportage tends to sit near the bottom of the sales list. Why is there such a huge difference between these two for the number of vehicles sold?
What the Ford Escape Gets Right
The Escape offers buyers a choice of three different engines. Two -- a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 168 horsepower and a 1.6-liter turbocharged four with 178 horsepower -- are the standard power sources, depending on which trim level you choose. The third engine is a 240-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder that is available for the upper two trim levels only. Both turbos get good reviews for smooth and quiet operation.
Inside, the cabin features high-quality construction and new technology. While the S (base) trim lacks a sense of luxury, upscale features are readily available at the higher trim levels.
What the Kia Sportage Gets Right
A long list of standard and optional upscale features gives the Sportage an aura of sophistication. Spread among four trim levels, these features compliment this SUV’s noteworthy exterior style and interior design that some say is above average in the compact SUV class.
The Sportage also offers the kind of agile handling that makes it fun to drive. At the SX trim level, a 260-horsepower turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine beats the Escape’s top powerplant and adds more fun to the daily commute.
Why Does the Sportage Lag So Far Behind?
We think that one big reason for the Sportage’s low sales numbers is its smaller size, which puts it somewhere between the average compact SUV and the sub-compact wagon. Its cargo capacity falls almost 15 cubic feet short of the Escape’s, and that’s a measurement that many prospective buyers in this segment take seriously. The Sportage has also been criticized for its rough ride quality and uncomfortable rear seats.
Ford’s proven reputation in the SUV segment carries a lot of weight, too. After all, the company’s Explorer, which debuted more than 20 years ago, helped make “compact SUV” a household term.
Our Verdict: Ford Escape
The Escape carries on Ford’s long history with popular SUVs that provide exactly what American families want.