When it comes to pickup and crossover sales, Ford is a perennial chart-topper here in Canada. The F-150 pickup has been the best-selling overall vehicle since, like, forever, and last year the Ford Explorer was the top-selling seven-seat SUV. Similar story for the Escape compact crossover.

And here’s a market indicator – for the latter portion of 2015, Canadian SUV and crossover sales overtook car sales for the first time.

Never one to drop the ball, Ford has given its Escape a refresh for the 2017 model year. Here it faces off against the reimagined 2016 Hyundai Tucson that has gained size, style, refinement and substance. It’s also gaining chart positions, moving up the field in a bid to challenge the heavy-hitting Escape, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.

The 2017 Ford Escape comes to us in SE AWD trim with a starting price of $29,399. Its 179 hp, 177 lb-ft 1.5L EcoBoost four-cylinder replaces last year’s 1.6L, and fuel-saving auto start/stop is standard. Our 2016 Hyundai Tucson is the Premium AWD model at $28,999. It runs with a naturally aspirated 2.0L four making 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Both CUVs use a traditional six-speed auto.

Exterior Design

The Escape gets spruced up with a new hexagonal grill and sharper headlights –  a look more in keeping with big-brother Edge. New fog lamps flank a lower air intake, and turbo models get active grill shutters for improved aero. Out back we see fresh taillights. Dressing up our white tester is the $1,500 SE Appearance Package that adds slick 19-inch black alloys, smoked lamp bezels and black body trim. The overall shape of the Escape is wearing well, and with these updates it remains a sharp looking rig, sitting on the road with purpose and class.

The Hyundai Tucson arrives in a resplendent in a striking shade of blue, and its hexagonal grill appears to be cut from the same template (albeit larger) as the Escape’s, all gaping and angular. The Tucson’s headlights are more dramatic, sweeping back over the fenders, and the lower fog lights echo that cue. This is a well-resolved design with elegantly sculpted flanks, a prettier face and a more flowing greenhouse. Even on these standard 17-inch alloys the Tucson looks a bit sexier than the Escape, so I’m giving the nod to the Hyundai here. But it’s a close one. These two really could be siblings.

Interior Design

The 2017 Escape gets a relocated shifter and electronic parking brake, making room for new cup holders and cubbies. There’s a redesigned steering wheel too. We like the Escape’s bright and colourful central gauge display, 8.0-inch touchscreen and bold interior architecture. Ergonomics make sense and the driving position is spot on. The low front cowl makes for fine forward vista although the thick A-pillars can obstruct cornering views. These digs are built to a high standard.

The Tucson’s cabin is more conservative, yet as with all Hyundai products of late, its ergonomics prove the automaker understands how humans relate to machines. There are plenty of clearly marked hard buttons and rotary controls. Storage cubbies abound, and the interior’s tight panel gaps show an impressive attention to detail, even if the plastics are mostly of the hard variety. Another nicely done interior, but this contest goes to the Ford for its more interesting design, bigger screen and clearer graphics.

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