I narrowed my choice to the Tribute/Escape, Forester, and CR-V after deciding to trade my Honda Accord. I chose the Tribute on the basis of handling, interior room, style, and value. The Forester had less rear seat room and I didn't like the door mounted spare on the CR-V. Also, both were more expensive after the available rebates and incentives. It is a comfortable car to drive and I liked the feature set on the "i" including the standard 16 inch wheels. My only options were cruise control, heavy duty floor mats, and the rear bumper step.
Interior/exterior styling, handling, interior room and layout, all wheel drive for snowy weather.
Allow the purchase of side air bags as an option on the "i" model (currently not available). Ford offers them on the basic XLS Escape. Mazda should do the same.