2013 Family Crossover Comparison - Day Four

A. J. Mueller Patrick M Hoey

Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Mazda CX-9

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited

  • This is the biggest surprise of the day. No one expected this crossover to make it past the first round, or be as good as it is. And it's pretty damn good.
  • "How much horsepower does that V-6 engine have?" "290." "Wow, it felt like more than that."
  • The third-row seats are bolted directly to the floor, and the second-row seats shake when no one is sitting in them and the car is in motion.
  • Shade of Gray: Iron Frost.
  • The greatest panoramic sunroof we've seen aside from that of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Definitely worth springing for the $2900 Technology package.
  • It feels agile and light on winding roads, although not as sporty as, say, the Mazda CX-9.
  • Shifts from the transmission are slow but not clunky. It's a wash.
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 5.3 seconds. (Quick time assist goes to the two handles on both sides of the cargo area that remotely fold down the second-row seats.) Forget the zombies; they'll never catch you. You might not even get wet when you're trying to load up your groceries in the rain.
  • Things that make this your classic Hyundai: finish that's much better than fit; rear suspension that clunks over road imperfections; and a sport mode that changes steering effort and nothing else.
  • "I'm blown away," says DeMatio. "Getting into this car reminded me that crossover interiors don't have to be grim and depressing. This is the most carefully packaged vehicle in the group."

2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

  • People like us -- people who care about the driving experience -- will err on the side of the Mazda. But most people -- those who actually buy seven-passenger crossovers -- won't.
  • "Mazda nails the basic dynamic qualities that other automakers overlook, which makes this the most enjoyable seven-passenger crossover to drive," says Zenlea.
  • Worst third-row seating of the bunch. Tiny side windows, no panoramic sunroof, and no cup holders. And it's not if you'll fit, it's how you'll fit. Knees up, heads down.
  • Shade of Gray: Meteor Gray.
  • "The interior is a horror story -- a black hole," says Jordan. "Really?" replies Nordlicht. "I think it's upscale without being pretentious."
  • 22 mpg on the highway? Yeah, this old Ford V-6 needs to go away.
  • If you want to see what the outside temperature is, why do you have to press the "outside" button? Why can't it just always be on display?
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 25.4 seconds. If you're loading up your groceries in the rain when zombies attack, getting wet is the least of your worries. Leave the food, or the zombies will eat you.
  • "The seats make you sit very upright," says Jordan. "It's like you're getting your portrait done."
  • "The CX-9 is a fabulous value," says Nordlicht.

The Mazda is the best driver's crossover, but it's too one-dimensional to be a family-friendly beach cruiser. We're as shocked as you are, but it seems like the new Hyundai Santa Fe is going to upset an Automobile Magazine favorite. - Christopher Nelson

Winner: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited. The Santa Fe moves into the final round.

Come back to automobilemag.com tomorrow for a head-to-head comparison of our finalists (we go to a local drive-in for an old-fashioned, family-style meal) and to find out which crossover comes out on top.

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i like hyundai santafe 2013, because model fashion young, 
i like hyundai santafe 2013, because model fashion young, @Nguy?n Ân 
Mark Williams68
Love the Mazda it's not trying to be something's it's not . Nice elegant design and although one of the oldest model here in terms of drive train and power train , it still runs with the best of them
The Passport and Mazda CX-9 are old designs, but I see plenty of them, and there's a reason. My opinion why this is, the buying public don't like seats that rattle, suspensions that clunk, transmissions that are slow. The comments in the comments section, are true in my opinion. The CD drivers were biased to the Hyundai, and Nissan. Even though they are new, doesn't make them a better vehicle. Both the Honda, and Mazda are great driving vehicles, making them attractive. The Pilot especially, people love for the traditional values of body on frame vehicles. The Mazda, for being voted the best for years in this segment. Both the Hyundai, and Nissan, are vehicles, waiting to be kicked to the curb, when Honda, and Mazda give the public there new versions of the family crossovers.
Ryan Coleman
The Santa Fe for 2013 is by far superior in styling and interior design this year. Comparing to the Mazda, anyone that has drove both 90% of the time would prefer the Santa Fe. This is Hyundai's first major overhaul to the vehicle from the ground up since 2007 so you would expect it to be better. Is it the nicest crossover on the market, maybe not but for the money its definitively worth a drive. It comes with a standard 10yr 100,000 mile warranty, 5 years roadside assistance Plus 3 years of free Telematics System ( which no one offers that long for free )64% of People that buy a Hyundai buy another, which is the highest customer retention in the business. Not to mention the fact The Santa Fe on avg is $2800 cheaper then the competition. On a side note I sell Hyundai's for a living, but we carry every SUV on the market and I drive the competition on a daily basis. Go drive the New Santa Fe, and compare for yourself, I guarantee it will surprise you :)Also on the Interior dimensions, math is math ( The Santa Fe is bigger)This is the first year the the Santa Fe actually comes in a long wheel base design for the 3rd row seat. Most manufactures in the crossover segment just add a 3rd row option sacrificing cargo space in lieu of seating whereas the Santa Fe has added a LWB version.
This is a joke right? I have sat in the back of the new Sante Fe and CX9..They are the same damn size..windows and all. And by the way there are cup holders back there..
Jason Rowen
@blkphire I own a 2011 CX-9 and there is nothing "black hole" like about the interior. blkphire is correct with his comment, there are TWO cup holders in the third row area. If these editor's would have bothered turning their damn heads whilst fabricating bland comments to boost the Santa Fe they actually would have found them. Besides, the third row isn't intended for anyone over 5'8" so a little assigned seating comes into play when hauling all the other dumb editors around from tallest in the front to short in the rear.

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