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Comparison: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe vs 2019 Mazda CX-9

The Santa Fe, which has managed to carve out a prime spot for itself in its category, has been revamped in 2019. The Hyundai SUV now adopts a more daring style with at least a modicum of European flair, which for our purposes here is a compliment. Mazda, currently in the process of pulling its model lineup upward (for lack of prestige sub-brand of its own) offers a more upscale CX-9 that has improved in comparison with the model’s Signature version last year, adding a little more class to the largest SUV of the family.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai previously offered a regular and XL version of its Santa Fe model. However, with the arrival of the Palisade model, the XL has disappeared leaving behind a single version.

The latter, meanwhile, has grown in volume with a longer wheelbase (70 mm) and 10 mm wider, offering more interior space. The body’s styling has been modernized and the use of lighter alloy metal has reduced the SUV’s weight by nearly 100 kg.

Specifications of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Photo: D.Boshouwers

Nothing but 4 cylinders
The XL model was the only one to provide a V6 engine; no more XL, no more V6. Hyundai brings back the same four cylinders. The entry-level engine is a 2.4L making 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, or you can upgrade to a 2.0L turbo that develops 235 hp and 260 lb-ft. Both come with a start/stop system and use a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.4L FWD version delivers fuel consumption totals of 10.7L/100 km in the city, 8.2L/100 km on the highway. In the 4WD version you get, officially, 11.2/8.7. With the turbo version only in full version, the figures are 12.3/9.8.

Well-equipped, Korean-style
The base version called Essential comes with a well-equipped profile. In addition to the 17-inch alloy wheels, you have heated front seats and steering wheel, as well as a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Hyundai's optional SmartSense group adds pedestrian detection collision protection, lane-keeping assistance, high beam assistance and adaptive cruise control. All-wheel drive is optional.

The Preferred version comes with 18-inch wheels. You also have the proximity key with push button start, electric driver seat, dual-zone climate control and BlueLink system for smartphones. The SmartSense system is standard.

The Luxury version comes with a 360-degree camera, LED lighting inside and out, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.

The range-topping Ultimate version includes 19-inch wheels, power liftgate, 8-inch navigation screen, head-up display and premium Infinity audio system.

Photo: D.Boshouwers

Emotion-free driving
To be honest with you, we miss the V6. Either 4-cylinder will be enough to do the job if the vehicle is traveling light. But if you have to bring the whole family, it’s another story. We understand that companies wanting to improve fuel economy at all costs, but in an SUV of this size, a 4-cylinder is just not enough.

2019 Mazda CX-9

Mazda is a bit of a black sheep among Japanese automakers. Known for its skill in delivering driving pleasure in all its models, Mazda manages to pull off the same trick even with the big CX-9. Without being a beauty queen exactly, the CX-9’S silhouette is pleasingly harmonious in its contours. The lines are well-proportioned and the front has just enough boldness about it without giving buyers more than they want. As with most Mazda products, you have GS, GT and Signature versions; the latter edition first appeared in the CX-9 and later followed in other models.

Specifications for the 2019 Mazda CX-9

Comfortable
All models gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The GT model now features a 360-degree camera system, 7.0-inch configurable digital gauge display, ventilated front seats, fold-down side mirrors and a one-year subscription to SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Services as standard equipment.

The Signature version features a lighted grille, brown Nappa leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Santos rosewood interior trim, frameless rearview mirror and LED interior accent lighting.

Photo: K.Lajoie

Size-wise, the CX-9 is an in-betweenie. It’s officially a mid-size SUV that comes with a third row of seats, but that row would be a challenge to use by any adult, and even children must be fairly small to make use of it.

The one engine
Under the hood, the CX-9 gets a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine developing 250 hp with 91 octane fuel and 227 hp with regular fuel. Torque is 310 ft-lb, and all of it goes through a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The entry-level GS version comes in two-wheel-drive configuration with 4WD available as an option, while the GS-L, GT and Signature versions come standard with the all-wheel drive.

Mazda's fuel consumption estimates are 10.6L/8.4L/100 km (city/highway) with front wheel drive and 11.6L/9.1L with all-wheel drive.

Fun(ner) to drive
The 4-cylinder does not have the lungs of a V6, but the CX-9 is well behave and even manages to provide a certain pleasure behind the wheel, something quite rare in this segment. The handling is precise, the soundproofing is good. You have the impression of driving a vehicle smaller than its size suggests, which is not the case with the Santa Fe. Let us add that the comfort of the seats encourages long journeys.

Advantage Hyundai Santa Fe

If roominess is a priority for you, the Santa Fe uses its interior space better and offers a more-generous layout. It also offers more amenities and features in its base version and costs less to buy.

Advantage Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 offers better driving dynamics, smoother handling and more-precise steering. Soundproofing is also better, as is the level of comfort of the seats.

Similarities

Both models offer comparable fuel-consumption figures. Regarding the warranty coverage, it is longer at Hyundai, but you have three years with unlimited mileage at Mazda, which is not a big difference for many people. Both can tow 1,588 kg with the right equipment.

Verdict

If you’re family-minded and space is at the top of your list of priorities, you will be better served by the Santa Fe. If you prioritize seating comfort and driving, go for the CX-9.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

We like

Nice silhouette
Long list of standard equipment
Well-appointed interior

We like less

Under-performing engines
Boring drive
Fuel consumption is a bit high (2.0L T)

2019 Mazda CX-9

We like

Fun to drive
Quiet
Quality fit and Finish

We like less

3rd row difficult to use
Runs on 91-octane
GS version stingy on equipment

Specifications

.... 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe2019 Mazda CX-9
 TransmissionAuto 6 speedAuto 8 speed
 Drivetrain2 or 4WD2 or 4WD
  4WD4WD 2.,L T
 Fuel consumption (city)11.5L/100 km12.3L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (highway)7.5L/100 km9.8L/100 km
 Fuel Tank74 litres71 litres
    
 Engine  
 TypeGasGas
 Output250 hp (91 oct)235 hp
 Torque310 lb-ft260 lb-ft
 Cylinders4 cylinders4 cylinders
 Displacement2.5L turbo2.0L turbo
    
 Capacity  
 Trunk407 l, 2017 l1016 l, 2019 l
 Towing capacity1588 kg1588 kg
    
 Dimensions  
 Length5065 mm4770 mm
 Width1969 mm1890 mm
 Height1716 mm1680 mm
 Wheelbase2930 mm2765 mm
    
 Warranty3 years/unlimited5 years/100,000 km
    
 Pricing$36,700 to $51,500$30,199 to $44,999