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    Hyundai Palisade and Mazda CX-9 models - We review two of Australia's best large family SUVs

    People are usually buying these types of vehicles for the space

    What are your priorities when looking for a family sized SUV? Is it boot space? How powerful the engine is? Comfort and style? Or all of those things? 

    We took two cars on the market and compared both, section by section, to help make your decision a little clearer. Yes, it’s the battle of the large SUVs: the Mazda CX-9 which is a seven (or six) seat SUV versus the Hyundai Palisade, an eight (or seven) seat SUV

    We’ll be comparing the CX-9 GT SP which is third from the top of the range and costs $67,490 and the base model of the Palisade which costs from $60 grand. 

    While this version of the Mazda costs nearly $8000 more than this version of the Hyundai, we can still give you a really good idea of how these two models compare, and what they're like to live with.

    Right, are you ready to rumble? 

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    How spacious are they?

    First up, how do the two compare size wise? Being large seven- and eight-seat SUVs, people are usually buying these types of vehicles for the space. 

    Hyundai’s Palisade is an SUV that can fit eight, count ‘em, eight passengers. That’s a number usually reserved for people mover-type vans, so the eight sure sets the Palisade apart. 

    It feels quite giant when you’re sitting in the Palisade, there’s loads of leg and headroom even for taller passengers and it’s such a wide car you’ll have no issue jostling shoulders between anyone.

    It feels quite giant when you’re sitting in the Palisade, there’s loads of leg and headroom (image: Dean McCartney). It feels quite giant when you’re sitting in the Palisade, there’s loads of leg and headroom (image: Dean McCartney).

    Into the second row and there is plenty of space here, too. I’m 161cm (5'3") and I fit so easily with lots  of spare room for tall teenagers and adults. My kids loved having all the space in there. 

    You can opt for a seven-seat version of the Palisade if that’s more suitable, which gives you two armchairs in the second row which are more comfortable than a regular flat bench, and this is a great option if you know you don’t need eight seats and are more likely to use seven. 

    If you do go for the eight seats, you can fit three kids car seats across, I did it with two boosters and a baby capsule. It’s a wide car. 

    The back row is more comfortable to climb into than most seven seaters, and once inside I have enough leg and headroom to sit comfortably. Taller people might have an issue with head space, but leg space should be fine.

    You can fit three kids car seats across the back row of the Hyundai (image: Dean McCartney). You can fit three kids car seats across the back row of the Hyundai (image: Dean McCartney).

    If you were to compare it to a van, I would say vans are bigger for eight people, so cars like the Kia Carnival do fit eight adults more easily than the Palisade. But if it’s children you’re wanting to transport around then the Palisade will fit them. Plus the Palisade is an SUV - bonus, it’s not a van.

    The CX-9 doesn’t fit as many people as a Palisade. There are seven seats in total and you can get a six-seat version if you fancy, but it does feel spacious. 

    It’s definitely the size of car that is ideal to take away on a road trip because it’s so roomy and comfortable in both the front passenger and driver’s seats

    Second row passengers also have lots of room in the CX-9 (image: Dean McCartney). Second row passengers also have lots of room in the CX-9 (image: Dean McCartney).

    There’s lots of leg and head space for taller people and it’s a wide car so it doesn't feel like you're about to rub shoulders together in the front. 

    Second row passengers also have lots of room. My two children, aged seven and nine, were happily occupied in this row and I fit back there easily. 

    There’s a good amount of room between my knees and the seat in front of me, meaning taller adults and teenagers will be comfortable, and the second row slides to give more or less room to the row behind. You’ll be able to fit three child seats across in this row, I did it with two boosters and a baby capsule

    The back row of the Mazda has customisable space thanks to the sliding second row (image: Dean McCartney). The back row of the Mazda has customisable space thanks to the sliding second row (image: Dean McCartney).

    Into the back row and if you’ve got long legs you’ll need that sliding second row to give you enough leg space, and you’re not likely to want to be in there on a long journey. Kids will be fine, though. 

    So, the Palisade is more spacious because it fits more people, but it really depends on how many people you want to fit in the car on a regular basis. That will point you in the right direction.

    The Palisade’s boot is sizeable (image: Dean McCartney). The Palisade’s boot is sizeable (image: Dean McCartney).

    How big is the boot in each SUV? SUVs with three rows of seats have smaller boot space when all seats are in use, and that opens up if you’ve got less people inside and fold some of the seats down.

    Boot space in the CX-9 is super large, if the third row is folded down there is a whopping 810L of space which will fit almost anything a family could want to throw in there. It’s good for double prams, suitcases, or a long road trip's worth of stuff. 

    With the third row in use the boot shrinks to 230L, that’s small but fairly standard among seven-seat SUVs. You’ll get school bags and grocery bags in there.

    Boot space in the CX-9 is super large (image: Dean McCartney). Boot space in the CX-9 is super large (image: Dean McCartney).

    The Palisade’s boot is also sizeable.  With all three rows in use you’ll get 311L of space and that’s large for an SUV with three rows, thanks to its boxy shape.

    With the third row down, boot size ramps up to 704L and you’ll be able to fit loads of things in there from suitcases, to double prams, to sporting equipment. 

    The Palisade gives you more space with three rows in use, while the CX-9 delivers more space with two rows in use. So, how you’re planning to use the car will determine which is more suitable for your needs.

      Mazda CX-9 Hyundai Palisade
    Boot space (seats up) 810L 704L
    Boot space (seats down) 230L 311L

     

    Score  
    Mazda CX-9 4.1/5
    Hyundai Palisade 4.4/5

    How do they look?

    When it comes to design there’s a big difference between the two. The CX-9 definitely has a more stylish exterior and is more SUV-like, while the Palisade is a little on the boxy side.

    The Palisade is a little on the boxy side and is almost van-shaped (image: Dean McCartney). The Palisade is a little on the boxy side and is almost van-shaped (image: Dean McCartney).

    To fit eight people, the Palisade needs to be almost van-shaped, and Hyundai has done as much as it can to jazz up the very large proportions with an equally big grille and vertical headlights. 

    Apart from that, it does feel quite unadorned. With a basic shape and angles, it’s not particularly fabulous looking, it relies on sheer bulk to make an impression. 

    Inside is impressive for an eight-seater. Unlike a van, this SUV has all the mod cons to make you feel good on the road. Even in the base model you get leather seats and a leather steering wheel. Both feel good to touch. 

    There’s a well designed centre console area with high gloss accents that is streamlined and simple, and there’s a 10.25-inch multimedia screen that looks very 2021 and is in line with all the competitor seven-seat SUVs offerings.

    It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus 12 speakers so the sound is good. Then there are three USB ports in the front and four more throughout the car.

    The Mazda’s design is more premium, but remember this CX-9 does cost $8000 more than this version of the Palisade.

    The exterior of the CX-9 is known for its reliable good looks, with an air of sophistication well beyond its price category. It’s nice to see that level of refinement on a Mazda, and it’s continued to be appreciated in the market.

    The CX-9 has a more stylish exterior and is more SUV-like (image: Dean McCartney). The CX-9 has a more stylish exterior and is more SUV-like (image: Dean McCartney).

    Inside the GT SP model and the first thing you notice is the burgundy leather seats which come with this grade car. They’re eye catching and the only advice I’d give is to choose an exterior shade that works with this interior colour. 

    There’s a leather steering wheel and high gloss accents around the well designed centre console. It feels quite premium in here even though there are two models above this one to get to the top of the range, which is a great sign. 

    While the Palisade looks good, the styling of the CX-9 gives it an edge over the competition. It’s a much more traditional SUV shape relative to the rectangular Palisade, and the interior is more sophisticated, though keep in mind it does cost more. 

    Score  
    Mazda CX-9 4.2/5
    Hyundai Palisade 3.6/5

    How do they drive?

    Let’s talk driving. How does the Palisade stack up against the Mazda? This version has a bigger engine, but does that mean it’s necessarily better? 

    One of the best things about the Palisade is the way it drives. I test drove the petrol version which has a 3.8L six-cylinder engine, and the remarkable thing is it doesn’t feel heavy on the take-off.

    There’s no lag, which you would normally get in a seven-seat SUV, so that’s pretty great. The other thing is it doesn’t feel too floaty, the steering is good and the car has good precision while turning.

    This petrol version of the Palisade has a 3.8L six-cylinder engine, and the remarkable thing is it doesn’t feel heavy on the take-off (image: Dean McCartney). This petrol version of the Palisade has a 3.8L six-cylinder engine, and the remarkable thing is it doesn’t feel heavy on the take-off (image: Dean McCartney).

    This petrol version is a FWD and if you’re looking for an AWD you can choose the diesel variant. 

    There is no gear shifter in this car, just buttons for gears, which is good sometimes, while at other times you just want a gear shifter.

    This means that even though it’s a giant car, parking is not too bad, as long as you pick a parking spot that's big enough.

    Even at the shopping centre it sticks out as one of the largest in the parking lot. There’s a good reverse parking camera with line guides to help you direct it into place. 

    And the driving is good in the CX-9. This updated version has a 2.5L  four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which is responsive and doesn’t feel too heavy for such a large car, though there is some (expected) lag when you take off. 

    It handles really nicely, and the steering wheel turns easily without being heavy and feeling like hard work. It powers up hills well and feels good to drive on highways because of the size, and you feel confident overtaking.

    This version of the CX-9 has a 2.5L four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which is responsive and doesn’t feel too heavy for such a large car (image: Dean McCartney). This version of the CX-9 has a 2.5L four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which is responsive and doesn’t feel too heavy for such a large car (image: Dean McCartney).

    I’s a very large car and you can feel it’s size when parking, I underestimated the size in my local Woolies this week, but once you do get a handle on how large it is, the easy steering and hi-res reverse parking camera definitely help.   

    While the Palisade is good to drive and has a lot of power from the large engine, the CX-9 feels more refined and does handle better than the Palisade which can feel a bit bouncy around corners. 

    Score  
    Mazda CX-9 4.1/5
    Hyundai Palisade 3.9/5

    How easy to use every day?

    In the Palisade, the driver’s seat is power adjustable but not the front passenger seat on this model. There are three USB ports in the front and four more throughout the car. 

    For storage, you’ll get two cupholders in the front plus a small, deep storage spot in the centre, which is probably where the gear shifter would have gone, and was a game changer for me. Other car companies should take note.

    The Palisade's driver’s seat is power adjustable but not the front passenger seat (image: Dean McCartney). The Palisade's driver’s seat is power adjustable but not the front passenger seat (image: Dean McCartney).

    It makes so much difference and fits keys, sunglasses, phones, other cups, whatever you want it to.

    Then there’s a shelf underneath the centre console which I used to safely transport a cake I'd made. It was the perfect size, plus there's a large centre storage bin and bottle holders in the doors, so lots of very convenient storage. 

    Second row passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest, plus two in each door, which means six cupholders in the middle row and there is climate control with directional air vents. 

    In the CX-9, I particularly like the swish double opening centre storage bin that is quite large inside, and that’s where you’ll find two USB ports.

    There are two cupholders in the front, a spot for keys and a phone, and bottle holders in the doors, but it’s not as handy for storage as the Palisade.

    The CX-9 has a swish double opening centre storage bin (image: Dean McCartney). The CX-9 has a swish double opening centre storage bin (image: Dean McCartney).

    Second row passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest plus their own climate control, and there is storage in the doors.

    Passengers back in the third row get their own air vents and two cupholders. 

      Mazda CX-9 Hyundai Palisade
    Number of seats 7 8
    Keyless entry Y N
    Auto tailgate Y N
    Climate control (zones?) Tri-zone Tri-zone
    Reversing camera Y Y

     

    Score  
    Mazda CX-9 4.2/5
    Hyundai Palisade 4/5

    How safe?

    In the Palisade there is a comprehensive list of safety features that all come standard, which includes blind spot warnings, Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist and 'Smart' cruise control.

    There are a few alerts which appear to buzz unnecessarily. For example, the seat belt alert buzzed for a good five minutes before we realised we needed to do the rear middle seat belt up, although nobody was sitting there.

    Sometimes it also gets the speed limit wrong and will buzz until you drive through what I think it thinks is a speed camera.

    You’ll get airbags throughout including side curtain airbags that go all the way to the back row. And there are five top tether points plus three ISOFIX points to fix kids car seats in safely. 

    Across the CX-9 range you’ll find front and rear auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. 

    There are airbags for front passengers in the CX-9 plus side curtain airbags that extend to the back row, which puts it ahead of the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe

    You’ll also get five top tether points and three ISOFIX points in the CX-9 so both this and the Palisade will fit the same amount of small children.

    Both cars have good safety for a family with the CX-9 holding a maximum five star ANCAP rating from 2016 while the Palisade is yet to be assessed. 

     

      Mazda CX-9 Hyundai Palisade
    ANCAP rating Five (2016) Not tested
    Airbags Eight Six
    AEB Y Y
    Cruise control (adaptive?) Y (adaptive) Y (adaptive)
    Lane-departure warning Y Y
    Lane-keeping assist Y Y
    Blind-spot monitoring Y N
    Rear cross-traffic alert Y Y
    Traffic sign recognition Y N
    Reversing camera Y Y
    Parking sensors (front & rear?) Y (f&r) Y (f&r)

     

    Score  
    Mazda CX-9 4.2/5
    Hyundai Palisade 4/5

    What’s the tech like?

    In the CX-9, the multimedia system has been upgraded to a 10.25 inch multimedia screen, more in line with the top competitors in this category.

    It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you get instant access to your phone’s main apps. Note that it’s not a touchscreen, it’s controlled with a knob near the gears, but it’s actually really easy to use and a huge improvement over Mazda’s old system.

    The CX-9's multimedia system has been upgraded to a 10.25 inch multimedia screen (image: Dean McCartney). The CX-9's multimedia system has been upgraded to a 10.25 inch multimedia screen (image: Dean McCartney).

    The Palisade’s 10.25 inch multimedia screen is a touchscreen, which is immediately more easy to use. It looks very 2021 and is in line with all the competitor seven-seat SUV offerings.

    It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are 12 speakers in the Palisade as standard, so the sound is good.

    The Palisade’s also has 10.25 inch multimedia screen (image: Dean McCartney). The Palisade’s also has 10.25 inch multimedia screen (image: Dean McCartney).

      Mazda CX-9 Hyundai Palisade
    Multimedia screen Y - 10.25-inch Y - 10.25-inch
    Apple CarPlay/Android Auto  Y Y
    Wireless phone charging  Y N
    Built-in sat nav Y Y

     

    Score  
    Mazda CX-9 3.9/5
    Hyundai Palisade 4.1/5

    How much do they cost to own?

    If you’re thinking about how long the warranty is, you’ll be pleased to know both the Mazda and the Hyundai have five year, unlimited km warranties with capped price servicing.

    On the CX-9, servicing is required every 12 months/10,000km which is shorter than the Palisade’s every 15,000km. 

    The Palisade used a bunch of fuel in the petrol version - a claimed 10.7L/100km and I averaged 15.8L over the two weeks of driving on city and highway roads. 

    Fuel consumption in the CX-9 is a claimed 9.0L/100km and I did an average of 12.2L/100km.

    Unfortunately there’s no hybrid or electric version of either car.

      Mazda CX-9 Hyundai Palisade
    Warranty Five-year, unlimited km Five-year, unlimited km
    Service intervals (time/km) 12 months/10,000km 12 months/15,000km
    Capped price service plan  N Y
    Average cost per service (five years)  $350-400/service $419 if you buy the five-year plan

     

    Score  
    Mazda CX-9 4/5
    Hyundai Palisade 4/5

    Pricing & SpecsInsurance Quote

    The Wrap

    So, who comes out on top? It’s very close and it goes without saying that if you’re after a car that fits eight people, the Palisade is for you as the CX-9 seats seven. While the CX-9 scored higher points for design, driving and fuel consumption, the Palisade beat it on space. They seem on par for safety but the Palisade edges slightly ahead with tech as it has the touchscreen. 

    Still, we scored the CX-9 higher because you can’t beat feeling good on the road and it’s more refined overall than the Palisade, which is just that little bit too boxy to make it feel as premium. 

    Despite this version of the CX-9 being $8000 more expensive than this version of the Palisade, based on my experience with these and other versions of each model, the CX-9 just feels more special.

      Mazda CX-9 Hyundai Palisade
    What does it look like? 4.2 3.6
    How does it drive? 4.1 3.9
    How spacious is it? 4.1 4.4
    How easy is it to use every day? 4.2 4.0
    How safe is it? 4.2 4.0
    What’s the tech like? 3.9 4.0
    How much does it cost to own? 4.0 4.0
    Average score out of 5 4.1 4.0

    Scores

    Nedahl:

    4.1

    The Kids:

    4.1

    $60,000 - $67,490

    Based on new car retail price

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