The Road Ahead : April May 2007
56 APR/MAY 07 thirst slaked only by 95 RON premium. Despite a 69-litre tank, the Mazda will monster the bowser if our 15.7 litres/100 km average is a guide. Still on costs, it's a Korean KO for running and repair costs. Hyundai is cheaper on insurance and par ts, while Holden is superior on ser vicing. Both have 15,000 km ser vice inter vals. Mazdas require ser vices ever y 10,000 km and owners may be disappointed by par ts and maintenance costs. Outback still struggles for ongoing costs. As well as 12,500 km ser vice inter vals, the Subaru has higher insurance costs and a pricey par ts bin. Hyundai's dominance on value continues in warranty, while the Japanese brands relegate Holden to last place. Design & function This foursome shares a high level of safety. Subaru steps up with a five-star ANCAP crash test result, however it shuns the safety net of ESP on 3.0R. The other three vehicles take that stability step, which also brings the benefit of traction control. Additionally, CX-7 and Santa Fe feature front side airbags and cur tain airbags. Hyundai's latest generation diesel ranks as an equal on emissions. Although not per fect, Santa Fe and Outback offer superior ergonomics, with CX-7's frontal vision a drawback and Captiva's key buttons a mess. Subaru and Mazda maintain a margin over Hyundai for build quality, but a bare one. Holden's Captiva trails on panel fit and interior smar tness. Datadots give Outback the upper hand on security and it wins on seat comfor t too. Outback and CX-7 have shapely and suppor tive front seats, the latter more firm. They both offer an excessively firm and narrow centre rear seat, but Subaru has the advantage on either side. Captiva cops a ser ve for its well-bolstered but hard and uncomfor table front seats. Santa Fe's front seats are firm, broad and flat. The rear rows are soft. Hyundai streaks ahead on space. It has stacks of storage spots, generous second row room and can cope admirably with a brace of rear row passengers or a bevy of boot loot. The other three vehicles have less second-row shoulder space. Captiva and Outback of fer more boot room than CX-7, although the Mazda's front storage areas are outstanding. Hyundai leads on practicality, with well-sited child restraints, a proper spare tyre, kids' mirror, rear row airconditioning controls, fold-flat seats and decent third row access. Outback makes the most of its conventional, and commendably low shape to outpoint CX-7 and Captiva on practicality, that duo's space-saving spare tyres a major disadvantage. On the road Ignore the AWD hype because, with the exception of Subaru, these vehicles are mainly front-wheel drive. Subaru has its usual 50/50 split between axles, but the others all require wheel slip before any torque is sent rear ward by the electronic systems. But Mazda has confronted Subaru head-on for handling. The CX-7's high grip levels, flat cornering characteristics and responsive steering are now benchmarks. It is just as nimble as the lighter Outback. Despite the Mazda's smaller capacity, its turbocharged engine is admirably flexible. Although flat from a standing star t, the CX-7 is majestic once the turbo kicks in and, with a smooth and assured gearbox, offers a wide spread of pulling power. CX-7 also features a firm but disciplined ride and unflappable brakes. Don't decr y Outback's abilities. Its ride is supple, while balance and cornering poise are still exemplar y, though it will understeer earlier. We're not fans of SI-Drive, even with a power-sapping intelligent mode to aid economy. In default S mode, the transmission kicks down regularly to compensate for the engine's lack of low-end punch. As revs swell, the car transforms into a smooth and swift top-end tearaway, the quickest here. However, it's impossible to instantly tap that strength, despite handy paddle shifters. Outback's brakes were a disappointment. They were quick to fade and lacked stopping power. Santa Fe has stepped up a notch. Captiva captivates on value for money.
June July 2007