Should I Buy a Nissan Pathfinder or Hyundai Santa Fe?

"Should I buy a Nissan Pathfinder or Hyundai Santa Fe?"

Olu, Edmonton, Canada

The Pathfinder and Santa Fe were redesigned for 2013, and the Pathfinder received the more dramatic changes in a switch from a body-on-frame, rear-drive-based SUV to a unibody, front-wheel-drive crossover. The three-row Santa Fe went on sale in the spring as a replacement for the Veracruz and a bigger brother to the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport.

The new Pathfinder is much more family-friendly than the previous version, with a more carlike ride, handling and significantly higher EPA-estimated fuel economy of 19/25 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive.

The Santa Fe has an attractive interior design with intuitive controls and quality materials, though less overall passenger space than the Pathfinder (146.6 cubic feet vs. 157.8 cubic feet), particularly in the third row. The EPA estimates are 18/24 mpg with all-wheel drive, 1 mpg less than the Pathfinder on both measurements; both have V-6 engines.

The Pathfinder also has more cargo space behind the second and third rows, though with all seats folded the two are in a virtual tie: 80 cubic feet for the Santa Fe and 79.8 cubic feet for the Pathfinder. The Santa Fe's second-row seats don't lie flat when folded for cargo, and the Pathfinder's cargo area has large gaps between and around the folded seats when the second row is slid forward. Towing capability also is a tie at 5,000 pounds maximum for both.

You can see how the Pathfinder and Santa Fe stack up against each other in other ways — as well as against the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander — in a comparison, here. Both are competent family vehicles that warrant consideration, and because we haven't tested the two side-by-side, we don't have a clear favorite.

One mechanical difference you should explore is that the Pathfinder has a continuously variable automatic transmission and the Santa Fe a conventional six-speed automatic. Engines teamed with CVTs tend to feel bogged down at low speeds and can be slower to respond to the throttle.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Review

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

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