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On The Road

Hyundai Equus Ultimate, Mazda3 S Grand Touring are both fine choices

Courtesy of Hyundai
The Hyundai Equus offers the same advanced safety equipment as the German luxury cars.

As luck would have it this past month, two of our test vehicles were among the largest and smallest in the press fleet – the Hyundai Equus Ultimate and the Mazda3 S Grand Touring.

Both cars have been updated for 2014, and we enjoyed them both, but the Equus sells for more than twice the price of the Mazda3, $69,000 versus $30,000 as tested.

Of course, these cars are intended for different buyers.

Hyundai Equus

The Hyundai Equus is a great choice for an executive who routinely transports important clients around the Bay Area and carefully watches his bottom line, because the car sells for up to $30,000 less than the comparable Audi A8 or BMW 7-Series. The Equus is a comfortable size – the four-door car has luxury fittings and an extended rear compartment – and two video screens that control everything from the navigation system to the multiposition rear seats (options on the model we drove).

The Equus has all the same safety equipment as the German luxury cars, including stability management with collision warning, smart cruise control that can handle stop-and-go traffic jams, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic warning, lane departure warning and even a multiview camera to help slot the car into and out of tight spaces.

Equally important, the 429-horsepower, eight-speed automatic transmission is more than adequate for the nearly 17-foot-long, 4,550-pound car. It is easily managed, with driver-selected sport and comfort settings to handle bumpy urban pavement and high-speed corners with equal equanimity.

The only downside is that fuel efficiency is 18 mpg combined, which is a bit lower than the competition, but the price differential can buy a lot of gasoline. What does one lose in going from high-priced German luxury to the budget-minded Korean equivalent? There is the difference in brand image, of course, but beyond that, we couldn’t find any sacrifices.

As far as long-term quality is concerned, Hyundai offers the assurance of a 10-year or 100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain and five-year or 60,000-mile warranty on all the other standard components.

Mazda3 S

If you did purchase an Equus instead of a BMW 7-Series, the savings would be enough to buy a new Mazda3 S. It’s 2 feet shorter, with 250 fewer horsepower than the Equus, but it’s perfect for errands and young couples starting their own families. And with the hatchback and rear seats folded down, it can haul bulky cargo that couldn’t be squeezed into the trunk or back seats of the Equus.

In addition, you would get most of the same safety equipment, including stability and traction control, blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts, lane-departure warning and forward collision warning. Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support system automatically stops the car from low speeds if necessary to prevent a collision.

The new Mazda navigation, audio, air conditioning and vehicle settings control system – which combines an effective control knob on the console with appropriate touch-screen shortcuts – is the best in the business.

There’s also the fun and energy of driving a responsive small car, with the handling and ride control that Mazda has become famous for. Of course, there are fuel savings, so important to the young driver on a budget. Despite offering the traffic-competent 184 horsepower, the Mazda3 can reach up to 39 mpg on the highway and deliver fuel efficiency of 32 mpg in combined driving.

Although competition in the economical compact segment of the automotive market is fierce, the updated styling and overall package of the Mazda certainly put it at the front of the pack.

Our bottom line: Both of these cars are excellent choices and would make a perfect pair for a typical Los Altos family.

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