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Richard Berry
Reviewed & driven by
CarsGuide

4 Jun 2019

Usain Bolt is not sporty. Nope, he is beyond sporty. If he were a car, he’ be a Ferrari SF90 or a Lamborghini Aventador, or something else mind bogglingly fast. Now, Grant Denyer - there’s somebody who’s sporty.

If Grant Denyer were a car, he’d be a Kia Cerato GT or a Hyundai i30 N Line, or a Focus ST-Line, maybe even a Mazda 3 G25 Evolve. Those cars also happen to be the contenders in our sporty hatch comparison. All of them are priced around the $30K mark and all promise to be sporty.

So, which is the best sporty hatch here? I was joined by CarsGuide editor Mal Flynn, deputy editor James Cleary and senior editor Matt Campbell for two days of testing to find out not only which hatch offered the sportiest driving dynamics, but also offered the best value, practicality and safety. 

Design

Three out of four people reckon the Mazda3 G25 Evolve is the best-looking hatch here. How do I know? I counted them. There’s CarsGuide editor Mal, deputy JC and myself who all think the Mazda3’s elegant and smooth styling is stunning. Then there’s Matt Campbell, who’s never been a big fan of the design.

What we did all agree on is that the Cerato GT is not the sexiest hatch here… not even close, but it is sporty looking, with those red bits hiding inside its black-mesh grille, the 19-inch alloys and the dual exhaust integrated into that glossy black diffuser.

Even more sportier looking is the i30 N Line, which has stolen the i30N hot hatch’s clothes. There are those 18-inch N Line wheels, the front bumper with its silver-painted lip, the black bezel headlights and that rear diffuser with those chunky, chrome exhaust tips.

  • The i30 N Line has stolen the i30N hot hatch’s clothes. The i30 N Line has stolen the i30N hot hatch’s clothes.
  • At the rear the N Line scores a rear diffuser with chunky, chrome exhaust tips. At the rear the N Line scores a rear diffuser with chunky, chrome exhaust tips.
  • This model i30 comes standard with 18-inch N Line wheels. This model i30 comes standard with 18-inch N Line wheels.
  • The Focus ST-Line looks the part, with a tough body kit. The Focus ST-Line looks the part, with a tough body kit.
  • Side skirts, roof-top spoiler, privacy glass and twin tail pipes add to the visual appeal of the ST-Line. Side skirts, roof-top spoiler, privacy glass and twin tail pipes add to the visual appeal of the ST-Line.
  • The ST-Line is fitted with the smallest alloys in the group, measuring in at 17-inches. The ST-Line is fitted with the smallest alloys in the group, measuring in at 17-inches.
  • The Cerato GT is not the sexiest hatch here. The Cerato GT is not the sexiest hatch here.
  • The GT is sporty looking with the dual exhaust integrated into a glossy black diffuser. The GT is sporty looking with the dual exhaust integrated into a glossy black diffuser.
  • Fitted to the Cerato GT are 18-inch alloy wheels. Fitted to the Cerato GT are 18-inch alloy wheels.
  • The Mazda3’s elegant and smooth styling is stunning. The Mazda3’s elegant and smooth styling is stunning.
  • The Mazda3 was also the only car with standard paint, which surprised all of us on this test because the Snowflake White Pearl Mica looks like a premium hue. The Mazda3 was also the only car with standard paint, which surprised all of us on this test because the Snowflake White Pearl Mica looks like a premium hue.
  • The G25 Evolve wears 18-inch alloy wheels. The G25 Evolve wears 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Focus ST-Line is pretty tough looking, too, with its black honeycomb grille, side skirts, roof-top spoiler, privacy glass and twin tail pipes.

Inside, the Focus has good fit and finish but isn’t the most premium-feeling place. That award goes to the Mazda3, with its beautifully stylish and modern cabin. The way the screen is integrated so well into the folds of the dash is exquisite. The only thing letting the tone down are the cloth seats.

You won’t find cloth seats in the Cerato GT, no siree, they’re black leather, soft to the touch and as snug as being hugged by David Hasselhoff, only less leathery, and more embossed with GT badges. The metal pedals, red stitching galore and a flat-bottomed steering wheel steering wheel are enough to convince anybody who may have felt the Cerato GT wasn’t wild looking enough, that it can definitely ‘do sporty’.

  • Inside, the i30 ups the sporty stakes with snazzy red seat belts and that red-metal trim around the air vents. Inside, the i30 ups the sporty stakes with snazzy red seat belts and that red-metal trim around the air vents.
  • The i30 N-Line offered the least amount of legroom of the four cars tested. The i30 N-Line offered the least amount of legroom of the four cars tested.
  • The 8.0-inch multimedia screen in the Hyundai is very similar to what's offered in the Kia. The 8.0-inch multimedia screen in the Hyundai is very similar to what's offered in the Kia.
  • Inside, the Focus has good fit and finish but isn’t the most premium-feeling place. Inside, the Focus has good fit and finish but isn’t the most premium-feeling place.
  • The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Ford's lastest version of Sync. The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Ford's lastest version of Sync.
  • The black leather seats are as snug as being hugged by David Hasselhoff. The black leather seats are as snug as being hugged by David Hasselhoff.
  • The Cerato GT also provided the most room for people. The Cerato GT also provided the most room for people.
  • The 8.0-inch touchscreen controls the sat nav, radio, bluetooth plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8.0-inch touchscreen controls the sat nav, radio, bluetooth plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • The only thing letting the tone down in the Mazda are the cloth seats. The only thing letting the tone down in the Mazda are the cloth seats.
  • The Mazda3 has the most stylish and modern cabin of the bunch. The Mazda3 has the most stylish and modern cabin of the bunch.
  • Mazda has finally introduced Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to its multimedia system. Mazda has finally introduced Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to its multimedia system.

There’s a bit of déjà vu going on in the i30 N Line’s cabin, with more than a couple of similarities between it and the Cerato GT, such as that high-placed touch screen. It makes sense, Kia and Hyundai are Korean cousins with the same parent company, which also sees them sharing many parts. That said, the i30 ups the sporty stakes with snazzy red seat belts and that red-metal trim around the air vents.

Will these hatches fit in your garage, or be small enough to make parking easy? Here are the dimensions to help you decide.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

Length (mm)

4378

4460

4510

4345

Width (mm)

1979

1795

1800

1795

Height (mm)

1454

1435

1440

1453

Wheelbase (mm)

2700

2725

2700

2650

Wheels

17-inch alloy

18-inch alloy

18-inch alloy

18-inch alloy

I’ve awarded the scores below based on not just how sporty these hatches look inside and out, but also on how aesthetically pleasing their designs are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line7
Mazda3 G25 Evolve8
Kia Cerato GT7
Hyundai i30 N Line8

Value

Sporty comes at a price and in the case of these four hatches they cost a tad more than the everyday varieties in the range below them.

The list price of the Focus ST-Line is $28,990, which is $3000 more than the Trend grade under it. The Hyundai i30 N Line lists for $29,490 ($1300 more than the Elite grade). The Mazda3 G25 Evolve is $30,490 ($1500 more than the G20 Touring) while the Cerato GT lists for $32,990 (about $4000 more than the Sport+).

So, on the face of it, the Cerato GT looks the priciest, but it’s a different story when you look at the driveaway prices. The Cerato GT is $31,990 driveaway, the Focus ST-Line is $32,790, the i30 N Line’s driveaway price is $33,250.30 and the Mazda3 G25 Evolve is $34,286.

On paper, the Cerato GT looks the priciest out of the group. On paper, the Cerato GT looks the priciest out of the group.

Have a look at the table below for the standard-features checklist, but I can tell you right now that the Cerato GT is the best-equipped car here and the Focus ST-Line is the least so. A big shout out has to go to the Mazda for being the only hatch here that comes with a head-up display, too.

The Mazda3 was also the only car with standard paint, which surprised all of us on this test because the Snowflake White Pearl Mica looks like a premium hue. The Horizon Blue of the Cerato GT is a $520 option, while the Ruby Red of the Focus ST-Line will cost you $650 and the i30 N Line’s Fiery Red is $495.

The Focus also had the $2000 Panoramic roof package fitted, while the Mazda’s floor mats were optional, at $194.58. Let's take a look at their list prices, and their driveaway prices.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

List price

$28,990

$30,490

$32,990

$29,490

Driveaway price

$32,790

$34,286

$31,990

$33,250.30

And now the standard features.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

Proximity key

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Push button start

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Screen size

8-inch

8.8-inch

8-inch

8-inch

Head-up display

No

Yes

No

No

Apple CarPlay

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Android Auto

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sat nav

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No. stereo speakers

6

8

8

6

Seat upholstery

Cloth

Cloth

Leather

Leather

Driver’s seat adjustment

Manual

Power

Power

Manual    

Heated seats

No

No

Yes

No

Ventilated seats

No

No

Yes

No

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

7

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

7

Kia Cerato GT

10

Hyundai i30 N Line

8

Engine and transmission

Four cars, but three different engines. What the heck? Yes, well, there’s the 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine in the Focus ST-Line, the 2.5-litre four cylinder in the Mazda3 and the 1.6-litre turbo four in the Cerato GT and the i30 N Line. Why do the Hyundai and Kia have the same engine? It’s because the Cerato GT and i30 N Line have the same parent company and as with all siblings they sometimes have to share – in this case it’s an engine with identical outputs. You wouldn’t know it though from the difference in the way they sound, though. The Cerato GT has an electronic sound generator, which produces a growly noise that becomes even more prominent in Sport mode. I’m a fan of it, some people aren’t. Either way, that 1.6-litre engine is superb, delivering the most power here and making all its torque from 1500rpm.

The Focus ST-Line’s 1.5-litre turbo three is fun and it’s seriously a puppy compared to Mazda’s big dog 2.5-litre, in that it's peppy and responsive from the get-go, while the larger unit in the G25 Evolve feels a bit lazy.

All of these engines are petrol, while all cars are front-wheel drive and have auto transmissions.

  • The 1.6-litre turbo engine is shared with the Kia and makes the same 150kW/265Nm. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is shared with the Kia and makes the same 150kW/265Nm.
  • The 1.5-litre, three cylinder turbo makes 134kW/240Nm. The 1.5-litre, three cylinder turbo makes 134kW/240Nm.
  • The 1.6-litre turbo engine makes 150kW/265Nm. The 1.6-litre turbo engine makes 150kW/265Nm.
  • The 'big" 2.5-litre four cylinder in the G25 makes 139kW/252Nm. The 'big" 2.5-litre four cylinder in the G25 makes 139kW/252Nm.

It’s probably no surprise to you that the Cerato GT and i30 N Line have the same seven-speed dual cutch transmission, while the Focus ST-Line has an eight-speed traditional automatic and the Mazda has a six-speed.

The dual-clutch transmission in the Cerato GT and i30N Line shifts super quickly and is smooth, even at low speeds. Also smooth is the six-speed auto in the Mazda, but its slower shifts means it doesn’t lend itself as well to sporty driving as a DCT does.

While the Focus ST-Line’s three cylinder is fun, the eight-speed auto does nothing for the driving experience. All four of us testing the hatches found the transmission to be overly keen to shift up, and it often vetoed our gear selection through the shifting paddles. Let's take a look at what's making these hatches move.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

Engine size

1.5-litre

2.5-litre

1.6-litre

1.6-litre

Cylinders

3

4

4

4

Turbocharged?

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Power

134kW@6000rpm

139kW@6000rpm

150kW@6000rpm

150kW@6000rpm

Torque

240Nm@1750rpm

252Nm@4000rpm

265Nm@1500rpm

265Nm@1500rpm

Transmission

8-spd auto

6-spd auto

7-speed dual-clutch auto

7-speed dual-clutch auto

Weight (kg)

1347

1368

1395

1344

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

7

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

7

Kia Cerato GT

9

Hyundai i30 N Line

9

 

Driving

The four cars in this comparison were tested by myself, CarsGuide’s editor Mal Flynn, deputy editor James Cleary and senior editor Matt Campbell. The 20.2km test loop on mainly course-chip bitumen bushland roads, with its uphill and steep descent section, along with hairpin corners, proved ideal for testing and comparing not only the hatches’ dynamic capabilities but also ride comfort.

We conducted a four-up test in each car – with all of us onboard. Then each tester cycled individually through the hatches and compared notes.

Mal, James and Matt joined Richard for two days of testing to find out, which hatch offered the sportiest driving dynamics. Mal, James and Matt joined Richard for two days of testing to find out, which hatch offered the sportiest driving dynamics.

So, these four hatches look sporty (to varying degrees), but are they at all athletic?

The answer is absolutely yes in the case of the Cerato GT and to a slightly lesser degree, the i30 N Line. Both have multi-link rear suspension and MacPherson struts up front, which have been locally tuned and set up for sporty driving. Handling ability in both on the tight and twisty roads we tested on was well above what is normally offered by most small cars at this price point.

The Cerato GT was outstanding among these four hatches in its agility, flat cornering, great grip and its accurate steering, with good feedback and feel. Praise goes to that four cylinder, which feels strong, responsive and works superbly with the seven-speed dual clutch. Yes, the growly induction noise is fake and produced electronically, but Kia isn’t the only brand doing this, and besides, it sounds great.

  • The Cerato GT feels rigid and handles impressively for this class, but is firmer and less comfortable than the rest. The Cerato GT feels rigid and handles impressively for this class, but is firmer and less comfortable than the rest.
  • Praise goes to the 1.6-litre turbo, which feels strong, responsive and works superbly with the seven-speed dual clutch. Praise goes to the 1.6-litre turbo, which feels strong, responsive and works superbly with the seven-speed dual clutch.
  • The Cerato GT was outstanding among these four hatches in its agility, flat cornering, great grip and its accurate steering. The Cerato GT was outstanding among these four hatches in its agility, flat cornering, great grip and its accurate steering.

What you should know is that while the Cerato GT feels rigid and handles impressively for this class, the flipside is a ride that was firmer than the rest and less comfortable over potholes and speed bumps. With four riders on board, those in the backseat felt that, while they were supported by the centre armrest and contoured seatbacks, the ride was the harshest of the lot.

If a more comfortable ride is high on your priorities list, then the i30 N Line could be the perfect compromise, with a softer suspension set-up but the same engine as the Cerato GT. Yes, there was more roll in the corners, but the N Line still handled well, although its steering was lighter and offered less feedback than the Kia.

The two testers in the back did mention they had less room, but were much happier with the level of comfort in terms of ride. Cleary even remarked that you could tell that the i30 N Line has been refined over this generation. I couldn’t agree more with that, and up front the ride was excellent.

  • There was more roll in the corners, but the N Line still handled well. There was more roll in the corners, but the N Line still handled well.
  • The i30 N Line's suspension has been locally tuned and set up for sporty driving. The i30 N Line's suspension has been locally tuned and set up for sporty driving.
  • The i30 N Line has a softer suspension set-up but the same engine as the Cerato GT. The i30 N Line has a softer suspension set-up but the same engine as the Cerato GT.

The Focus ST-Line looks the part, with the tough body kit, and its three-cylinder engine was peppy and willing to please with its off-the line punch and burbly sound, but the steering and transmission let the driving experience down.

All four testers on this comparison felt the steering in the Focus ST-Line lacked feedback and was too light, leaving the driver feeling disconnected. We also all felt the transmission was too keen to shift up and resisted attempts or downright vetoed the driver’s gear selections at times.

Complaints came loud and clear from the two testers riding in the back of the Focus ST-Line on our loop, too. The lack of a centre armrest and unsupportive seats with a thin cushion in the base not only meant they were uncomfortable, but saw them moving around more than in any other hatch.

  • The Focus ST-Line lacked feedback and was too light, leaving the driver feeling disconnected. The Focus ST-Line lacked feedback and was too light, leaving the driver feeling disconnected.
  • The driving experience is letdown by the steering and transmission. The driving experience is letdown by the steering and transmission.
  • The ST-Line's three-cylinder engine was peppy. The ST-Line's three-cylinder engine was peppy.

Finally, the Mazda3 G25 Evolve. You may be wondering why we’ve included it here? Well first Mazda sees all of its cars as being sporty – you know the whole ‘Zoom Zoom’ thing. Next, it’s the sportiest Mazda3 you can currently buy, with its 2.5-litre engine sitting above the 2.0-litre below it in the range.

The four testers put the Mazda3 G25 Evolve through the same regime as the rest of the cars here and, while it was no surprise to find it the least sporty in its handling, the level of ride comfort and insulation from road and wind noise was outstanding. The backseat riders had never been happier. However, from a sporty-driving perspective, the Mazda3 G25 Evolve struggled. Soft suspension meant the ride was floaty and the engine offered lacklustre performance, unless you really put the boot in. Maximum torque is at 4000rpm or, as my notes put it; “engine is meh”.

  • Out of the group, the Mazda3 G25 Evolve has the least sporty handling. Out of the group, the Mazda3 G25 Evolve has the least sporty handling.
  • Soft suspension meant the ride was floaty and the engine offered lacklustre performance, unless you really put the boot in. Soft suspension meant the ride was floaty and the engine offered lacklustre performance, unless you really put the boot in.
  • The G25 Evolve is currently the sportiest Mazda3 you can buy. The G25 Evolve is currently the sportiest Mazda3 you can buy.

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

6

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

7

Kia Cerato GT

9

Hyundai i30 N Line

8

 

Fuel

Can you have your sporty hatch and afford to feed it, too? Well the good news is that all bar the Focus ST-Line are happy with el-cheapo 91 RON. Seeing as the Ford needs 95 RON, we gave all four hatches that fuel in this test.

After a combination of open and urban roads, the official fuel economies for the Cerato GT, i30 N Line, Focus ST-Line and Mazda3 G25 Evolve are: 6.8L/100km; 7.1L/100km; 6.4L/100km and 6.6L/100km respectively.

Those are the figures from the car companies and I hardly ever match them in my own driving, and with the four testers swapping between the cars for some ‘brisk’ loops it was also unlikely that we were going to come close, too.

After a day of testing and 126km, the fuel economies for the Cerato GT, i30 N Line, Focus ST-Line and Mazda3 G25 Evolve were:  9.5L/100km; 8.7L/100km; 11.9L/100km and 12.3L/100km respectively, as you can see in the table below.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

Type

95 RON premium petrol

91 RON premium petrol

91 RON premium petrol

91 RON premium petrol

Fuel tank capacity (L)

52

51

50

50

Official combined consumption

6.4L/100km

6.6L/100km

6.8L/100km

7.1L/100km

Consumption on test

11.9L/100km

12.3L/100km

9.7L/100km

8.7L/100km

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

7

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

7

Kia Cerato GT

8

Hyundai i30 N Line

8

 

Practicality

Hatches have long been admired for handling the double duties of being sporty and practical. So, which of the four here was the most versatile when it came to room for people, cargo space and amenities like USB ports? Let’s see.

First the boot sizes. The i30 N Line’s boot capacity to the cargo cover is 395L and the Mazda3’s is 295L. Kia only measures the Cerato GT’s 428L cargo capacity to the roof (which is silly because unless you have the boot caged off you shouldn’t pack that high). The Focus throws another curve ball because while its 421L is measured to the cargo cover, it’s not measured in VDA litres but in accordance with ISO 3832, which Ford says is very close to being the same as VDA.

The best way to discern space, then, was using suitcases, and the Cerato GT provided the most cargo space, and also had handy storage under the boot floor.

  • The i30 N Line’s boot capacity to the cargo cover is 395L. The i30 N Line’s boot capacity to the cargo cover is 395L.
  • The i30's boot can comfortable fit the CarsGuide pram. The i30's boot can comfortable fit the CarsGuide pram.
  • The 421-litres in the back of the Focus is measured to the cargo cover, but isn't measured in VDA. The 421-litres in the back of the Focus is measured to the cargo cover, but isn't measured in VDA.
  • Ford measures its cargo space in accordance with ISO 3832, which it says is very close to being the same as VDA. Ford measures its cargo space in accordance with ISO 3832, which it says is very close to being the same as VDA.
  • There's still a bit of room leftover with a suitcase inside. There's still a bit of room leftover with a suitcase inside.
  • Cargo capacity is rated at 428-litres, which is measured to the roof. Cargo capacity is rated at 428-litres, which is measured to the roof.
  • The Cerato GT provided the most cargo space, and also had handy storage under the boot floor. The Cerato GT provided the most cargo space, and also had handy storage under the boot floor.
  • The Cerato GT easily swallowed a suitcase. The Cerato GT easily swallowed a suitcase.
  • The Mazda3's boot is rated at 295 litres VDA. The Mazda3's boot is rated at 295 litres VDA.
  • The CarsGuide pram takes up most of the space in the Mazda3's boot. The CarsGuide pram takes up most of the space in the Mazda3's boot.
  • The cargo space in the current 3 is smaller than the outgoing model. The cargo space in the current 3 is smaller than the outgoing model.

The Cerato GT also provided the most room for people, with the best rear legroom of the four hatches. I’m 191cm tall and could sit behind my driving position in the Cerato GT with about 30mm of space between my knees and the seat back.

Not the case with the i30 N-Line, which offered the least amount of legroom of the four, and had my knees hard up against the driver’s seat in my position.

The Focus ST-Line gave me about 10mm of knee space, thanks to the way the seatback is scooped out, while the Mazda gave me less room, with my knees just kissing the back of the seat in front.

Rear headroom was adequate in all hatches, even for me.

  • Rear space is limited. Rear space is limited.
  • Rear headroom was adequate across all cars. Rear headroom was adequate across all cars.
  • The GT has  the best rear legroom of the four hatches. The GT has the best rear legroom of the four hatches.
  • The Mazda proves less room in the back, with my knees just kissing the back of the seat in front. The Mazda proves less room in the back, with my knees just kissing the back of the seat in front.

Space up front in all cars was excellent, with plenty of head and elbow room. Not once did I feel cramped while driving in any of these hatches, and I have a wingspan of almost 2m.

While we’re talking cabin comfort, you should know that only the Focus ST-Line doesn’t have directional vents for the back-seat passengers. Parents will know the value of these vents. The Focus was also the only one without cupholders in the second row, nor a centre armrest back there. The rest all have four cupholders – two in the front and two in the back.

The Mazda3 was the only hatch tested here not to have wireless charging for phones. Here's a breakdown of the storage for each hatch.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

Boot volume

five seats up (litres)

341(ISO)

295 (VDA)

428 (VDA)*

395 (VDA)

Directional rear air vents

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

USB ports

2

2

2

1

12V outlets

1

1

1

2              

Wireless charging

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Cupholders

2

4

4

4    

Bottle holders

4

4

4

4

*Measured to roof, while all other boot volumes are measured to cargo cover.

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

7

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

7

Kia Cerato GT

8

Hyundai i30 N Line

7

 

Safety

All cars have five-star ANCAP ratings with the i30 N-Line tested in 2017, the Focus ST-Line in 2018, while the Cerato GT and Mazda3 G25 Evolve were tested in 2019.

All our test cars have AEB as standard, but only the Mazda3 G25 Evolve has AEB that works while reversing. The Mazda is also the only hatch here with front cross traffic alert. The Cerato GT and the Mazda3 are the only two to have rear cross traffic alert and blind-spot warning. You’ll have to option them as part of a pack if you want them on the Focus ST-Line or i30 N Line.

Only the Focus doesn’t have adaptive cruise control as standard – you’ll have to option it, too.

While all hatches here have rear parking sensors only the Cerato GT has front sensors.

LED headlights? Only the Cerato and Mazda3 have them as standard.

As for child seats, all our hatches have two ISOFIX and three top-tether mounts across the back seat.

A space-saver spare is offered on all hatches here, too. Here's what's keeping you safe.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

ANCAP

5 (tested 2018)

5 (tested 2019)

5 (tested 2019)

5 (tested 2017)

Airbags

6

7

6

7

AEB (forward)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

AEB (reverse)

No

Yes

No

No

Lane keeping Assist

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rear cross traffic alert

No

Yes

Yes

No

Blind spot alert

No

Yes

Yes

No

Reversing camera

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Front park sensors

No

No

Yes

No

Rear parking sensors

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Adaptive cruise control

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Child seat (ISOFIX)

2

2

2

2

Child seat top tether

3

3

3

3

Spare Wheel

Space saver

Space saver

Space saver

Space saver

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

7

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

10

Kia Cerato GT

9

Hyundai i30 N Line

8

 

Ownership

You’ve just forked out about $30K for the car, now how much is it going to cost you over the time of ownership? Fortunately, all four cars here are covered by long warranties and the servicing costs for routine maintenance are transparent and, in most cases, they’re not capped, or at least there’s a price guide.

A quick glance at the table shows that the Cerato can’t be beaten with its warranty, capped-price servicing and roadside assistance, which all last seven years. If you were to sell the car after four years, the new owner would see the value in having three years’ left of coverage.

 

Ford Focus ST-Line

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

Kia Cerato GT

Hyundai i30 N Line

Warranty

5 yrs/unlimited km

5 yrs/unlimited km

7 yrs/unlimited km

5yrs/unlimited km  

Service intervals

12mths/15,000km

12 mths/10,000km

12 mths /10,000km

12 mths /10,000km

Servicing plan

Capped price

Capped price

Capped price

Life time capped price

Average servicing cost per year (over five years where applicable)

$309.20

$316.2

$410.20

$277

Roadside assist cover

Seven years if serviced at Ford

Five years free

Seven years if serviced at Kia

10 years if serviced at Hyundai

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

8

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

8

Kia Cerato GT

10

Hyundai i30 N Line

8

 

Verdict

Time to announce our winner, if it isn’t obvious already. There is no doubt, the Kia Cerato GT not only offers the most features for the lowest driveaway price, but it’s the sportiest hatch here, with exceptional driving dynamics for this class. The Cerato GT also has the longest warranty, outstanding safety technology and the best legroom and boot space of the hatches here. Unbeatable.

The i30 N Line comes second, offering a softer, more comfortable take on what is a closely related car to the Cerato GT, but it comes with less features, less safety tech and less warranty, all for more money that its Kia cousin.

In third place is the impressive Mazda3 G25 Evolve. It’s the least sporty of the contenders here, but offers a refined and comfortable driving experience, with stunning looks, a beautiful interior and excellent safety technology.

In fourth place is the Focus ST-Line, which is a disappointing result for this new-generation car, which only came onto the market in December 2018. While it has an attractive, sporty exterior, the Focus ST-Line’s insides feel dated already. Looks aren’t everything, but when you add steering that lacks feel and a transmission that seems indecisive and resistant to sporty driving, the Focus ST-Line starts to fall through the rankings. On the bright side, the Focus ST-Line’s three-cylinder engine is playful and punchy, while the driveaway price is good.

Ready for the scores? Here they are.

Model

Score

Ford Focus ST-Line

7

Mazda3 G25 Evolve

7.6

Kia Cerato GT

8.8

Hyundai i30 N Line

8

Of course there are other sporty hatches out there - which ones would you like to have seen in this comparison? Tell us what you think in the comments below.



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