Holden Trax VS Hyundai Kona
- Good spec in each model
- Reasonable packaging
- 1.4 turbo is better than the 1.8
- LTZ is pricey
- Missing AEB
- Driving position
- Range and efficiency
- Relative value
- Balanced drive experience
- Held back by ICE underpinnings
- 7.2kW AC charging
- Cramped back seat
Holden's plucky little Trax was a bit of a trailblazer (ahem). Not only was it Holden's first compact SUV, it beat most of the manufacturers to the segment by almost 12 months.
Those manufacturers includes Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. Volkswagen is still months away. The Trax range had a small refresh for the 2018 model year, following a pretty big facelift in 2017. It isn't exactly an earth-shattering update but it gave the Trax a more Holden look while sorting out some of the issues of the launch car.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
I was a huge fan of the original Hyundai Kona electric. When I first drove it in 2019, I considered it the best EV on sale in Australia.
And it wasn't just because it was relatively good value and offered the right amount of range for Australian commuters. It also offered the feedback early adopters would be after, with the convenience first-time EV owners would need.
Now that this entirely new-look facelift has arrived, will those factors still ring true in a rapidly expanding electric car landscape? We’ve driven a top-spec Highlander to find out.
It's a close-run thing, but the best of the Trax range is the LS auto. There is little in the way of genuine improvement as you climb the range, with just the LTZ's rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring as genuinely useful. The rest is mostly cosmetic.
As a contender in the segment, the Trax struggles when it comes to pricing - a Mazda CX-3 of comparable price is better-equipped and better to drive, with just a tighter rear seat to contend with. Other cars in the segment are newer and (generally) better-packaged for similar or little more money.
The Trax is an individual and Australians seem to like them - we're still buying them at a reasonable rate. In a segment that is grabbing yet more sales and is filling with yet more manufacturers, the Trax is the little engine that could.
Is it the Holden badge, individual looks or price that aTrax (I'm so sorry) you? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
I’m pleased to say this update of the Kona Electric confirms my initial thoughts about it. This is still my favourite electric car on sale in Australia. It’s the most approachable for first-time EV buyers while also offering enough of a futuristic touch and all-important feedback for keen early adopters.
It faces tough competition, however, from Tesla’s very good entry-level Model 3, which is an impressive but perhaps less approachable package - which also offers slightly less range, at a slightly higher price.
We hope to bring these head-to-head at some point, so stay tuned. For now, Hyundai’s Kona Electric updates have served to make an already-good EV even better.
The MY17 styling update is carried forward unchanged into the MY18 model year. The Trax is a global car, built in a few locations, but ours come from South Korea. That means we get the Chevy version of the styling (there is also an Opel, which is known as the Mokka).
The newer face is much more contemporary than the old one, with finer detailing and a less chunky look. The deeper front bumper means a fairly bluff front end but with the less blocky headlights, doesn't look as heavy. The overall profile hasn't changed, but the rear has also been cleaned up. A black pack would certainly make the car look even tougher, but it's not on the options list. Some customers have found a nudge bar accessory, but that's not on the official Holden list.
Inside also receieved some attention, with the old bitsy but individual layout turfed out in favour of a more traditional look. The instrument pack used to live in a motorbike-style pad it shared with the Barina. It was kind of cool but looked really cheap, so the pod made way for standard dials-under-a-hood. It's bit more mature but certainly not as cool. Perhaps as consolation, a number of the materials have improved, the awful glove box door is now more substantial-feeling (and it will still fit the owners manual).
One look at the EV, and the Kona’s most recent facelift starts to make a lot more sense. While the petrol variants come across as a bit wacky and divisive, the sleek and pared back look of the electric version has me thinking Hyundai designed this facelift for the EV alone.
The front three-quarter is eye-grabbing, with its distinct lack of facial features, and the look pairs nicely with the new hero 'Surfy Blue' colour. Some may consider the EV's eco-look 17-inch alloys a bit dorky, and again, it’s a shame Halogen headlights take away from the Elite's futuristic design points.
On the topic of futuristic design, the Kona electric’s interior is almost unrecognisable from the petrol variants. This is good news given the price discrepancy, with the brand not only adopting the floating ‘bridge’ console design, adorned with fly-by-wire controls from its more upmarket models, but also upgrading the materials throughout to make for a much nicer cabin environment.
Door cards and dash inserts are clad in soft-touch materials, while many of the finishes have improved or been switched for a satin silver to lift cabin ambiance, and the heavily digitised cockpit makes it feel as cutting-edge as any electric car should.
That said, it doesn’t have the over-the-top minimalism of the Tesla Model 3, and is perhaps better for it, especially when it comes to appealing to someone coming out of a combustion vehicle. The layout and feel of the Kona is futuristic, yet familiar.
The Trax's small dimensions don't promise much but there's a decent amount of room inside. Front seat passengers are well accommodated and luxuriate with no less than four cupholders, while the rear passengers score two in the rear armrest.
Those rear passengers will feel the pinch if they're approaching 180cm, with marginal knee room but plenty of headroom. The upright seating position does help taller folks and you can get your feet under the front seats.
Boot space is a reasonable if not startling 356 litres. Flip up the seat bases, fold the backs forward and you'll see a useful increase in boot dimenions, the volume almost doubling to 785 litres.
LT and LTZ owners also score an underseat storage tray.
Hyundai has done its best to lean into the benefits of the Kona’s electric underpinnings. The front seats are where this is most felt, as the brand’s new bridge console allows for a huge new storage area underneath, complete with a 12V socket and USB outlet.
Above, the usual storage areas remain present, including a small centre console armrest box, decent size dual cupholders, and a small stowage bay below the climate unit with the primary USB outlet and a wireless charging bay.
In each door there is a large bottle holder with a small trench for objects. I found the cabin very adjustable in the Highlander, although one thing worth noting is the light seat trim in our test car was wearing dark from jeans and the like on the door side of the base. I’d be picking the darker interior trim for practicality purposes.
The back seat is a less positive story. The rear seat of the Kona was already pretty tight for an SUV, but it’s worse here because the floor level has been lifted up to facilitate the huge battery pack beneath.
This means instead of having a small gap for my knees, they are lifted to a position hard-up against the driver’s seat, when set to my own (182cm/6'0"tall) driving position.
Thankfully, the width is okay, and the improved soft-touch trims continue into the rear doors and drop-down centre armrest. There are also small bottle holders in the doors which just fit our large 500ml test bottle, flimsy nets on the backs of the front seats, and an odd little tray and USB outlet on the back of the centre console.
Rear passengers don’t get adjustable air vents, but in the Highlander the outboard seats are heated, a rare feature usually saved for high-end luxury vehicles. Like all Kona variants, the Electric has two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on these seats, with three top tethers across the rear row.
Boot space is 332L (VDA) which is not great, but not bad. Smaller cars in this segment (petrol or otherwise) will land a bit over 250L, while really impressive examples will sit above 400L. Take it as a win that it’s only around 40L down on the petrol variant. It still fit our three-piece CarsGuide demo luggage set, with parcel shelf removed.
The boot floor comes with a convenient net for when you need to carry around a public charging cable as we did, and under the floor there is a tyre repair kit and a tidy storage case for the (included) wall socket charging cable.
Price and features
How much is a Holden Trax? Where is the Holden Trax built? What features and accessories are available? This review will provide you with a price list, all quoted as RRP, or MSRP as the manufacturers prefer to say.
Its main rival, the Mazda CX-3, has a bewildering number of models whereas the number of Holden Trax models is comparatively skinny, with just three on offer - the LS, LT and LTZ.
Standard on every Trax is Holden's 'MyLink' media system with Apple CarPlay an Android Auto. As a result, you won't see a GPS sat nav in the specs. MyLink powers a six speaker stereo with USB or Bluetooth for smartphone integration and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. A CD player is a thing of the past, so it's missing from Trax.
The LS manual starts the bidding at $23,990. It rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels, has air-conditioning, reversing camera, remote central locking, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights, powered heated mirrors, electric windows, cloth trim and a tyre repair kit. Twist your dealer's arm and you might get floor mats thrown in.
The $26,490 LS auto not only picks up a six-speed automatic but also the 1.4-litre turbo engine with the same power but improved torque. You also get four-wheel disc brakes as opposed to the manual's rear drum brakes.
The middle child is the $28,890 LT. Added to the LS specification are 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, leather steering wheel, colour instrument screen, fake leather seats, DAB+ digital radio, driver's middle armrest and a sunroof.
The price range is capped with the top of the range LTZ, starting at $30,490. Sharing the turbo engine and automatic transmission with the LT and LS auto, the LTZ's additions include 18-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers, blind spot monitoring and reverse cross traffic alert.
The Trax is available in eight colours. 'Mineral Black', 'Boracay Blue', 'Son of a Gun Grey', 'Burning Hot' (a vivid orange), 'Absolute Red', 'Nitrate' (silver) and 'Abalone White' which all come at a cost of $550. Only 'Summit White' is a freebie.
The Kona Electric is still expensive, don’t get me wrong. There’s no denying small SUV buyers will be turning their collective noses up when the electric version costs literally twice as much as its combustion equivalent.
When it comes to electric vehicles, though, the value equation is quite different. When you place the balance of range, features, size, and price against its rivals, the Kona actually comes out a lot better than you might think.
Look at it this way, the Kona is significantly more expensive than the base Nissan Leaf and MG ZS EV, but also significantly cheaper than rivals which offer more range, like the Teslas, Audis, and Mercedes-Benz models now sitting within Australia’s broadening EV landscape.
And range is the key. Able to make use of a whopping 484km range (on the WLTP test cycle), the Kona is one of the few EVs actually capable of matching a petrol car between ‘refills’, essentially removing the idea of range anxiety for suburban commuters.
The Kona electric is also much more than just another variant, with some significant changes to its specification and interior to at least partially make up for the massive price delta between it and the petrol version.
Leather seat trim is standard on the base Elite, as is a fully digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with EV-specific function screens, an overhauled bridge centre console design with fly-by-wire controls, a wireless charging bay, extended soft-touch materials throughout the cabin, halogen headlights with LED DRLs, acoustic glass (to deal with the lack of ambient noise), as well as rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
The top-spec Highlander gains LED headlights (with adaptive high beams), LED indicators and tail-lights, front parking sensors, power adjustable front seats, heated and cooled front seats and outboard heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, the option of either a glass sunroof or contrast roof colour, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, and a holographic head-up display.
A full suite of active safety functions, which we’ll explore later in this review, is standard across both variants, and each is motivated by the same motor, so no differences there.
It’s disappointing to see the Elite, or any electric car in 2021, with halogen light fittings, and the plethora of heating functions for the seats and wheel are interesting as we’re told they’re a more battery efficient way of heating the vehicles occupants, and therefore maximise range. You have to keep some things for the top-spec car, but again, it’s a shame Elite buyers won’t be able to benefit from these range-saving measures.
Engine & trans
The Trax's engine size depends on the specification you choose. The entry-level LS is the lone contender to persist with the 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated engine that launched the Trax four years ago. Developing 103kW/175Nm at 3800rpm. The 1.8 is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
The LS auto, LT and LTZ all run the 1.4-litre turbo four cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic. The turbo engine develops an identical-to-the-1.8 103kW but brings another 25Nm to the party for a total of 200Nm developed at a more city-friendly 1850rpm.
The Trax's weight isn't particularly low, hovering around 1400kg tare, a bit of a heavyweight in the segment.
Towing capacity is rated at 500kg unbraked and 1200kg braked and a towbar is optional.
No matter which Kona electric variant you choose, it is motivated by the same permanent magnet synchronous motor producing 150kW/395Nm, which drives the front wheels via a single-speed ‘reduction gear’ transmission.
This outpunches many lesser electric cars, as well as most small SUVs generally, although it falls short of the kind of performance offered by Tesla’s Model 3.
Three levels of regenerative braking are available through this car’s paddle-shift system, and the motor and associated components sit in the Kona’s usual engine bay, so there’s no extra storage up front.
According to the official figures, the 1.8 manual will consume 91RON at the rate of 7.1L/100km while emitting 165g/km of CO2.
Step up to the 1.4-litre turbo also means switching to premium unleaded, which it will drink at the rate of 6.7L/100km and emit 155g/km.
Real world fuel economy is somewhat different. We've measure fuel consumption in the 1.4-litre turbo well over 10.0L/100km. The fuel tank size is 53 litres. With that kind of fuel capacity, you'll cover just 500km in normal driving in either the 1.8 or 1.4.
Now the interesting stuff. A few weeks before this review I tested the updated Hyundai Ioniq Electric, which impressed me with how efficient it was. In fact, at that time, the Ioniq was the most efficient electric car by kWh I'd ever driven.
I didn’t think the Kona would best it, but after a week of testing in mainly urban conditions, the Kona returned a stellar figure of 11.8kWh/100km against its large 64kWh battery pack.
Alarmingly good, especially since this car’s official/combined test figure is 14.7kWh/100km, which would normally grant 484km of range. With our as-tested figure, you’ll note it could return well over 500km of range.
Important to remember that electric cars are significantly more efficient around town (thanks to the constant use of regenerative braking), and note the stark difference the new ‘low rolling resistance’ tyres have made to this car’s range and consumption.
The Kona’s battery pack is a Lithium-ion type and is charged through a single European-standard Type 2 CCS port located prominently at the front. On DC combo charging, the Kona can power up at a max rate of 100kW, allowing for a 10 – 80 per cent charge time of 47 minutes. Most chargers around Australia’s capital cities, however, are 50kW locations, which will do the same in around 64 minutes.
Frustratingly, on AC charging, the Kona’s max rate is just 7.2kW, charging from 10 – 100 per cent in nine hours. It would be nice to see at least the option of an 11kW inverter in the future, allowing you to add much more range in an hour or two at convenient AC spots which are popping up around local supermarkets.
Still, the Kona has excellent range and the best efficiency for the money you’re paying.
The view out of the Trax is impressive for such a small car. It feels high even though it isn't - pop the bonnet and you'll notice it's a long reach down to the engine, even the battery is kept low. The driving position is high and commanding but boy, is it awkward. The pedals are very close to the seat and despite a tilt and reach adjustable steering column, the taller you are, the harder it is to get away from a weird man-spreading arrangemnt for your legs.
The limited ground clearance of 158mm - a leftover from its Barina underpinnings - means the Trax isn't much of an off-roader despite its hill descent control inclusion and very camper-like addition of a 230V power supply in the rear seat. The front bumper is a scraper as it extends much lower than you would expect in an SUV, mostly to protect its low-riding underbits.
The sole 1.8 in the range is best avoided. The engine is a buzzing, vocal unit that needs to be worked hard to keep up with traffic. While the power and torque figures are fairly standard for the market segment, the power band is not easy to reach.
Step up to the LS auto and the change to the 1.4-litre turbo is stark. While there are the same number of kilowatts and torque is up by about 15 percent, it's a far smoother, quieter unit. It will never be a quiet car, it just doesn't have the engineering for that (the Barina platform is cheap and old). The turbo does reduce the din but also exposes the Trax's taste for road and suspension noise.
Overall, the Trax is comfortable and a bit of fun to drive if you don't mind the body roll or you're on a bumpy country road where it all gets a bit lumpy messy. As a city car it's quite a good proposition but long trips will be tiring.
The Kona EV drive experience matches its familiar-yet-futuristic looks. From behind the wheel everything will be instantly familiar for anyone coming out of a combustion vehicle. Aside from the lack of a shift lever, everything feels more or less the same, although there are plenty of areas where the Kona electric will delight and surprise.
For a start, there's the ease of using its electric features. The car offers three levels of regenerative braking, and while I prefer diving it with the maximum setting. In this mode it's essentially a single-pedal vehicle, as the regen is so aggressive it will bring the vehicle to a halt quickly after letting your foot of the accelerator.
It also has a familiar zero setting for those not wanting any braking from the motor, and an excellent default automatic mode, which will only max out the regen when the car thinks you’re pulling to a halt.
The steering is nicely weighted, feeling assisted but not overly so, and allowing you to position this heavy little SUV with ease. I say heavy because the Kona electric feels it in every sense of the word. A 64kWh battery pack is a lot of weight, with the Electric tipping the scales at around 1700kg.
It’s a testament to Hyundai’s focus on suspension tuning, globally and locally, that it still feels so under control. While it can be abrupt at times, the ride is generally great, balanced over both axles with an edge of sportiness in the corners.
It’s easy to take this for granted, as I learned the week prior in my test of the MG ZS EV. Unlike the Kona Electric, this small SUV newcomer struggles to deal with the weight of its batteries and tall ride height, serving up a spongy, uneven ride.
Points for taming gravity, then. Push the Kona too hard and the tyres will struggle to keep up, with dabs of wheelspin and understeer when pushed, perhaps related to the fact that this vehicle started life as a petrol car.
It doesn’t quite have the surreal grip of, say, a Tesla Model 3. Nor does it have the raw power and acceleration the Teslas provide. At least the motor feels like it has a little too much power rather than not quite enough as can be the case with the tame-but-smooth Nissan Leaf. Either way, the Kona’s ride and demeanor is a pleasure around town.
Key to this car’s success for early adopters, though, is not just its balance of ride and performance, but its powertrain feedback. Those who are looking for how their driving behaviours are directly affecting efficiency and range will love this car’s numerous screens and functions, tied in with the nav system which will point you to the nearest charging bays and give you a top-down view of your max range on the map as you drive.
Again, it’s not as sleek and internet-era ready as the impressive Tesla operating system, but it’s familiar and accessible for someone looking for an EV which is a bit more approachable.
On a final note, this car makes a cool sci-fi noise. It’s a pleasant choral ringing sound it generates at low speeds to alert pedestrians of its presence (who are often puzzled by the note it emits). It also makes a quiet bonging noise in reverse.
Sounds like a small thing, but in my recent Tesla Model 3 review I found its silence annoying and potentially dangerous when there are pedestrians around.
The Trax has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, three top-tether anchorages and brake assist.
The little Holden scored a five star ANCAP safety rating in August 2013.
There’s no compromise on safety in these highly specified electric variants, with both getting the full Hyundai ‘SmartSense’ treatment.
Active items include freeway-speed auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with collision assist, rear cross-traffic alert and rear auto braking, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, driver attention alert, safe exit warning, and rear occupant alert.
The Highlander grade scores the addition of auto high-beam assist to go with its LED headlights and head-up display.
On the expected front, the Kona has stability management, brake support functions, traction control, and the standard suite of six airbags. A bonus is tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors with a distance display, as well as front parking sensors on the Highlander.
It’s an impressive suite which is up there with the best in the small SUV segment, although we should expect this on a $60K+ electric vehicle. As this Kona is a facelift, it will carry over its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating it was awarded back in 2017.
In the latter half of 2017, the Trax came with a seven-year/175,000km warranty, a big jump from the usual three-year/100,000km. The standard offer returns on January 1, 2018 unless Holden changes its mind.
Roadside assist is offered for an initial twelve months and then extended at every service performed at a Holden dealer.
Servicing intervals for the Trax are nine months/15,000km. Lifetime capped price servicing applies, starting at $249 for the first two, jumping to $429 for the third service and then bouncing around between $249 and $399 until the seventh service.
The Kona is covered by the brand’s industry competitive five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with its lithium battery components covered by a separate eight-year/160,000km promise that appears to be emerging as the industry standard. While this promise is competitive, it is now challenged by its Kia Niro cousin which carries a seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
At the time of writing Hyundai had not yet locked in its usual capped price servicing program for the updated Kona EV, but the pre-update model was outstandingly cheap to service at just $165 per yearly visit for the first five years. And why shouldn’t it be? There aren’t as many moving parts.