Hyundai Kona VS Mazda CX-3
- Great range on a full charge
- Great acceleration for a small SUV
- Advanced safety tech
- Ride is a little 'bouncy'
- Rear legroom is limited
- Design, inside and out
- Sharp handling
- Fun steering
- Small boot
- CarPlay still not fixed (it's coming)
- Engine can sound like it's working hard
You are living in the future. Well, that’s obvious because I’m writing this on March 20, 2019 and the only way you could be reading it is if the current date is sometime after that – it could be days or years.
Either way, I hope you’re well and everything turned out fine. But what I mean is the Hyundai Kona Electric is the beginning of the future. This is Hyundai’s first fully electric SUV and it’s one of the first drops in what will be an electric vehicle downpour in the next couple of years.
As with any new technology early adopters will be disappointed by some aspects but amazed and ultimately won over by the benefits. Same goes for the Kona Electric.
Before I went to the Australian launch of the Kona Electric I ran a poll on our YouTube channel asking viewers what they most wanted to know about the small SUV.
The majority of people (by far) wanted to know about the Kona Electric's range on a full charge. This was followed by how much one costs and what features come on a Kona Electric.
All those questions have been answered below, plus more, including what it’s like to drive.
Some cars are just so desirable, so delectably tempting to look at, that they cause people to abandon all logical and practical concerns and buy them anyway. Fortunately, most vehicles in this category of dangerous desirability are stupidly expensive, but when you combine the cuter-than-a-puppy looks of a car like Mazda's CX-3 with a price range that starts in the low $20,000 range, anything can happen.
Throw in the fact that this diminutive darling of a thing is a small SUV - one of the most desirable categories in the Australian market, with sales in the segment doubling in the past five years - and Mazda may need to reinforce the doors in its showrooms with the launch of this new one.
I speak from experience here because my wife loves the look of the CX-3 so much she wanted to buy one. So I explained that it is built on the Mazda2 platform, which means its boot is too small for a family of four, and that the rest of it probably wasn't suitable for us either. But she was still keen.
I know of a young family who bought one because they were so taken with its prettiness, but when they got it home they remembered they had a small child and realised that their pram would never, ever fit in the back. Oh dear.
If you are a young single or a childless couple, of course you can enjoy its alluring looks all you like, and the tight rear seats and small boot volume probably won't bother you at all.
Mazda happily admits the way this car looks is the main reason people buy it, which is no doubt why the new one looks so much like the highly successful old one (more than 58,000 CX-3s have been sold in Australia since its launch in 2015).
So, what actually is new about this incorrigibly cute crossover? We went to the local launch drive to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Apple’s first lap top the Macintosh Portable came out in 1989 and cost $6500, or $11,300 in today’s money. I feel we’ll look back at the price of electric vehicles with the same sort of amazement in 30 years. The Kona Electric is pricey compared to its petrol equivalent and I’ve marked it down for that. Yet the driving experience is great and if you charge up the batteries with renewable energy your emissions really are zero. The ownership costs are low and the warranty is good.
The Kona Electric might not be the perfect family car, but it will suit many people perfectly.
The Elite is the sweet spot in the Kona Electric line-up - it comes with the same range as the Highlander and only misses out on a few luxurious touches such as heated seats.
Could the Kona Electric turn you into an automotive early adopter? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
If you liked the previous Mazda CX-3 - and just about everyone did - then you're going to love this one even more. It's got a tiny bit more presence, a less busy and more classy interior and marginally better engines with slightly improved fuel economy. Basically, it's a little bit more of the same for this little gem of a compact SUV.
Would you have a Mazda CX-3 over a Mitsubishi ASX, on looks alone? Tell us in the comments section.
The Kona Electric takes the quirky looks of the regular petrol Kona to another level with aerodynamic wheels, a wavy back bumper and a textured plastic panel where you’d expect to find a grille.
That’s because EVs don’t need giant grilles like their combustion engine cousins, but they do still need a bit of air flow which is ducted via that vented area in the front bumper.
And the design is more than cosmetic. With its 0.29 co-efficient of drag the Kona Electric is more aerodynamic than the regular petrol-powered car's 0.34 Cd.
The Kona Electric is 15mm longer than the Kona petrol at 4180mm end-to-end, but the same width at 1800mm across and height at 1550mm tall.
The EV version’s weight ranges from 1685kg-1743kg, while the petrol Kona is 1290kg-1507kg depending on the drivetrain and grade.
Inside the Kona Electric differs from its sibling, too with a ‘floating’ metallic centre console that’s high and really separates the driver and front passenger like a wall.
A regular shifter in this cockpit? No way. Instead, you have shifting buttons from Drive, Reverse and Park in a hopscotch style format on the console.
Only the Highlander grade was available to drive but its interior is almost identical to the Elite’s with quality feeling materials and a stylish but almost plain design to the cabin.
In the right light, in the right colour, (obviously the hugely popular red), the CX-3 can move beyond being just small and sweet looking and reach the point of genuinely striking. There's a lovely, criss-crossing line that swinges down the sides, crossing over at its mid point. It's what Mazda calls pure Kodo design - simple, sleek and slightly sexy.
The angle most people fall in love from, though, is front on, with the CX-3's toothy grin only slightly changed for this new version with a new "more assertive" grille, with a solid, detailed design featuring horizontal bars of different thicknesses.
The goal here, as CX-3 program manager Takata Minoru explained, was to make "no unnecessary changes" and only to "refine the beauty and enhance the quality feel".
The new grille is supposed to give the car a sharper look and a greater feeling of depth, but to us it just looked like a new grille. Mazda says the new car is defined by being "exquisite" and "edgy", but it's not clear what that means in terms of new-ness.
The sTouring and Akari grades get a new line of chrome along the front bumper and sides, which is pleasant enough, while there are also new fog light bezels in gloss black on Maxx Sport variants and above.
Oh, and the rear lights, in the top two grades, have adopted a cylindrical shape for the facelift version, because round things are classier than square ones. Apparently.
Colours, of course, in a car so pretty and feminine, are a big deal, and there are now eight to choose from - 'Soul Red Crystal Metallic' (as opposed to just Soul Red Metallic) and 'Machine Grey Metallic' are new and join 'Dynamic Blue Mica', 'Titanium Flash Mica', 'Jet Black Mica', 'Snow Flake White Pearl Mica', 'Ceramic Metallic' and 'Eternal Blue Mica'. Brown is not an option, happily.
In short, it's a good looking car, much like the old one, and it's hard to imagine a vehicle of this size and shape being any more attractive. It's surprising, then, to learn that the CX-3 is only the second-best seller in its segment, behind the Mitsubishi ASX.
Ground clearance for the CX-3 is 160mm unladen. So, no rock hopping then.
The Kona Electric is roomy up front with great storage in the form of two cupholders, big door pockets, a decent-sized bin under the armrest and a giant tray under the ‘floating’ centre console.
It’s a different story in the back. I’m 191cm tall and I can’t sit behind my driving position – and even older kids will find it a bit cramped back there. You will find two cupholders in the fold down centre and small bottle holders.
While only the Highlander has wireless charging as standard, all Kona Electrics come with two USB ports and one 12-volt power outlet.
The Kona Electric’s 332 litre cargo capacity is 39 litres less than the boot space of a petrol Kona – you can thank the batteries for that loss.
If you’re planning to make the Kona Electric a family car, then check to see if you all fit in comfortably and if you have little kids then take the pram to the dealership and see if it will go into the boot. You may have to step up to a bigger SUV such as a Tucson.
Considering the external dimensions of the car, the CX-3 does quite well. Allow me to illuminate you with my own example, which is that I recently spent 10 days driving one of these around Italy, with my wife and two young children on board, plus a significant amount of luggage.
I had sleepless nights before picking up the car, because I was sure we'd never get it all in, or be able to breathe if we did, but not only did we fit, we were quite comfortable and happy with the luggage capacity.
Rear leg room is just bearable for an adult, but no problem at all for small kids (although it wouldn't suit teens). The boot space, at 264 litres, is very small, and even calling it adequate seems generous. What it will not fit, though, due to its narrow dimensions, is a pram of any sort, so young families should look elsewhere. Although if they don't, there are two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points for child seats.
The biggest change for the new model in cabin terms is the inclusion of an electronic park brake, which has allowed Mazda to include a new centre console/armrest, with two handy cup holders of different sizes, there are also bottle holders in all four doors, and (for Maxx Sport spec and above) a rear armrest with two more cupholders).
Indeed, Mazda says the cupholders have had their depth and diameter revised so they can now fit giant, American-sized cups if required.
That centre console also offers useful, deep storage and there are two USB points handily located in front of the shift lever. The control buttons for the MZD media system are also more ergonomically positioned thanks to the electronic park brake.
The rear seat armrest, with built in storage box, is said to "embody the human-centred philosophy by increasing comfort and reducing fatigue". I know I always find that armrests make me less tired, but then I wouldn't volunteer to sit in the back of a CX-3 anyway.
The overall goal with the new interior was to make it more minimalist and Japanese, and when you compare it with photos of the old one it does look less busy and less cluttered, with classy touches here and there. That is only slightly offset by the cheaper, harder feeling plastics around the doors on their armrests.
Top-shelf Akari models come with genuine leather seats in black or white, sTouring gets grey with black leatherette and everything beneath that gets a black interior with black cloth seats.
A sunroof is available on the Akari models.
Price and features
The top-of-the-range-petrol Kona lists for $39,000, so how much would you pay for an electric version? Say, $45,000? Maybe $50,000?
Keep going higher. The Kona Electric in the entry-grade Elite lists for $59,990 and the Highlander above it is $64,490. Yes, that’s pricey – so much so that this is the most expensive Hyundai you can buy.
At the launch of the Kona Electric I asked Hyundai’s executives why their smallest SUV is so expensive and the answer was “it’s the right price”. They added that the cost of the batteries was the main contributor to the price.
Before you get all outraged and start a Facebook petition over the price, realise that we currently still live in a petrol-diesel dependent world where electric vehicles are very much a niche thing.
Until the costs associated with making EVs come down and the demand outweighs combustion engines they’ll be pricier. All car brands have the same issue: the Renault Zoe, the Jaguar I-Pace, the BMW i3 – all are way more expensive than a petrol equivalent would be.
If it’s any consolation, the Kona Electric is loaded with features, even on the entry-grade Elite which comes standard with a leather interior, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, an Infinity stereo, digital radio, paddle shifters, climate control, a reversing camera, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, proximity key and rear privacy glass.
The Elite also comes standard with the 'Smart Sense' safety package which I’ll cover in more detail in the safety section further down.
The Highlander adds LED headlights and tail-lights, a wireless charging pad, a sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and a heated steering wheel.
If you don’t want a sunroof, you can swap it for a two-tone roof – which looks great.
So, is it good value? No. But early adoption of new technology never comes cheap. Look at how expensive laptops were 30 years ago compared to now. We’ll be saying the same about EVs in three decades.
For a more affordable Hyundai EV check out the Ioniq Electric – it doesn’t have the range of a Kona Electric, but it costs less.
Comparing the differences between the CX-3 range, there really is a variant for all budgets, with an entry price of $23,990 drive-away for the Neo Sport with a six-speed manual, cloth seats and steel wheels, rising all the way to $37,490 for the leather-filled, sunroof-topped Akari LE, which gets some impressive tech previously only seen in German cars, like a driver-attention monitor and radar cruise control with full stop and go functionality.
Prices have risen over the previous model, but Mazda says this pricing reflects the fact that you're getting more equipment in the new version.
You are also, undeniably, getting a less busy and more classy interior, although the changes to the exterior design are so small you wouldn't want to be paying for them. Nor would you want to change a look that is this pretty, and successful.
Standard kit for your $23,990 drive-away Neo Sport (that's manual, auto adds another $2000) includes 16-inch steel wheels, body-coloured powered mirrors, black cloth front seats with height adjustment, electric parking brake, Bluetooth functionality, a 7.0-inch full-colour 'MZD Connect' touchscreen to control your infotainment and sound system with DAB and six speakers (but no CD player and no GPS), and a multi-function 'Command Control', plus keyless start, rear parking sensors, a reversing carer and 'Smart City Brake Support', which works in both forward and reverse. It's a (very) good-looking package at a tempting price. Apple CarPlay, which would helpfully allow you to run navigation from your iPhone in the base model, is not yet available, but it's coming soon, and a kit to retrofit it will be available at Mazda dealers in the near future.
The Maxx Sport adds 16-inch alloys, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a fold down armrest with two cupholders for the rear passengers, leather-wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel, climate-control air con, sat nav, 'Blind Spot Monitoring' and 'Rear Cross Traffic Alert'.
Step up to the sTouring and win 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lights all round, slightly nicer black 'Maztek' and cloth seats, a handy head-up display, keyless entry and start, 'Driver Attention Alert', from parking sensors and 'Traffic Sign Recognition'.
The Akari does feel noticeably nicer inside with its softer dash material and leather seats in white or black, plus 'Mazda Radar Cruise Control' with start-stop function, a 360-degree view monitor and adaptive LED headlights and lane-departure warning.
Personally, I'd be quite happy with my value at $25,490 for a manual Maxx Sport. Indeed, it's a bit of a bargain.
The prices we've listed here are drive-away (no more to pay!), which is something new for Mazda and does provide wonderful clarity.
Engine & trans
No engine here, the Kona Electric has an electric motor and a single-speed transmission. The motor makes 150kW of power and 395Nm of torque – that’s a lot of grunt for a small SUV and acceleration is impressive with 0-100km/h coming in 7.6 seconds.
The battery is a 356V lithium-ion polymer unit with a 64kWh capacity.
Mazda is offering a new SKYACTIV-D turbo-diesel engine with the CX-3 - which has increased in capacity from 1.5 to 1.8 litres, which takes power from 77kW up to 85kW, while torque stays at 270Nm - but you have to wonder why. Mazda Australia predicts the diesel will make up a measly one per cent of sales, which probably explains why they didn't bring one along to the launch for us to drive.
Almost everyone, then, will be choosing the revised SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine, which makes 110kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 2800rpm, an increase of exactly one kilowatt and three newton metres from the previous model.
Changes to the engine have focused on improving fuel consumption, and variations in that consumption caused by seasonal changes and usage patterns. Apparently the new version offers improved combustion efficiency when under heavy load - climbing hills for example - and thermal-management tech to reduce excess fuel consumption when it's cold outside.
New high-pressure injectors also help to improve torque delivery, with the amount of torque on offer throughout the rev range increased by "one to two per cent". Fuel economy is also improved by the same percentages. Not huge improvements, then.
You can also choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic transmission, and between front-wheel or all-wheel drive (not on the base Neo Sport, though). Not surprisingly, for a city crossover like this, 92 per cent of CX-3s sold will be FWD, and 90 per cent will be automatics.
Having driven the manual version myself on holiday, I would highly recommend it, because it allows you to get the most out of the engine. With a weight of 1266kg it's useful to be able to get involved in shifting.
The CX-3's engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt and you should check our problems pages to see if there are any reports of problems with automatic transmissions.
According to Hyundai the Kona Electric has a real-world range of 449km (that’s the WLPT - Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure - claim).
Officially, the combined electric driving efficiency is 131 Wh/km (watts x hours / km).
Charging the 356V lithium-ion polymer 64kWh battery from empty to 80 per cent takes nine hours and 35 minutes when using the 7.2kW on-board charger and a home wall unit which needs to be purchased separately.
Using a 50kW DC fast charger at a public filling station can charge the battery up from empty to 80 per cent in 75 minutes. A 100kW fast charger can do it in 54 minutes.
My own testing at the launch saw me start with a fully charged battery and travel 300km (298km to be exact, over five hours and 18 minutes) and still have 27 percent charge remaining and an expected range of 108km. I used an average of 15.0kWh/100km according to the trip computer.
For the first 200km my driving style was relaxed and over this distance I used 51 per cent of the battery charge. For the remaining 100km I wanted to see how quickly I could drain the battery in a ‘worst-case scenario’ of keeping the climate control on, the seat heaters on and accelerating harder. The result? I used only three percent more power than the other journalists at the launch.
The roads we were driving on ranged from Adelaide’s CBD to country highways with plenty of steep hills, but no motorways. I’d like to see how the batteries cope with say a Sydney to Canberra trip, though. We’ll give the Kona Electric that sort of test once we have one in the CarsGuide garage.
One of the aims of upgrading the CX-3's engine was better fuel economy, and yet the Mazda engineers admit they managed an improvement of just "one to two per cent" on the 2.0-litre petrol engine and 3 per cent with the diesel, which has grown from 1.5 to 1.8 litres and still manages to use slightly less fuel, at an impressive 4.7L/100km.
The 2.0 petrol has claimed figures of 6.6L/100km for the FWD manual, 6.3L/100km for the FWD auto and 6.7L/100km for the AWD automatic. People who are chasing better economy would go for the diesel, but customers for this car obviously aren't that bothered, or are happy with mid-sixes, because Mazda tips just one per cent of sales will be the diesel.
Piloting a Kona Electric is a completely different experience to driving a petrol Kona. The Kona Electric’s instant 395Nm of torque makes for rapid acceleration anytime and any speed, whether you’re pulling away from the traffic lights or overtaking on a highway.
There was no turbo lag, no jerkiness that sometimes comes with a dual-clutch transmission, no engine noise and no tailpipe emissions. Driving the Kona Electric was a smooth and almost tranquil experience.
Almost, because with no engine noise or exhaust note there was no hiding the other noises – the creaking of the interior for example but also the prominent tyre roar on course bitumen.
The Kona Electric handled differently to its petrol sibling, too. Heavier and with a lower centre of mass thanks to those batteries running along the base of the car the Kona Electric felt planted and stable.
Hyundai’s local engineers say the Kona Electric’s heavier weight and the way that weight is distributed means the suspension had to be different from the petrol Kona, too. As with nearly all Hyundais the suspension was tuned specifically for Australia.
It didn’t take many kays for it to be clear that the suspension tune is aimed at comfort over sporty with a more bouncy than firm ride over country roads.
Along with that impressive acceleration another surprising part of the test drive was the paddle shifters ,which control how much regenerative braking is used.
Pulling the left paddle increases regenerative braking, while the right decreases it. Plus, if you keep holding the left paddle it will bring the Kona Electric to a complete stop. That meant I could effectively drive the car with just one pedal and brake using the paddle.
Hyundai claims a real-world range of 449km from a fully charged battery. Our test route on the launch didn’t take us that far but as outlined in the section above I was able to go 200km and still have 49 per cent battery charge left. I have no reason to doubt that under the same driving conditions you’d make it 400km or more without any worries.
Any issues then? Our car wore 215/55/R17 Nexen N'fera SU1 tyres which I felt lacked a bit of grip. The head-up display was always just below my eyesight no matter how I adjusted it. And there was that road noise filtering in - so the cabin could be better insulated in my opinion. None of those are deal breakers.
In a world of constant downsizing, a 2.0-litre engine might sound brutish and bold in a car of this size, but 110 is certainly not an overpowering number of kilowatts. As a result, the petrol-powered CX-3 feels spry and sprightly, but certainly never sporty.
There is a Sport button you can press, but all it seems to do is hold the gear you're in for longer, causing the engine to drone on like a Peter Dutton speech, and not really making much happen in excitement terms.
A sports car this is not, obviously, so perhaps the words "more than adequate" are best for describing the car's performance. You're not going to fly up any hills, but you can zip off traffic lights with reasonable aplomb, and you're never genuinely found wanting for power. More torque would be nice for overtaking, but you could choose the diesel for that (if you're a ‘one percenter').
One of Mazda's goals with the new CX-3 was improving NVH and they've done a stellar job with that. While the old car was bit of a buzz box at times, the new one is far quieter and more refined in terms of road-noise intrusion, but if you are tempted to push on, the noise from the engine remains strident, and at times strained.
In most driving conditions, however, it's a pleasant cabin to be in, with negligible road noise (although it's more noticeable with the optional 18-inch wheels). And if you do enjoy a slightly lower driving position, you have the ability to drop your chair to a point where you feel more like you are sitting in the car rather on it.
The newly fettled electronic power steering is sharp and fun to use, falling at that point just before it becomes too light and wafty to give proper feedback. The engineers concentrated on "rolling plushness", which is the feel you get through the wheel, basically, and produced an 18 per cent reduction in buzziness through the steering wheel.
Ride control is good over most surfaces - and with ground clearance of 155mm you won't be going too far off road - but there's still a bit clatter over really sharp impacts. Overall, it's a very comfortable cruiser, even on our more brutal country roads. Mazda says it worked on "reducing choppiness", or vertical body movement, and it seems to have succeeded.
Cornering is something you can actually enjoy, if you care for that kind of thing, and this CX-3 benefits from Mazda's 'G-Vectoring Control' (GVC), which is meant to provide "neutral cornering" by minutely reducing torque output to the appropriate wheel to cancel out understeer, or oversteer moments.
It's all about giving the driver that sense of "oneness" with their vehicle that Mazda likes to call "Jinba-ittai" - horse and rider as one. In terms of horsepower and performance figures, they're not something CX-3 buyers are going to worry too much about, clearly, as Mazda makes no mention of the car's 0-100km/h time. A bit of research uncovered the fact that it ranges from 9.0sec for the manual to 9.5 for the auto. Not terrible, then.
Overall, much like the Mazda2 this vehicle is based on, the CX-3 is one of those cars that is genuinely as much fun as it looks, and slightly more fun than you expect it to be.
Throw in its good looks, economical engines and reasonably affordable pricing and it's a complete package. Up until the point where you have kids, and you're forced to upgrade to something that can actually carry a pram.
The Elite and Highlander grades both come standard with Hyundai’s 'Smart Sense' safety pack which includes AEB with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
The Kona Electric had not been given an ANCAP safety rating at the time we published this review, but the regular Kona did score the maximum five stars in 2017.
For child seats you’ll find two ISIOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the rear row.
Mazda says its new CX-3 is part of its "aim for a safe and accident-free automotive society", which means the company is living slightly in dream land, but at least you know it's thinking about safety.
The 360-degree view monitor is very handy, but you can only have it on the Akari, where you'll also get eight parking sensors, while the base model makes do with rear ones only.
Indeed, the base model goes without most of the safety goodies that are sprinkled across the more expensive variants - blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive LED headlamps, driver-attention alert (with a coffee cup popping up to remind you that you might be tired) and the very handy, almost autonomous radar cruise control with full stop and go function.
What you do get on the entry Neo Sport is 'Smart City Brake Support', which works when moving forwards or backwards and is basically Mazda's name for AEB. The system works with both cars and pedestrians at speeds of up to 80km/h. The previous CX-3 received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
Surprisingly, Mazda claims its customers are completely unconcerned by the fact that it doesn't offer free roadside assistance as part of its new and improved five-year warranty, although it does occasionally offer it as a promotional thing. I'd be negotiating hard to have it included in the price.
The five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, from Mazda Motor Corporation itself, is a real selling point, however.
Servicing is due every 10,000km or 12 months and the first one will cost you $289, the second $317, third $289, fourth $317 and fifth $289. Seems to be a pattern there.