Hyundai Kona VS Suzuki Ignis
- Unique looks and charm
- Great ride for small car
- Excellent multimedia system
- May be too cute for some
- Misses out on key safety tech
- Underdone specs in base car
I think it’s just human nature to like explosions.
There’s something fascinating and wonderous about how an internal combustion engine unites the chaos of exploding petrol with a few hundred moving parts to send a car hurtling forward.
So, I should hate the Hyundai Kona Electric. I should hate it for the simple fact that it is the almost undeniable future of motoring, and it has no engine.
But for so many reasons, I can’t hate it. I can’t hate it because for the first time since I first drove a Tesla Model S, the Kona Electric made feel like I’ve had to the opportunity to experience a little slice of the future before we’re really supposed to see it.
So, should we be ready for it? Is this Kona going to be a big part of the proliferation of electric cars in Australia? Importantly, is it a realistic cut-price long-range alternative to the wildly expensive Tesla range?
The answers lie in this review…
You're right, the Suzuki Ignis has been sold in Australia before... between 2000 and 2008, to be exact. Interesting story – the first ever Holden Cruze was a redesigned Ignis, done in just 12 weeks in Melbourne, before it was given to the Yanks as a Chevrolet.
Anyway, I digress... the new generation of Ignis is very similar to the old one in concept and design; it's a lightweight, high-sided, small SUV five-door hatchback powered by a small engine driving the front wheels.
Even though it's by far the lightest, and one of the smallest in the category, the Japanese-built Ignis is classed as a small SUV, and competes against the likes of the bigger Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi ASX.
It's sold in two grades - the entry level GL, and the top-spec GLX - with a single 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine spec and the choice of a manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the GL. The GLX is CVT only. Pricing kicks off at a keen $16,990 before on-road costs.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
On price alone, the Kona Electric is not quite the Volkswagen Beetle or Ford Model T of the electric car world.
It does stand for something, though. It stands as an example that practical and reasonably range-anxiety-free electric vehicles are a realistic ownership proposition, and one which is achievable for automakers a little less volatile than Tesla.
Importantly, the Kona Electric ‘normalises’ the EV powertrain in that it feels so natural to drive, so much like its petrol equivalents that you don’t question it, and you spend far more time marvelling at the cool bits than you do getting frustrated with the compromises.
For now, the key to uptake of these vehicles will be in government incentives (right now there are next to none) and the proliferation of more up-to-date non-Tesla charging points.
What would it take for you to make the switch to electric? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
With striking looks that appeal to an incredibly wide array of people, honest simplicity, and comfort and functionality to back it up, Suzuki is on a winner with the little Ignis.
Lack of a digital speedo, a shortish warranty and frequent service requirements play against it, but it's still a worthy alternative in the small SUV category.
The Ignis is much more than a sum of its parts, and it's a terrific car for the cut and thrust of urban warfare.
The sweet spot of the range is probably the most expensive one, the GLX. With more flexible seating and better specs, the GLX adds enough to the overall experience to make it worth the extra coin.
Is the Suzuki Ignis hot... or not? Let us know in the comments below.
Our loan car was fully tricked out with the ‘eco’ look. That includes the Kona Electric’s hero colour of ‘Ceramic Blue’, the two-tone white roof and the airy blue and grey interior trim.
Some will love this aesthetic, to me it was total eco-credential overkill. Regardless, the electric Kona carries most of the styling points which made the original car a bit of a hit.
In fact, in some ways I think the electric Kona improves on the base car by eliminating the overcomplicated grille.
Round the back is less revolutionary, featuring a re-designed lower bumper and a simple ‘electric’ badge to set it apart from the regular range.
Inside has the same symmetrical design which makes the regular Kona and i30 so appealing.
The electric car gets a raised up centre console which offers easy access to the little SUV’s many buttons and functions as well as giving the cabin a slightly more futuristic look.
The centre stack is nicely designed with the climate control functions leading up to a set of vents and the pride-of-place multimedia touchscreen jotting out of the dash. It’s a good look and easy to use for both the driver and front passenger.
Less good is the abundance of matte silver finish everywhere, there’s simply no need for it, anyone who gets behind the wheel will already realise this car is from the near future.
Unfortunately, the interior, as full-on as it looks, is comprised mostly of hard plastics. This is a consistent Kona problem - there’s even more hard surfaces present here than there is in its i30 hatchback sibling.
The exterior design of the Ignis is one of its key selling points. Suzuki can't be accused of having a corporate design language; every one of its cars is completely different to the others.
The 3700mm long Ignis uses a riot of straight lines, a wacky grille and headlight treatment and bulbous wheel arches in combination with minimalist overhangs and a bit of extra ride height to stand out from the crowd.
The GL uses a regular halogen headlight, while the GLX gets overtly styled LED headlights to further set it apart.
Interior photos show a similar theme, with clever use of colours and textures to play down the impact of swathes of hard plastics throughout the cabin.
Body-coloured pieces including the centre console and door handle grips combine with white plastic to lift the interior feel. It looks like someone who loves cars had a hand in designing the Ignis, and that's a great thing.
The Kona is already hardly the most practical small SUV out there, as the base car features a decent boot, but middling rear legroom.
The same is true here, only the boot floor has been raised to accommodate batteries. As a result, total boot space has been reduced 39L down to 332L (VDA).
That’s unfortunate, but despite the sacrifice, it's somehow not the smallest boot in the small SUV class (it still bests the Mazda CX-3, for example). The Highlander grade gets a really quite handy luggage net across the boot floor.
Underneath the boot floor, the on-board charging cable packs away neatly into a zipper bag alongside the puncture repair kit.
Rear legroom is a bit of an issue. If you’re any taller than me (182cm) you simply won’t fit and you’ll have your legs jammed up against the front seat.
On my test week I put three adults across the rear row and while they were too polite to complain, it didn’t look particularly comfortable, particularly for the middle occupant.
In terms of amenities the rear seats get small cupholders in the doors and nettings on the back of the seats, but no power outlets or air-conditioning vents.
Up front is a much better story, where the driver and front passenger benefit from deep cupholders in the centre console and doors, a neat little Qi wireless charging point, USB point and 'aux' input in the dash, as well as a huge storage area and 12-volt output underneath the raised centre stack. There’s also a decent console box.
Sure, the electric Kona can’t compete on practicality with something like the brilliantly-packaged Honda HR-V, but it isn’t as compromised as it could have been.
So, how many seats does a Suzuki Ignis have? Five in the GL and four in the GLX.
While its external dimensions are relatively small for the category, the Ignis really opens up on the inside. There is plenty of room for four people aboard thanks to clever packaging and a high roofline, while a fifth passenger can be crammed into the middle of the (60/40 split fold) second row of the GL.
The GLX offers only two second-row seats but adds a clever system that allows the two seats to slide fore and aft separately as well as to recline. Seat comfort is good in both cars, and rear head, toe and knee room is impressive for such a small hatch.
Because there's no centre console bin for the front, there are no vents for the rear, nor are there USB chargers. There is a pair of ISOFIX baby seat mounts, though, and a single USB port up front.
A clear dash readout does miss out on a digital speedo. There are two cup holders side by side in front of the gear shifter, along with a sizeable mobile phone pocket beneath the air con controls. A third cup holder is provided for rear seaters to share, and there are bottle holders in each of the four doors.
It's worth mentioning its extra ground clearance – it sits 180mm above the ground – plus wide door apertures and minimal overhangs front and rear. It's easy to hop in and out of and an absolute pleasure to park.
Price and features
Let’s get the major downside of the Kona Highander electric out of the way right off-the-bat, shall we?
This car costs a whopping $64,490 before on-roads. So, for what is essentially a budget-style small SUV you’ll be punished to the tune of almost $30 grand more than its petrol-powered Highlander equivalent.
In fact, as Richard Berry pointed out in his launch review, this is the most expensive car Hyundai sells in Australia. More than even the top-model seven-seat Santa Fe Highlander diesel, which will set you back a (suddenly cheap-sounding) $60,795.
On the upswing, it is much cheaper than any other electric car with an equivalent range on full charge. The cheapest current Telsa Model S, for example (now simply called the ‘Long Range’), comes in at an even more whopping $123,500.
Sadly, a slice of the future is still limited to those who are wealthy enough to afford it.
Our electric Highlander does come with decent kit to help mitigate the cost a little. Included is the full suite of standard features from the regular Kona, and then some.
There’s an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, built-in sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity, an eight speaker premium audio system, Qi wireless phone charging pad, full LED front lighting, front & rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and 17-inch ‘eco-design’ alloy wheels.
Unlike the Elite which sits below it, the Highlander is offered with a choice of either a two-tone roof or sunroof option at no extra cost. All Kona Electrics have leather-appointed interior trims as standard, but the Highlander adds power operated, heated & ventilated front seats.
There's also a head-up display standard on our Highlander, but with all the required information being displayed across the media system and dash cluster I hardly found it useful.
The Kona also has a substantial safety suite (explored in the safety section of this review).
So, how much is a Suzuki Ignis? The GL and GLX are pretty closely related, running the same 1.2-litre, 66kW four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels.
The GLX only comes in CVT guise, and at a price of $19,990 RRP before on-roads.
While the vibrant colour palette of the Ignis is one of its strong points, the price also goes up accordingly. Metallic colours like orange, grey, blue and red are $500 extra, while adding a black roof will set you back $500.
If you want to mix things up with a bit of colour, optional internal pieces will set you back $630.
Specs are pretty basic in the GL, with 15-inch steel wheels, halogen lights, electric windows and mirrors, an analog-dial air conditioning system and a small tablet-style touchscreen multimedia system the highlights of a pretty short list.
Lights and wipers are manual, for example, and there are few other toys like digital radio or even a CD player. The standard speakers are fine, and the GLX gains a pair of tweeters over the four standard items.
The multimedia system is a good one, though, offering Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, sat nav, Bluetooth streaming and phone connectivity and radio functions. A single USB port and 12V socket are also included.
The GLX adds automatic headlights, digital-style air con (but not dual zone climate control), 16-inch alloy rims and upgraded seats throughout, along with LED headlights. It gets nothing fancy like park assist or a sunroof.
Engine & trans
The Kona Electric drives the front wheels via an electric motor producing 150kW/395Nm.
It’s more powerful than any other Kona model, most other small SUVs and even most electric cars around this price.
It’s not as… ahem… ludicrous as a Tesla, with a claimed 7.6 second 0-100km/h time, but it really doesn’t need to be. It has plenty of power for what it is.
Electric motors don’t require a transmission in the traditional sense, and the Kona simply has a single-speed ‘reduction gear’.
The Kona feeds power back into its battery pack via regenerative braking, which has three levels controlled by paddle-shifters on the wheel. More on that in the driving and fuel consumption segments.
Sadly, the motor still juts into the regular engine bay, so there’s no extra storage up front. There’s also a standard battery to power auxiliary functions alongside the gigantic battery pack.
The Ignis ships with a naturally aspirated 1.2 litre engine with specifications of 66kW of power at a high 6000rpm and 120Nm of torque at 4400rpm, matched to a six-speed manual or a CVT driving the front wheels.
The 16-valve unit features dual injectors on each piston with a higher compression ratio and a timing chain to provide rev-happy performance. It's not a high horsepower unit but it gets the job done.
The CVT offers a 'Low Range' option, which seems to do little other than rev the engine to no great affect, as well as a 'Sport' button that again just lets the engine rev higher.
The only drivetrain on offer in Australia is a front-wheel drive, even though all-wheel drive is offered in overseas markets, along with a diesel and petrol/electric hybrid.
Of note; Suzuki do not offer any stats on towing for the Ignis.
The Kona consumes precisely zero fuel, due to the whole ‘lack of an engine’ deal. Really, in the future, we’ll have to rename this segment to ‘energy consumption’.
To that end you’re probably used to measuring consumption in terms of litres per hundred kilometres (L/100km), but the new figure against which electric cars are measured is kilowatt hours per hundred kilometres (kWh/100km).
Over my week of testing the Kona produced 14.1kWh/100km. No context for that? Here, I’ll provide some. The Kona has a 64kWh battery pack, which Hyundai claims will give you a “real-world range” of 449km.
If you put the numbers together, it means at the rate I was using power I would have actually scored a greater range than Hyundai’s estimate at 453.9km.
That’s legitimately impressive, because the Nissan Leaf I had on test immediately afterwards couldn’t get below 15.3kWh/100km.
Weirdly, on both tests I found EVs aren’t more efficient on the freeway, producing the same or even better numbers in traffic.
Charging any electric car is a sticky topic. The Kona has a single port, a ‘Type 2’ (Mennekes) European-standard charging port. This is a three-phase standard port which can be charged at stations ‘up to 100kW’.
I couldn’t find a single 100kW charging port in Sydney, but there is a lone NRMA 50kW Mennekes connector in Olympic Park (which will charge from zero to 80 per cent in 75 min) or 22kW versions at ChargeFox stations (which require the ChargeFox app to use).
Unfortunately, you can’t make use of Tesla’s extensive fast charge network, nor can you make use of the ChargePoint network which has 6.6kW ‘J1772’ connectors.
Hyundai offers an optional 7.2kW wall-mounted home charger, which can fill the battery in nine hours and 35 min.
Faced with little option but to charge it from a humble wall socket in the CarsGuide garage (which had a max output of 2.2kW) the Kona informed me a max charge from 29 per cent battery would take 24 hours and 47 minutes…
Against a claimed average of 4.9 litres per 100km for the CVT equipped versions of the Ignis, we recorded a dash indicated fuel economy figure of 5.4L/100km in the GL and 6.4 in the GLX.
The fuel consumption of the manual is rated at 4.7L/100km. The Ignis has a relatively small 32-litre fuel tank capacity and can use 91RON petrol.
The Kona Electric is great to drive because it's so natural, so much like a ‘normal’ car. It’s quite literally as though somebody cross-bred a Tesla with a regular Kona Highlander, and that’s a very good thing.
If you’ve never driven an electric car before (and let’s face it, few people have) there are some distinctly different characteristics you should know about. Firstly, the way you slow down is not usual.
Electric cars like to reclaim energy through regenerative braking, which feeds energy back into the battery as the wheels turn. This means instead of coasting, electric cars will actively slow down when you let your foot off the accelerator.
In the Kona, you can control three levels of this braking depending how how comfortable you are with it or turn it off entirely, which I would advise against as it saves a surprising amount of battery, especially in stop-start traffic.
You can also hold down the brake level paddle to bring the car to a full stop with just regeneration. Efficient. This will also prolong the life of your brake pads, a further cost saving over time.
The acceleration is smooth and swift, but not brutal like a Tesla, and you seldom need to hop on the brakes hard if you have the regen braking on, although if you do the pedal has an odd, disconnected, woody kind of feel.
The electric Kona feels heavy thanks to its big battery mounted below the floor. This gives it a weightiness through the corners, but also a solid amount of grip. I never really felt as though the Kona would understeer despite its front-wheel drive disposition.
The suspension, like all Hyundai products now, is well sorted and tuned locally in Australia. Due to the extra weight of the electric components, this Kona has a different tune from its petrol-powered equivalents.
It’s less springy, but still a little sporty, and by nature of the extra weight alone it feels super settled over bumps.
Obviously, the lack of an engine makes the Kona Electric quiet, but it does make a rather strange noise. It’s like a choral ringing noise that’s most evident during low speed acceleration and braking.
You may have heard similar noises from electric trains before. It is undeniably cool and futuristic though, and results in more than a few turned heads from nearby pedestrians.
Thanks to its lack of mass – it weighs just 865kg at the kerb, and the manual is 45kg lighter again - the Ignis is a surprisingly fun little car to drive, though its 0-100 km/h performance figures won't worry anyone.
It's lively and easy to handle, it steers perfectly adequately and turns and stops with confidence. The whine and flare of the CVT are more prominent when you start to drive the car, as well as an odd notchy feeling when it's cold, but it becomes less intrusive the more you drive it.
The ride in particular is a real standout. Most small cars have a brittle, sharp edged ride as a result of essentially smaller suspension packaging; there's just not enough travel to give the car any sort of comfortable ride.
The higher profile 15-inch tyres on the GL also iron out the bumps a little bit better than the 16s on the GLX, but the smaller tyres don't feel as nice or work as well as the larger items.
There's a bit of tyre roar on rougher tarmac but it all but disappears again when the going smooths out. For a small car that weighs less than 900kg, though, its ability to filter out noise is excellent.
Both electric Kona variants come with Hyundai’s full suite of active safety items, including auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection (AEB – works up to 65km/h for pedestrians or 80km/h for vehicles), forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring (BSM), driver attention alert (DAA), lane keep assist (LKAS) with lane departure warning (LDW), high beam assist, rear cross traffic alert and active cruise control.
That’s an impressive suite of features, placing the Kona among the best equipped in the small SUV segment.
Regular safety refinements include six airbags, the expected electronic stability and brake controls as well as two ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.
All Konas including the electric variants carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of December 2017.
No electronic safety features are offered on Australian-spec cars, either, even though there is an optional safety pack available in overseas markets.
Standard safety gear runs to six airbags - including curtain bags and thorax bags for front row occupants - EBD, ABS and hill-hold assist.
The Kona Electric is covered by Hyundai’s competitive five-year unlimited kilometre warranty offering, sitting on-par with most competitors.
It came as a surprise to find Hyundai actually guarantees the battery for longer than the car itself, with an eight-year/160,000km warranty.
The lack of moving parts in the Kona Electric’s drivetrain means (theoretically) less to service and less to go wrong. As such, Hyundai has capped electric Kona servicing at $165 per 12-monthly 15,000km visit for the length of the warranty.
Services have capped prices beyond that with Hyundai’s 'iCare' packages, although we're waiting for confirmation on pricing.
Whether any long-term issues will show up with electric drivetrains is yet to be seen.
Suzuki offers a standard three-year/100,000km warranty on the Ignis, which lags behind offers from rivals like Kia of up to seven years and unlimited kilometres.
Servicing is recommended at 10,000km or six-month intervals, which is again shorter than intervals suggested by competitors like Mazda and Toyota. A five-year capped price service program means service costs of $2207 in total.
When it comes to clutch problems or a transmission problem, the new Ignis has yet to show fault. It's too early in the car's life to see any problems, complaints, issues or common faults arise.