Mazda3 VS Hyundai i30
- Excellent engineering throughout
- Sharp pricing
- Diesels are heavy
- Diesels are also slow
- AEB not standard across the range
We all know that X means buried treasure in the world of children’s book pirates, but it’s looking like it could hold similar relevance for what lies under the bonnet of future Mazdas.
We first officially heard about Mazda’s industry-leading Skyactiv-X technology at the brand’s Global Tech Forum in Germany two years ago, but now we’ve ventured back to Germany to drive it in production form ahead of its Australian arrival aboard a new flagship version of the Mazda3 early next year.
No other manufacturer has managed to productionise compression ignition for a petrol engine, and with an underlying intention to make the combustion engine work better for everyday driving, in the face of the electric-focus of all other global brands, this could be the most exciting technological development of my career.
Why invest so much in combustion engines if every other major brand is beginning to treat them like yesterday’s news? While the Japanese government predicts that 52 per cent of new cars sold in 2030 will use some form of electrification in their drivetrain, the same data suggests 90 per cent will still use an internal combustion engine as at least an element of their drivetrain. That’s 90 per cent of the market, more than a decade from now.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Hyundai's first i30 launched to quiet praise in 2007. Hyundai had just come off a rough patch of making pretty ordinary cars with only a few exceptions. At some point in the preceding few years, the Korean giant realised that dull, middle-of-the-road machinery was not going to turn it into the next Toyota. Instead, it was in danger of fading into a pale imitation of the great white-goods maker.
That first i30 was the moment Hyundai set off on its own path, with a few key positions filled by industry veterans from around the globe. Kia did the same, almost in parallel, and look where it is today.
The third-generation i30 was an instant hit. Building on the success of the first and second generations, the car had built a reputation as dependable, solid and, as the years went by, good to drive. Excellent value has been a core competency for Hyundai since day dot, but adding all that other stuff took a while.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
Unlike most big technological advancements, this isn’t about extra performance or reinventing the wheel, it’s about Mazda’s bigger picture approach to deliver the best mobility solutions for right now, while still planning for electric and fuel cell vehicles in the future.
That may sound like a line straight out of the Skyactiv-X press release, but Mazda’s realistic approach to our continued dependence on combustion engines is commendable.
My final judgement will have to wait until we know how much more it will cost over a regular Mazda3, but I can say the technology works really well and should really suit Australian conditions.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The third-generation i30 was a hugely impressive car when it launched last year and continues to impress now. The added halo if the i30 N has rapidly solidifed Hyundai's reputation as a quality car maker.
With the Smart Sense pack fitted, either as an option on lower-spec cars or as standard from the SR up, the i30 is well in front of its rivals as a total package, even if it misses out on some details.
If you had to pick the best of the range, it would have to be the SR, with its bigger wheels and sportier tune, the 1.6 turbo and a cabin full of gadgets (while retaining the better cloth trim), it's sharply-priced and better again than just about anything in the segment or at this price point. It is, quite simply, a car that will make everyone happy.
And if it's outright performance you're after, you can't go past the i30 N.
Is the Hyundai i30 on your small car radar? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Aside from the stunning good looks of the new Mazda3, the only visual distinctions the Skyactiv-X version scores over a regular high-sec model are bigger exhaust tips like those seen on the latest version of the Mazda6, and a Skyactiv-X badge in place of the regular models’ Skyactiv-G.
The i30's basic shape is very clean and far more grown up than the previous generation. While that car had all sorts of interesting surfaces and big headlights, this newer look is more restrained. The segment is starting to converge on a more conservative, pan-European look, with even the new Focus calming down. The i30 puts me in mind of the Peugeot 308, with elements of the VW Golf.
As you move up the range, you'll see chrome, which suggests more gadgets inside. On the SR sports pack, a mild body kit includes a rear spoiler and side skirts but stops short of a rear diffuser. Even the performance version, the N, is reasonably subtle, so the philosophy is common across the entire range, and it looks the business.
Speaking of the N, it's reasonably easy to spot with its big 19-inch wheels, red flashes here and there, N badging and grille and, if you're listening, a poppy-bangy exhaust note from its chunky twin exhausts.
Interior photos show a light and airy space, with all that glass letting in the light. The light leather option on the Premium was bright, even on an overcast day. It's a well-constructed and designed space, with sensible choices all through the cabin and Hyundai's habit of nailing the driving position continues. Some of the materials are a bit ho-hum and in the Go and Active, the plastic steering wheel is pretty dire, but the quality look and feel of the switchgear and the tangible quality feel of including a big screen makes up for that.
The i30's footprint contains a car with good interior dimensions. Passengers front and rear have plenty of headroom. Those in the back will fit easily if they're under 185cm, although the centre rear passenger might not be so happy if they're that tall.
Storage space varies between the models. Owners of the entry-level Go can expect just two cupholders but four bottle holders. There are also two bag hooks in the 395 litre boot and four tie-down hooks. The boot space dimensions are near the top of the class, easily wiping out the Mazda3 and Golf hatches' much smaller boots.
Step up to the Active and you get another two cupholders for a total of four.
Drop the 60/40 split-fold seats and the luggage capacity jumps to 1301 litres, meaning objects of a decent size will fit from your flat-pack furniture adventures. The Elite, Premium and SR Premium also pick up a luggage net.
Its external dimensions are reasonably compact and the turning circle is 10.6m. Ground clearance is 140mm when unladen.
Price and features
This is probably the biggest question mark above the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X’s head for now, with all we know being Mazda Australia’s plan to launch it as a new top-spec version, so sit above the existing $36,990 G25 Astina flagship.
How far above will be the clincher, and given it’s not likely to quite match the performance of the G25, it will depend on what value you place on outright driveability and a marginal fuel saving over the base 2.0-litre engine.
There are six distinct trim levels in the i30 range. Our price guide is purely based on rrp - how much you pay will depend on drive-away deals and the cost of any options and accessories.
Our model comparison takes you through each of the specifications to help you find which one suits you best.
The price list opens with the bargain basement Go. The manual petrol kicks off at $19,990m with the twin-clutch auto diesel weighing in at $24,990, via a manual diesel and petrol auto.
Standard features include 16-inch steel rims, air-conditioning, reverse camera, cloth trim, remote central locking, cruise control, trip computer, auto headlights, power windows front and rear, heated powered door mirrors (auto only) and a full-size spare tyre.
The sound system is the same in every i30. With six speakers, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth and USB at a minimum, the system is controlled via a dash-mounted 8.0-inch touch screen. iPhone and Android users will be pleased to know all i30s have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so if there's no GPS, you can use your phone for satellite navigation. There is no CD player or DVD player in any of the cars.
Tailored floor mats are available as part of the $320 interior-accessory pack which also includes a dash mat and fabric rear bumper protector.
Move on to the Active and you can get a 2.0-litre petrol manual ($20,950), auto ($23,250), diesel manual ($23,450) and twin clutch ($25,950). In addition to the Go's spec, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, navigation system, park assist (a graphical display in the dash), folding heated mirrors and a full-size alloy spare.
The infotainment system also gains DAB radio.
The first of what you might call the sport editions is the SR manual and auto, starting at $25,590 for the six-speed manual and $28,950 for the seven-speed 'DCT' dual-clutch auto. Sporting the 1.6-litre turbo petrol, the SR has 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, the advanced safety features of the Smart Sense pack including lane assist, active cruise control, a bit of chrome here and there and sports pedals,
Next up is the Elite for between $27,790 and $30,490. Added to the Active's spec are fake-leather seats, steering wheel and gear shifter and keyless entry via smart key technology. The Elite also has 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Premium Auto jumps to $32,790 for the auto petrol and $35,490 for the DCT diesel. This machine picks up further styling changes - including a lot of chrome detailing - front parking sensors, electric driver's seat, auto LED headlights, sunroof and electrochromatic rear vision mirror.
The SR Premium auto goes back up to 18-inch alloys and again runs the 1.6-litre turbo petrol. The price is identical to the Premium diesel at $33,950 and is basically the same spec.
The final step is an important one - the i30 N. The N brand is Hyundai's performance arm and this is the first fully fledged performance car from Hyundai. The N has most of the same goodies as the SR Premium but rolls on 19-inch alloys, has bigger performance brakes, its own specification of Pirelli P-Zero tyres, an extra selectable drive mode known as N, dual-mode exhaust, sports front seats, mechanical limited slip diff, torque vectoring, auto rev matching and active dampers.
The N starts at $39,990 and you can add a 'Luxury Pack' for $3000, or a Luxury Pack with panoramic sunroof for $5000, both of which include keyless entry, auto wipers, electric heated fronts seats and front parking sensors.
Colours include 'Phantom Black', 'Intense Blue', 'Marina Blue', 'Iron Grey', 'Fiery Red', 'Platinum Silver', and 'Polar White'. All but the white attract an extra $495 cost. SR-badged cars score 'Sparkling Metal', 'Lava Orange' and 'Phoenix Orange' as extra colour options. The N also has its own colour schemes - 'Performance Blue', 'Clean Slate', 'Engine Red' and 'Micron Grey'. Brown is, sadly, off the menu.
Also off the menu are a self-parking function, bull bar, heated steering wheel, subwoofer, nudge bar, roof rails, design pack, xenon light bar or a launch edition (you're probably a bit late anyway).
Dealer accessories include things like tinted windows, roof racks, a cargo barrier, towbar and a cargo liner. No doubt they'll also try to saddle you with rust and paint protection.
Engine & trans
What’s compression ignition again? It’s basically how a diesel engine works, by using extreme pressure instead of spark plugs to burn fuel. Skyactiv-X still uses spark plugs, but only to kick off the ignition process and act as a safety net for cold starts and other edge cases, while extreme compression makes for much more effective combustion, which means improved efficiency.
This combustion efficiency means the engine can use a much leaner fuel-to-air mixture, and make more power and torque with less fuel and even less wasted fuel out the exhaust. Mazda describes it as delivering diesel-like torque and fuel consumption, with the power, responsiveness and refinement of a petrol. Or in other words, one step away from turning water into wine...
Mazda is calling the process Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), and the extreme pressures required to make it all happen are created by higher static compression ratio (but less than a typical diesel), much higher fuel pressure and boosted air pressure entering the combustion chamber.
Key to managing all these heightened parameters (and the very technological advancement that makes it all possible) is an ultra sensitive in-cylinder pressure sensor that has been developed specifically for this task.
Delivering the boosted air pressure is a Roots-type supercharger - or what Mazda describes as a high-response air supply - which was chosen over other air pump designs like a turbocharger or the Miller-cycle supercharger previously used in Eunos models because of its instantaneous boost delivery and breadth of efficiency.
Speaking of breadth of efficiency, perhaps the biggest plus for average motorists is that the engine’s efficiency zone has multiplied, meaning the difference between city and highway consumption, leadfoot drivers and my Dad, heavy and empty loads etc will be far less than a typical petrol engine.
This all represents a continuation of core principles we’ve seen from the start of Mazda’s Skyactiv era. That is, to make an existing engine type work better under everyday driving conditions rather than targeting outright performance.
The Skyactiv-X era starts with a 2.0-litre based on the regular Skyactiv-G engine, with the same 1998cc capacity. Other capacities are planned, with the eventual reborn rotary looking increasingly Skyactiv-X along with a straight-six version for a new CX-9 in a couple of years. Smaller versions are unlikely due to the economies of scale involved with such technology in a smaller and therefore cheaper car.
Mazda is making two versions of the Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre for now, one with 16.3:1 compression designed for Europe that favours Premium unleaded petrol, and one 15:1 version aimed at the US with their abundance of lower grade unleaded.
Unlike conventional engines, it’s the lower compression version that will deliver the biggest benefits, because Skyactiv-X relies on the usually “bad thing” pinging to do its best.
We’re set to get the Euro-spec one in Australia, which unfortunately means we won’t quite be getting the very best Skyactiv tech again.
The Euro-spec engine puts out 132kW at 6000rpm and 224Nm from just 3000rpm, which on paper sounds about halfway between the existing Skyactiv-G 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engines.
The engine also incorporates a mild hybrid system, but don't be confused by the H-word, there's no electric drive element. It simply means its got a cleaver alternator that only engages when needed and on deceleration to reduce efficiency-sapping drivetrain friction,
Pop the bonnet and you’re confronted by the biggest engine cover you’ve ever seen, but unlike most, this one is equipped with labeled latches that encourage you to have a look underneath. This encouragement continues with a clever little retention hook to hold the cover up against the bonnet while you’re poking around.
Unless you’re a Mazda engineer you’re likely to be baffled by the array of hoses, ducts and wiring, but you might get a kick out of spotting the supercharger.
There’s less to be said for the transmissions though, with versions of the existing six speed manual and torque converter automatics deemed up to the task, with the new engine’s increased efficiency zone negating any increase to the ratio count. The ratios have been adjusted to suit the new output characteristics, and while the ratios are yet to be published, there’s a narrower spread across the six with what feels to be taller first and sixth gears.
Engine specs vary across the range but all i30s are front-wheel drive.
The Go, Active Elite and Premium come with Hyundai's 2.0 GDi developing 120kW and 203Nm, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or traditional automatic transmission. The 0-100km/h acceleration time for the Go and Active is around nine seconds.
The 1.6 CRDi diesel engine is available in the Go, Active, Elite and Premium with either a six-speed manual (Go and Active) or seven-speed twin-clutch automatic (all variants). The 1.6-litre turbo diesel produces an even 100kW and delivers 280Nm in the manual and 300Nm in the twin clutch. Performance figures appear leisurely - the race to 100km/h is a calm 10.2 seconds. Clearly it has less horspower and more weight, but once you're up and running, the in-gear acceleration is impressive. Emissions are kept in check with a diesel particulate filter.
The 1.6 turbo petrol is the same engine size as the diesel, spinning up 150kW and 265Nm. That engine is available in the SR and SR Premium along with a six-speed manual or the seven-speed DCT. The sprint to 100 is said to be around eight seconds, but independent testing has clocked it closer to seven.
The N's engine is a firecracker 2.0-litre turbo producing 202kW/353Nm, with 378Nm when the overboost function kicks in. That means a 0-100km/h time of 6.1 seconds, although it felt slightly quicker to me. In true Australian style, we don't get the lower-powered version of the N because we don't buy entry-level cars any more.
Across the rest of the range, the petrol vs diesel argument is fairly straightforward - the diesel is a happy, frugal cruiser while the petrols are a bit more rev-happy, particularly the turbo.
Oil capacity and type varies between the engines and it's all in the owner's manual if you need a top-up on the run. There are no 4x4/AWD/rear-wheel drive, LPG or plug-in hybrid versions.
Towing capacity for the 2.0-litre petrol is 600kg unbraked and 1300kg braked.
All this hooha about fuel savings, and Mazda is yet to confirm an actual figure for Australia. We do know the hatch is rated at 4.5L/100km in manual and 5.3L/100km in auto according to the NEDC, which is historically close to the figures generated by the ADR 81/02 test we go by in Australia.
If it comes close to matching the NEDC figure it will be a win, sitting comfortably under the 6.4L/100km (manual) and 6.2L/100km (auto) figures currently applied to the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre Mazda3 hatch.
While the Australian-spec Skyactiv-X engine is expected to align with Europe rather than the US, and therefore be tuned to deal with Premium 95 RON unleaded, it’s still unclear if it will accept the cheaper Regular 91 RON unleaded.
Fuel mileage depends on the capacity and gearbox and varies between the different combinations.
As always, the official fuel-economy figures are only a guide, but Hyundai's numbers seem closer to reality than other manufacturers, at least in my experience.
The 2.0-litre's petrol consumption is listed at 7.3L/100km for the manual and 7.4 for the six-speed automatic. My most recent experience with an automatic Active resulted in a figure of 8.2L/100km in mostly suburban running.
The 1.6 CRDi's diesel fuel consumption is listed at 4.5L/100km for the manual and 4.7L/100km for the seven speed.
Moving on to the 1.6 petrol, the combined cycle is listed at 7.5L/100km for the manual and the seven-speed DCT dual-clutch auto.
The N's 2.0-litre turbo has a claimed combined figure of 8.0L/100km and it's worth noting that it requires 95 RON fuel. If you drive it like I did, you'll find that the 50-litre tank is a little on the small side.
Fuel-tank size is 50 litres, whether diesel or petrol.
What’s probably most amazing about Skyactiv-X is that you can’t really tell there’s anything special going on under the bonnet.
Push the start button and it gets going like any other petrol Mazda, although perhaps quieter.
Move off from rest and there’s no significant difference to the way it feels.
When I drove the prototype version of this drivetrain, there was a slight pinging under light throttle as it transitioned from spark to compression ignition, but I’m pleased to confirm that the extra two years of calibration has tuned this down to the tiniest occasional diesel sound, and it all feels a bit like a smooth diesel that’s more responsive than you expect.
The European-spec Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre’s outputs suggest it should be closer to the existing 2.5-litre in terms of performance, but in reality it feels closer to the 2.0 litre.
My perception is likely to be clouded by the Skyactiv-X’s specific transmission gearing, but it could also be because it’s able to do the same job with less revs and therefore not sound like it’s working so hard.
First gear feels quite tall with either transmission, and we also found the auto and manual were only sitting on 3500rpm in sixth at 160km/h on the Autobahn.
Mazda doesn’t specify performance figures, so it would be handy to put all three alongside each other from a standing start. But then, that’s not what Skyactiv-X is all about, it’s more about performing better under light throttle and incidental bursts of acceleration.
We can’t wait to put it to the test over some hilly terrain and familiar territory when it hits Australia early next year.
One of the areas in which the i30 stands out is its dynamics, whether the bottom-of-the-range Go or the SR Premium warm hatch or the N. While you're probably bored witless of motoring journos mentioning Hyundai's crack team of local engineers, much of the praise must go to them for making the i30 the best in the segment and a standout car in its own right.
Front susenpsion is by MacPherson struts and the rear is a choice of a sophisticated multi-link setup (SR and SR Premium) or torsion beams (everything else). The torsion-beam cars are very well planted and mostly fitted with eco-style tyres. That means a pretty good ride and little in the way of road noise.
When you go for the warm SR hatch with its sportier tune and multi-link rear suspension, you really do notice the difference. While the other cars are excellent as they are, the SR's tune is a bit firmer but also lots of fun to drive.
The electric power steering is weighted just so, even when you switch out of the laughable Eco mode, which ruins the throttle response (who really uses that, anyone?).
At speed, the i30 is quiet and composed, the multimedia system barely ticking over to cover what little noise invades the cabin. It's equally at home in the city and on the open road, with the diesel making long highway drags even longer with its impressive fuel economy.
On the downside, the diesel does feel a little heavy and firm around town,so unless you're super-keen for an oil burner, the cheaper petrols are the go.
If you were to score the driving experience solely on the i30 N, the 8/10 would become a nine. Hyundai has entered a space previously unknown to the Korean carmaker by racing headlong into the hearts and minds of Golf GTi wannabes. Except, it isn't a wannabe, it's a genuine GTi-beater - cheaper, more powerful, better-equipped and even more fun to drive. The N sends a loud message that Hyundai is after VW's mantle.
Again, Hyundai's local team took a super-hard riding, Nurburgring suspension spec and made it suitable for our rubbish roads. While still no magic carpet, the N is more than liveable in Comfort mode but supremely capable in N mode. It's completely unflappable down a mountain road on a cold morning and able to do things the Veloster SR Turbo - the closest thing Hyundai previously had to a hot hatch - could only dream of. It's fast, it's fun and, like the rest of its range, it leads its market segment.
The existing Mazda3’s maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating will almost certainly be carried over, and the high level of safety gear fitted to the existing G25 Astina is also likely to be matched.
The basic safety package on the Go and Active inludes seven airbags, stability and traction controls, ABS, brake assist, hill-start assist and brake-force distribiution.
As part of the 'Smart Sense' pack (auto and DCT cars only, $1150 extra), Go and Active owners pick up forward AEB, forward collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert and active cruise. These features are standard on Eite, Premium, SR, SR Premium and N.
Two ISOFIX points take car of the baby car seat or you can use one of the three top-tether child seat anchor points.
All i30s carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, even without the advanced safety features. It's annoying that the basic safety package on the Go and Active doesn't have AEB, though, while natural sales rival the Mazda3 has both forward and rear AEB.
Service pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but Mazda engine development boss Eiji Nakai assures CarsGuide that the new engine will not need servicing more frequently or cost any more to service than existing Skyactiv-G engines.
So expect the same 12month/10,000km intervals, with five year/50,000km capped servicing plan totalling just under $2000 over that period.
Like all new Mazdas, the recently upgraded five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty will apply to the 3 Skyactiv-X.
Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which used to be the benchmark but is now slowly becoming the standard across the industry. The five-year warranty is accompanied by roadside assist for the first year. Capped-price servicing applies for the life of the vehicle and if you return to Hyundai for a service, you get another 12 months of roadside assist for flat battery or tyre incidents.
Resale value appears strong, as it has been for each version of the i30.
I'm often asked if the i30 engines use a timing belt or chain. All of Hyundai's engines use their own silent timing chain system, with the happy upside of lower service costs and no issues with snapping belts. The i30's reliability rating is impressive as a result.
As the car is still fairly new, no obvious six-speed automatic gearbox problems or seven-speed auto tranmission problems seem to have appeared. Gearbox issues have never really been a big problem with Hyundai and common diesel problems have long since been banished to history.
A quick search for any other common faults yielded nothing in the way of persistent problems or complaints.