Mazda 3 VS Hyundai Ioniq
- Zero tailpipe emissions
- Tight rear headroom
- Vanilla drive
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|
Hats off to Hyundai Australia for offering a mainstream model covering the gamete of petrol-electric hybrid and full zero (tailpipe) emissions powertrain options. Power walking the walk while other new car brands are still just talking the EV talk.
Then, because Australia was late to the Ioniq party, what felt like five minutes later (actually 12 months) a new and improved version took its place.
With revised design inside and out, upgraded tech, and a bigger battery, this Electric model is pricier, but even at around $50K remains at the affordable end of the expanding EV market.
So, still not cheap, but within the bounds of possibility for a family willing and able to pay extra to reduce its carbon footprint and leave fossil fuels behind.
We spent a week in the top-spec Premium model to experience electric mobility Hyundai Ioniq style.
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.
In the Ioniq Electric Premium, Hyundai has put together an impressive small hatch EV. Expensive by conventional standards, it’s one of the more affordable electric vehicles on the market. Comfortable, quick, well equipped, and practical it’s bringing zero tailpipe emissions closer to the masses.
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 updated Ioniq has been given a visual tszuj, but key external dimensions are unchanged. The sloping, fastback profile is the same, the nose now sporting a satin grey grille insert with active shutters either side of the centre logo. The aim is to provide extra cooling to the motor when required, maintaining the best possible aero profile at other times.
LED daytime running lights are integrated into angular nose vents designed to create a wind-cheating ‘air curtain’ around the front wheels, and the 16-inch alloy rims have been “aerodynamically sculpted” to further optimise the car’s aerodynamics.
Combination LED tail-lights add some extra drama at the rear, with the bumper now featuring a matt grey insert to match the nose treatment.
Inside, the dashboard is all new with a 10.25-inch tablet-style media screen taking centre stage. The climate control set-up has also been refreshed (with capacitive touch controls replacing buttons), sleek piano black finishes neatly integrating the two areas, and the Premium grade’s ‘leather-appointed’ seats look quality and feel good.
In terms of other materials used, there are sugar-cane bi-products (25 per cent of the raw materials used in the soft-touch door trim panels), and recycled plastic, powdered wood and volcanic stone (10 per cent of plastics on other interior surfaces). Bio-fabrics (20 per cent sugar-cane bi-products) are used in the headliner and carpet.
An interesting design tweak under the hood is the styling effort applied to the electric motor to make it look more like a conventional engine. The motor’s relatively small size is neatly camouflaged by a carefully chiselled and profiled plastic shroud placed over the top of it to cover the empty spaces below and give the impression of a longitudinally installed engine.
There’s plenty of room up front with storage options including a surprisingly generous glove box, and a decent centre armrest/storage box with a USB-A power outlet lurking inside. Lengthy pockets in the doors incorporate a large recessed bottle section.
Dual cupholders sit next to the gearshift with a Qi wireless charging bay ahead of them, while a loose items tray in front of that features two 12-volt sockets and a USB-A connection/charging port to access standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. There’s also a retractable sunglass compartment in the overhead console.
Those in the back aren’t forgotten with a fold-down centre armrest incorporating a pair of cupholders, a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat (only), and smaller door pockets will accommodate smaller bottles.
Adjustable air vents at the back of the front centre console are always welcome, but not so thrilling is the swoopy turret’s impact on rear headroom.
Sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm height I enjoyed adequate legroom, but in a normal position my noggin was in solid contact with the headliner; an issue exacerbated by the standard tilt and slide glass sunroof’s 25mm downward intrusion.
With the 60/40 split-folding rear seat upright cargo volume is 357 litres (VDA) to the top of the seats, and 462 litres to the roof. Although that’s around 20 per cent less than the Ioniq Hybrid, it’s still not too shabby, and enough to swallow our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), or the jumbo size CarsGuide pram. Once you’ve dropped the back seat, space opens up to a substantial 1417 litres.
Four tie-down hooks and a luggage net are included, and there’s a handy recess behind the driver’s side wheel tub.
Don’t bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair and inflate ‘tyre mobility kit’ is your only option, and forget about hooking up the boat or van, the Ioniq is a no-tow zone.
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.
A recommended retail price of $52,490 is lots for a small hatchback in this market. To put that number in perspective a top-spec Mazda3 G25 GT Astina auto hatch is $38,040, and the flagship Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid, complete with two-tone paint option is $34,085.
That said, Nissan’s zero emissions Leaf hatch sits at $49,990, the diminutive Renault Zoe hatch is $49,490, and the Tesla Model 3 starts at $67,000, running all the way up to $85,900. Even Hyundai’s own Kona Electric compact SUV lists at $59,990 for the Elite, and no less than $64,490 for the top-shelf Highlander.
So, the ‘normal’ take on value-for-money doesn’t sit at the core of the Ioniq Electric proposition, unless the value you’re looking for is environmental superpowers.
But the Ioniq Electric Premium grade doesn’t skimp on standard features, the equipment list including, alloy wheels, smart cruise control (with stop/go), rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and start, the 10.25-inch media touchscreen managing an eight-speaker Infinity audio system (with external amplifier, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth device connectivity, and sat nav with live traffic updates), climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, leather-appointed steering wheel (heated) and seats (driver’s 10-way power-adjustable with memory), a tilt and slide glass sunroof, 7.0-inch digital colour instrument display, alloy pedal covers, LED headlights (auto), DRLs and tail-lights, dashboard ambient lighting, and reversing camera (with parking guidance).
Add in the substantial suite of standard active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section), and the big price gap to similarly sized, conventionally-powered hatches may just be one you’re willing to stretch across.
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.
This Ioniq gives the internal combustion engine the flick, with a 100kW/295Nm permanent-magnet AC synchronous electric motor residing under its bonnet.
An AC synchronous motor features a rotor producing a constant magnetic field, with a stator outside it generating a revolving magnetic field. The stator is ‘excited’ by an AC current supply, which produces a revolving magnetic field rotating at synchronous speed. Got it?
Management of the frequency of the electrical current means the speed of the motor can be accurately controlled, with the parallel benefit of synchronous motors producing constant speed irrespective of load.
Drive goes to the front wheels via a single-speed reduction gear auto transmission.
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.
Rather than litres per 100km (L/100km) it’s likely we’ll all become increasingly familiar with alternate measures of a vehicle’s energy efficiency, and it feels like it’s taking a while for the world to agree on a standard measure.
According to the Australian standard combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle, the Ioniq Electric uses 117 watt hours per kilometre (Wh/km).
Which you’ll also see expressed as 15.7 kilowatt hours per 100km (kWh/100km) and 6.4 km per kilowatt hour (km/kWh). Get it together, people!
Anyway, over around 200km of city, suburban, and highway running we saw a dash-indicated average of 8.0km/kWh. Go crazy if you’d like to convert it to another format.
Quoted range is 373km according to the Australian standard, and 311km in line with the European WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) protocol, the latter widely regarded as more ‘real world’ accurate.
The battery is a 38.3kW Lithium-ion Polymer unit with a charging capacity of 100kW when using a DC fast charger. Enough to deliver an 80 percent charge in 57 minutes using a 50kW charger, and 54 minutes when connected to a full-fat 100kW charger.
Plug into a 240-volt AC socket and you’re looking at around six hours for a full charge. A perfect opportunity to use overnight, off-peak energy.
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.
Like all Hyundai’s sold in Australia, the Ioniq’s suspension (MacPherson strut front / torsion beam rear) has been tuned for local conditions, and the Electric Premium rides beautifully. The seats are comfy and the car is quiet… not just because an electric motor provides the propulsion.
Despite this small car’s chunky 1575kg kerb weight it feels well buttoned down, soaking up small bumps and even bigger surface imperfections with ease.
The electrically-assisted steering points nicely with reasonable road feel, but we are not in sports car territory here. The overall driving experience is vanilla, with the only hint of exotic flavour following a press of the ‘Sport’ button.
Four drive modes - Normal, Eco, Eco+, Sport – are offered. Normal is just that, Eco is less than that, and emotionally, you’ve really got to be in full planet-saving mode to put up with the new Eco+ setting.
It optimises range by setting a 90km/h speed limit, switching off the air con, heating and fans, dialing the regenerative braking up to maximum, and sucking out your will to live.
The paddle shifters are entertaining, though. In everything but Sport mode they progressively increase (left paddle) or release (right paddle) the level of regen braking applied.
Challenge yourself to a game of ‘How little can I use the brake pedal’ for hours of fun. Pull and hold the left paddle to stop altogether without touching the brake pedal.
Switch to Sport and the same paddles control the transmission, using pre-set steps to mimic individual gear ratios.
All 295Nm of torque is available from step-off and if you experience a rush of blood and pin the throttle expect 0-100km/h to come up in around 10.0sec. The most urgent thrust is up to around 50km/h, acceleration softening off a bit from there.
If the regen braking game becomes tedious, the conventional stoppers are vented 280mm disc at the front and solid 284mm discs on the rear, which is the same as the Hybrid and Plug-in hybrid variants.
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 Hyundai Ioniq picked up a maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was assessed in October, 2018, and the Electric Premium is equipped with an impressive array of active and passive safety tech, with ‘expected’ crash prevention features such as ABS, brake assist, EBD, as well as traction and stability controls present and accounted for.
On top of that, this top-spec model is fitted with ‘Hill-start Assist Control’, ‘Blind-Spot Collision Warning’, ‘Driver Attention Warning’, ‘Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist’ (city/urban/interurban/pedestrian) which is Hyundai-speak for AEB, ‘High Beam Assist’, ‘Lane Following Assist’, ‘Lane Keeping Assist – Line’, ‘Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning’ and ‘Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go.’
But wait, there’s more, including ‘Emergency Stop Signal’, ‘Parking Distance Warning’ (front and rear with four sensors at each end and a guidance display), ‘Rear View Monitor with Parking Guidance’, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.’
If, despite all of the above, a crash is unavoidable the passive safety roster includes seven airbags (driver and front passenger head and thorax bags, driver’s knee, and side curtain airbags covering both rows of seats).
There are three top tether points for securing baby capsules/child restraints across the rear seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two rear outboard positions.
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’s ‘iCare’ ownership program kicks off with a five-year/unlimited km warranty, with 12 months roadside assist and a (complimentary) 1500km first service included.
The Ioniq battery warranty extends for eight years/160,000km. There’s also a dedicated Hyundai Customer Care Centre, and the 'myHyundai' owner website.
A ‘Lifetime Service Plan’ is available with recommended service intervals set at 12 months/15,000km. Service cost for the first five years for the Electric is $160 each and every year.
Continue to service the car with an authorised Hyundai dealer and you’ll receive a 10-year sat nav update plan and a roadside support plan for up to 10 years.