Subcompact crossovers have quickly become the attainable and practical option for buyers on a budget, however these vehicles have never really been known for their build quality, technology, and performance. In 2021 thanks to features beginning to trickle down to more affordable markets that were once exclusive and limited to luxury brands is slowly reshaping this segment from being modern day econoboxes to lifted and versatile hatchbacks. The Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona are at the forefront of subcompacts evolving into fun and appealing crossovers that could easily draw in consumers of all ages, but if you are in the market for either one of these vehicles at around $30k, which is going to be the better option? Well let’s take a deep dive and compare both models to see whether the Hyundai Kona or Mazda CX-30 should be the next crossover in your driveway.
The problem with most vehicles at this price point is that exterior appearances aren’t the most enticing, however the Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona could be seen as being the best looking among their rivals.
First taking a look at the CX-30, for all intents and purposes it’s a lifted Mazda3 hatchback with plastic cladding for the side profile. Both up front and in the back, Mazda’s signature design features dominate the road presence of this crossover, as it has very similar cosmetic cues to it’s bigger sibling, the CX-5. With the smoother body lines and angles, the CX-30 has a streamlined and athletic appearance that adds a fun personality to this vehicle, but there’s also a sense of simplicity as well as the front fascia has a lot of continuity with the chrome accents outlining the grille and integrating into the LED headlights. Then for the rear end, there’s a traditional hatchback design, with dual exhaust outlets and LED taillights. While compact in exterior dimensions, it’s not boxy or bland like most competitors, and getting back to those body lines it has a hatchback-like road presence which should draw in buyers who’ve been reluctant to purchase a crossover.
Then for the Hyundai Kona, it’s always had a futuristic style to it, while also taking a completely different approach than rivals, as Hyundai offers more vibrant colors to target a younger consumer demographic compared to Mazda who’s a bit more conservative with color options. For 2022, the Kona received a minor facelift, with a slight redesign to the gray cladding as it no longer integrates into the headlights, and this time around outlines the lower portion of the front bumper and wraps around the entire car. Trendy with the design cues, the Kona is youthful and adventurous, being more bold than boxy alternatives while also appearing to be a hatchback rather than a crossover, and to a certain degree that’s going to have a negative effect on interior dimensions. If the off-road look is not your style, Hyundai is offering the N-Line trim for 2022 to provide a full paint finish, which sets us up for the all new Kona N that will be the most powerful subcompact crossover on the market today.
Stepping inside, this could very well be the deal maker or breaker if you’re cross-shopping these 2 models. While both have their strengths, some of those weaknesses could play a role in which vehicle you end up purchasing.
Once again starting off with the Mazda CX-30, you’re greeted by one of the most plush interiors you’re going to find, not only in the subcompact crossover market but also compacts as well. It should be noted that the model we featured was a Turbo Premium, which gave us heated leather seats with the driver’s side being 2 position memory. Raising our eyebrows is the soft touch padding found throughout, not only for the door panels and center arm rest, but also the dashboard as well, and together it really elevates the driving experience as you feel as though you’re in an entry level luxury crossover. In front of you there will be a digital display in the center of the analogue gauges which blends in quite well, with the resolution and quality being better than what we’ve seen from Honda and Toyota. Our model also had a head up display which is not available on the Kona for 2022, as it used to be offered on the Ultimate but that trim was cut from the lineup.
Moving over to the infotainment system, this user interface is not a touchscreen and instead you’ll have a rotary dial, touchpad, and quick access buttons to get you to different menus. Had we received dual functionality, this head unit would be very similar to BMW’s iDrive 7 system, but sadly you can only use the rotary dial which will negatively effect your experience with apple CarPlay and android auto as they just don’t pair very well with this setup. Outside of that, this infotainment system is actually very user friendly and quick to respond, but if you want a touchscreen you may have to look elsewhere. If you opt for the Premium Plus, you’ll have additional camera angles, with a top view and side views to go along with your rear backup camera to help park this crossover.
For the rest of the interior layout, it’s a clean and simplistic design, with the buttons and dials for your dual zone climate control and front and rear defrosters found below the infotainment system. There will be piano black trim for the center console, which will become a hassle to clean over time, but overall the the CX-30’s interior is one of the best we’ve come across when it comes to comfort.
The Hyundai Kona on the other hand isn’t necessarily going to wow you when it comes to comfort and soft touch padding like we’ve seen with the CX-30, however if you love interior technology then the 2022 Hyundai Kona Limited will likely be the best fit for you among the competitors in the subcompact crossover market. While you’ll have heated leather trimmed seats, the materials for the dashboard and arm rests aren’t going to be as impressive as you’ll experience in the CX-30. Yet where the Hyundai Kona falls short, it redeems itself with a modern interior layout, as there will be a full digital gauge cluster that we see in the new Tucson and Santa Fe, and when it comes to functionality and resolution, this is what you’d expect in luxury vehicles as you’ll have the ability to scroll through a variety of information. As mentioned earlier there is no head up display offered for the Limited or any trim at the moment for the 2022 Kona.
Then for the infotainment system, you’ll have a 10.2 inch touchscreen with apple CarPlay and android auto compatibility, and just like with the Mazda CX-30 you will have onboard navigation. Mounted just beneath this screen are quick access buttons, but thanks to the responsive and refinement of this user interface, you’re going to find that this head unit is one of the most user friendly and in-depth in this segment. Despite the Kona’s interior not being the most refined or visually appealing, the technology available outclasses rivals to create the perception that this crossover is an entry level luxury vehicle with a tech package that could rival Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti. Below you’ll find the buttons for your front and rear defrosters, but interestingly enough you won’t have dual zone climate control. Equipped on our model and also offered on the CX-30 was a wireless phone charging pad to once again provide modern day amenities.
When compared side-by-side, there’s going to be trade-offs. You either go with comfort or technology, and this will simply come down to your own personal preferences.
The Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona find themselves in the same situation when it comes to interior room and overall practicality, as vehicles of this size are only going to be conducive for a family of 4 rather than having the ability to squeeze a third person in the middle. For taller passengers leg and head room are going to be a concern, which is a given considering that both crossovers are subcompacts.
For rear cargo space, dimensions are almost identical, with the Mazda CX-30 coming in with 20.2 cubic ft of room and the Kona offering 19.2. It would be a stretch to say that one cubic foot is going to make all the difference, but if practicality is a top priority, it might be worth looking at some bigger competitors, however keep in mind that you’re going to sacrifice many features, including the upscale and plush interiors both crossover have.
Where some consumers are turned off with subcompact crossovers is that they’re underpowered, and more often than not the engines are paired with a CVT which deludes the driving experience even more. To the delight of people who enjoy driving, the Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona use traditional automatics and also have optional turbocharged 4 cylinder engines to make them one of a handful of crossovers in this segment that bring some athleticism and sportiness to an otherwise mundane market.
The Mazda CX-30 Turbo comes in with a 2.5L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that puts out 250 and 320 lb ft of torque and is paired with a 6 speed automatic transmission. Where the the CX-30 impresses is with it’s sub 6 second 0-60 time, falling right in line with the Volkswagen GTI. Despite performance numbers appearing to be respectable, the biggest drawback is with the 6 speed automatic. It pairs well with the turbo 4, yet it makes the driving experience feel slightly sedated as it takes away from the sporty qualities this crossover is suppose to have. Accelerations are smooth and linear, but after a while there’s a sense of something missing, and it’s the lack of a dual clutch automatic or a faster shifting transmission. Most drivers will find the CX-30 turbo to be more than adequate, especially over the base 2.5L naturally aspirated engine that begs for more power when accelerating, which is why paying a little extra for the turbo is totally worth it.
Then for the Hyundai Kona, the optional 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine is going to have 195 hp and 195 lb ft of torque and will be paired with a 7 speed dual clutch automatic. There’s no question that if you’re seriously looking at a Kona, you must go with the the 1.6. Just like with the CX-30, the 2 liter 4 cylinder engine found on lower trims is not going to be enjoyable, and in fact you’re going to wish you paid extra for the turbo. During our time with the Kona, whether driving in the city or taking this crossover out onto the highway, it performed smoothly. Gear shifts were instant, and while there is a discrepancy in power when comparing both models, the Kona felt more refined and responsive even though it wasn’t as quick. As mentioned during the review, all the criticisms we’d have with the Kona will likely be rectified when the Kona N arrives later this year, giving us a healthy boost in performance while also being more agile and nimble to feed our hunger for a sporty subcompact crossover.
You’ve probably been waiting to find out how much you’ll be paying for the Hyundai Kona or Mazda CX-30, and the models we featured earlier this year on the channel was a Kona Limited and CX-30 Turbo Premium, which actually are very similar trim levels to make this comparison as fair as possible.
Starting off with the CX-30, the Turbo Premium comes in with a starting price of $32,450 with AWD coming standard. the Hyundai Kona Limited will start at $28,250 with AWD being a $1400 option, but even when you tack that on, the Kona undercuts the CX-30 by just over $2k. When taking a glance at the rest of the trims and how they match up, you’re going to receive the 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine from Hyundai at a price point of just under $26k, whereas the CX-30 Turbo will cost over $30k.
We’re still waiting to find out the pricing for the new Kona N, but most likely it will fall right in line with the CX-30 Premium Plus which is going to cost right around $35k.
In conclusion, when you factor in the technology that’s made available to you at around $30k, the Hyundai Kona becomes a very enticing option. On the flip side, the Mazda CX-30 is going to have a better interior and a quicker acceleration time, so both vehicles have their pros and cons, and it just comes down to what you prioritize first in a new subcompact crossover. For us, the Hyundai Kona wins out after this head-to-head matchup, as the dual clutch pairs well with the turbocharged 4 cylinder engine, and since you sacrifice very little with practicality, we don’t feel like we’re losing much outside of soft touch padding by looking past the Mazda CX-30. In 2021, we want modern day technology, and Hyundai is offering that at a price point no one else is in this segment, which is why the 2022 Kona is one of our early candidates for the best subcompact crossover on the market this year. But as always, we recommend to test drive both vehicles to see which one suits you best, and maybe you’ll find out that the Mazda CX-30 is a better overall crossover for you.
Here are the link to the full reviews for both models.