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SMALL TWO-WHEEL-DRIVE SUVs weren’t on the Australian
motorist’s radar until a few years ago. Hatchbacks previously
dominated the market but, with SUVs in general seeing a rapid
rise in popularity, new models from the big carmakers have
come in thick and fast. We put two of the best – Mazda’s CX-3
and Honda’s HR-V – up against the latest entrant from Hyundai,
the Kona. While two of the three also offer AWD versions, it’s
the 2WD petrol models that are proving the biggest hits.
All three SUVs come well specced and the standard features
are extensive on the models we drove – all have dual-zone
climate control air conditioning, large infotainment screens
and keyless entry – but how does how the newcomer stack up
against two of its best rivals in all other respects?
MAZDA CX-3 AKARI
Mazda’s smallest SUV was an immediate hit when launched in
2015, racking up back-to-back wins in the small 2WD SUV
category of the Australia’s Best Cars awards. The line-up has
14 variants covering all bases, starting with the CX-3 Neo 2WD
($20,490) and topping out at the CX-3 Akari diesel AWD
($37,890). We drove the Akari petrol 2WD ($33,490).
Powering the CX-3 is a 2.0 -litre four-cylinder petrol engine
developing 109kW and 192Nm, matched to a conventional six-
speed automatic, driving the front wheels. Its claimed fuel
consumption is 6.1L/100km. Mazda’s engines and transmission
are technically at the forefront in this class and are works of art
internally, employing high-tech materials to decrease weight
and pumping losses without reducing performance. The CX-3 is
the only one of the trio to feature an engine stop/start system,
designed to improve real-world economy. It’s a system that’s
divisive and engenders a love/hate relationship with buyers, but
in the CX-3 the system fires the engine up in just 0.35 seconds
and works as well as any from other carmakers.
As a driver’s car, the CX-3 has few SUV peers, and its on-road
manners match its sporty good looks. The suspension design is
straightforward enough: up front there are MacPherson struts
and at the rear is a simple torsion beam. The design works well,
delivering a decidedly sporty chassis, and the low-profile tyres
fitted to the Akari don’t upset its ability to soak up bumps and
potholes on poor quality sections of road. Performance from
the 2.0 -litre is spirited, albeit a little noisy when the
transmission upshifts under acceleration. This settles when
cruising and, on our mixed drive loop, the CX-3 returned
6.7L/100km, highlighting the engine’s efficiency.
The interior delivers a wow factor equal to the exterior
design. Front and centre is the seven-inch colour info display
mounted in the top of the dash. You can navigate through the
various functions via a rotary dial placed conveniently in the
centre console. From an ergonomic and ease-of-use
perspective, it’s one of the best systems in the business. The
Akari also comes standard with a head-up display that shows
speed, sat nav turns, and speed limits. The centre console lacks
a storage binnacle or armrest for drivers and is the only real
negative in an otherwise well thought out interior.
Seat comfort is above average in all positions and the leather
facing provides good support, although larger occupants may
find the front seats restrictive in the middle and upper back.
The CX-3 ’s high tapering waistline means that second-row
passengers get a slim view through the side glass and the cabin
feels decidedly cosy from the rear. It was the only one of the
trio where we had to move the front seat forward to provide
enough leg room for an adult to be comfortable in the second
row. Indeed, the CX-3 loses out to the others in space, especially
in the cargo area. If you want to carry a set of golf clubs, you’ll
need to fold down the second-row seat, and the length between
the tailgate and the back of the rear seat proved the shortest
according to our measurements.
HONDA HR-V VTi-L
Honda’s HR-V range was reintroduced in 2015 after an absence
of almost 18 years, when models like the larger Honda CR-V
filled the brief, and it was just the model Honda needed to boost
its stocks in the booming small SUV market.
The new line-up isn’t as expansive as the CX-3 ’s and there
are no AWD versions, manual transmissions, or diesel options.
Prices start at $24,990 for the VTi and go up to $34,915 for the
VTi-L ADAS (Advanced Driver Aid System).
Powering the HR-V is a 1.8-litre petrol engine producing
104kW and 172Nm, and it’s matched to a CVT transmission.
Claimed fuel consumption is 6.6L/100km and the HR-V actually
returned the best fuel figure of the trio at 6.5L/100km. Like the
engine in the CX-3 , Honda’s smaller 1.8 unit employs the latest
engine design thinking to refine the combustion process,
reduce friction, and improve consumption. Honda’s suspension
design mirrors the CX-3 and Kona’s, with MacPherson struts up
front and a torsion beam at the rear.
Power: 109kW Torque:
192Nm Fuel consumption:
OR0118_MOT_Comparo kona.indd 44
8/12/17 12:19 pm
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