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Hyundai Kona vs. Mazda CX-30 – Which Comes Out On Top?

I recently reviewed a 2021 Mazda CX-30 and thought it would be a great idea to see how it compares to the Hyundai Kona I tested this year. We will look at the pros and cons of both to see which is right for you.
Posted: September 20, 2020 - 6:27PM
Author: Kevin Meyn

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Hyundai Kona vs. Mazda CX-30

I’ve reviewed a 2020 Hyundai Kona SEL Plus and reviewed two CX-30s, a 2020 and 2021 Premium trim CX-30s. I’ve appreciated what Hyundai/Kia has to bring to the table with price, refinement, and ten-year warranty. But I was surprised to see the upscale Mazda is also not lagging in terms of value.

To keep things simple, I will be referring to the two cars as a WHOLE; I won’t bore you and talk about every little trim and how it stacks up. We will compare the essence of how the vehicles feel and what they accomplish. Hyundai is a more value brand, whereas Mazda is trying to break into the “premium” segment.

Hyundai Kona Drive

The Hyundai Kona is not lagging in refinement. Hyundai’s are typically the most comfortable and quietest vehicles in the class. Hyundai is outdoing most Toyota products in the quiet department, which is saying a lot. The Kona even had good driving dynamics, superior to its sister car, the Kia Seltos.

The Kona isn’t the fastest thing in the world; the SEL Plus I tested is the 2.0l port-injected four-cylinder producing a measly 147 HP and 132 LB. FT. of torque. I’m fully aware of the turbo Kona which has 175 HP and 195 LB. FT. of torque; however, I do not like the turbo models due to the DCT, which does not feel smooth. I prefer Hyundai-Kia’s excellent chain-driven CVT, which performs better than some traditional automatics. The NA 2.0l gets 27 MPG City and 33 MPG Highway (FWD). AWD is optional on both vehicles.

Hyundai Kona FrontMazda CX-30 Drive

Now, talking about the Mazda, refinement, and comfort is also a highlight for the CX-30. It better be if it’s trying to be a “premium” vehicle. Handling is another area Mazda typically does well; however, the new Mazda’s have some torque steer and the typical body roll common for this class and any regular car, not talking about Porsche Cayenne’s here after all. Honda’s are by far the best handling standard cars, but Mazda’s in most cases aren’t far behind, but I have to give the point to Hyundai for handling.

Related Story: Mazda CX-30 Premium vs. Hyundai Kona Ultimate - Which Compact Crossover Is Right For you?

The power of the Mazda is class-leading. The 2.5l naturally aspirated four-cylinder produces 186 HP and 186 LB. FT. of torque. Usually, people complain about the lack of power in Mazda’s, but not in this class. Regardless, a turbo CX-30 is coming, but back to the current CX-30, it doesn’t feel 40 HP faster than the Kona because the Mazda is all about refinement. The Zoom Zoom days are gone, so you’re left with a satisfying surge that doesn’t light the world on fire, but it is enough for street driving. The 2.5l will return 25 MPG City and 33 MPG Highway (FWD).

Mazda CX-30 Front

The six-speed transmission in the Mazda is perfect. Many love Mazda’s for this reason and, in general, quality driving dynamics. But enthusiast consumers love the fact Mazda’s are not plagued by CVTs, although most new CVTs are excellent like in the Kona. The six-speed downshifts and reacts to all inputs appropriately and quickly, primarily because there isn’t an unnecessary amount of gears for the transmission to jump down when downshifting.

Hyundai Kona Interior & Features

The interior is really where the differences become apparent. The Kona can’t hold a candle to the CX-30 in this department. A sea of cheap plastics spreads throughout the interior, but worst of all is the window switches in the Kona; it is a very cheap feeling. Other things implemented cheaply is the screen, which looks like a children’s tablet.

But you can’t knock the simplicity of the Kona’s interior and excellent ergonomics. Everything is easy to get to, and the seats are incredibly comfortable. Space is perfect in the front, but the rear is a joke for pretty much all vehicles in the compact SUV segment. The trunk is a decent size, not huge but at least has a spare tire.

Hyundai Kona Interior

Hyundai typically offers a plethora of standard features. The Kona is no exception; however, the CX-30 also offers pretty much everything the Kona does as standard, and the other trim levels align similarly. The Kona offers Apple Carplay & Android Auto as standard along with Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist; all provided on the CX-30 as well.

Mazda CX-30 Interior & Features

Mazda has the best interior of any regular car period. Not even a topic of debate, the leather dash, and even the plastics used are of the highest quality. Even the base model CX-30 has a superior fit and finish lacking in the class. Even the infotainment screen has a crispness that you only see when you step up to BMWs and Audis.

I mentioned ergonomics are excellent in Hyundai, well it’s also stupid simple in the Mazda. Using the infotainment and climate control doesn’t require a Ph.D. in Information Technology; however, the steering wheel buttons can be a tad tricky to access the gauge cluster. But space is excellent and typical of this class, rear legroom is tight, but Mazda makes up for it by offering a generous boot, larger than the Kona.

Mazda CX-30 Interior

Plenty of features as standard, as mentioned before, similar to the Kona. But to get certain features like Blind Spot Monitoring, you must step up to the next trim level from the base, and this is true for the Kona as well. Fortunately, rearview cameras are standard on both cars across all trims.

Hyundai Kona vs. Mazda CX-30 Price, Value, & Conclusion

Finally, let’s end on price and value. A 2021 Hyundai Kona starts at $20,400, and the 2021 Mazda CX-30 begins at $21,900, $1,500 more than the Kona. Is the Mazda $1,500 nicer? Yea, it definitely is. But let’s not stop there, Hyundai’s tend to lease rather well, so comparing lease prices, we have two prices for both cars. A 2021 Hyundai Kona leases for $209 a month with $2,599 down, while the 2021 Mazda CX-30 leases for $205 a month with $2,999 down. These numbers are for 36 months and 10,000 miles a year; yes, other fees and crap may apply.

Mazda CX-30 Rear

But as you can see, the numbers are almost identical despite the Mazda being much nicer on the inside and more powerful engine. But wait, there is more because you can still lease 2020 Konas and CX-30s. A 2020 Kona leases for $189 a month with $2,929 down, while the 2020 CX-30 leases for $189 a month with $2,999 down. Once again, almost identical numbers with the same terms. I love Hyundai’s, but I will have to take the Mazda in this class with these prices.

(Prices & Numbers reported are from September 2020)

Read more Hyundai Stories here.

Kevin Meyn is an automotive journalist for Torque News concentrating on Hyundai content. Kevin is the founder of Exhaust Sports Auto Youtube channel, where he does professional car reviews on new and used vehicles. Through the use of various resources and extended Automotive expertise, Kevin documents the latest in automotive news revolving around Hyundai. Kevin graduated from NC State University studying Supply Chain Management but has had a passion for cars since he was a child. Follow Kevin on Twitter and Instagram @exhaustsports.

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Jimmy Dinsmore    September 21, 2020 - 4:27PM

The Kona wins hands down, in my book. I've seen the Kona go off the road and traverse rocky terrain. Not sure the CX-30 could handle that at all. Plus I like the Kona's interior much better.

Elmer J (not verified)    December 16, 2020 - 4:52PM

Well, I guess you never drove a Mazda CX-30 Turbo.
Then you can go back to your list.
Otherwise, you are just writing without driving both cars.
Empty comments without any substance

Robert (not verified)    June 20, 2021 - 3:31PM

As soon as you showed bias to a whining CVT over a geared transmission your credibility as a “car enthusiast” went right out the window with me. I immediately skipped past the rest of your “blah, blah, blah…” to the this comments section. Most DCTs are just servo/computer controlled manuals. There are some good ones in serious sports cars and some that should never made it to production (eg Ford Focus). Thank you Mazda for keeping the traditional geared automatic alive a little bit longer.

Neil (not verified)    October 9, 2021 - 8:40AM

I drove a Kona for 10 days in August as a rental while visiting family in a different province (I'm Canadian). Meh, it was fine. Easy to park, felt like driving a golf cart hatchback, it was rough going up hills. I would never buy it.

I just test drove and bought a Mazda CX-30 last night. It's FINE. Fine, the way you talk about a hot body on the beach. This car handles like a dream, I didn't even realize at first it was in the same class as the Kona, I assumed it was a step up. The interior is ridiculously nice, spacious and feels like a German car. The acceleration is fun.

The days of Zoom Zoom might be gone but it didn't feel that way to me. I didn't want the test drive to end. I picked the GS AWD Luxury package for $31K CAD plus taxes. I can't wait to trade in my 2012 Corolla LE in a couple of days.

Thanks Mazda for making cars that are fun to drive.