2023 Koala Mattress review: OG vs Calm As vs Soul Mate
- Firm support while remaining comfortable
- Box delivery system works a treat
- Tangible improvements as you go up the tiers
- Well priced
- Dual-sided Kloudcell is more trouble than it’s worth
- Edge support still lacklustre
- My zipper broke within minutes
- Lots of cardboard and plastic rubbish
We review the second generation Koala mattress-in-a-box range. Which is the best Koala mattress: the New (OG), Calm As or Soul Mate?
Everyone has heard of the Koala mattress. That's impressive given the little Australian start-up only kicked off 6 years ago. What can now be known as simply the 2015 Koala mattress-in-a-box has helped the brand become a globally recognised entity. In part, it was due to the fantastic marketing, which targeted millennials and pro-sustainability enthusiasts via social media. But more importantly, it was also a great mattress – a mattress-in-a-box.
The company would go on to branch out into couches, chairs, desks, ottomans and more, but its mattresses remain king. Back in 2021, Koala put its reputation on the line. It discontinued the original mattress and replaced it with 3 new variants: the New (or OG), Calm As and Soul Mate. And quite controversially, they're no longer Australian made and instead come out of China.
Do they still deliver a fantastic sleeping experience from a mattress in a box in 2023? I slept on all 3 variants for multiple months and this is my experience. But let's start this Koala mattress review by breaking down the improvements and differences between the old and new Koala mattresses.
What hasn't changed in the New Koala mattress?
The core of what over 1 million Australians loved about the OG Koala mattress remains in place in the 2021 follow-up. Unlike other mattresses that rely on memory foam or latex, the New Koala mattress sticks with a polyurethane Dunlop foam. This material offers greater support than memory foam and is far more breathable than latex.
It also allows for "zero disturbance" whereby you can jump around like an enraged baboon on your side of the bed and your partner never feels a thing. (That's not supposed to read like innuendo, by the way.) All the Koala mattresses are GECA certified, anti-bacterial and CertiPUR-US ratified, so they're free of chemicals like formaldehyde.
They still come as a mattress in a box all rolled up and sucked into shrink wrap. Delivery is still fast and free. There's still the quite excellent 120-night trial period on offer. And you retain the 10-year warranty.
What has changed in the New Koala mattress?
This core base is sandwiched between a non-slip polyester bottom layer and a new Kloudcell top layer made of 65% polyester and 35% TENCEL Lyocell. This is in the base model; I will go into the Calm As and Soul Mate models shortly, which use alternative tech. The Lyocell is a more planet-friendly fabric (in terms of its production) that's often compared to cotton due to its breathability. It absorbs and releases moisture, providing a fresher feel each night.
Note: I reviewed this product in winter and will update the performance of this layer once I've had a chance to sleep on it through the hotter summer months.
This top layer can also be removed from the mattress as it sits in its own zipped pocket. You can then flip it around. This provides 2 different sleeping experiences: a medium firm or a firm, providing added flexibility for sleepers. As I will detail in a bit, however, I'm not sold on the idea.
Support is a key factor with the Koala mattresses and the aforementioned Dunlop foam core has been strengthened through its middle. This provides better hip support than the original model, ensuring you don't sink too far in key locations along your spine.
New Koala vs Calm As vs Soul Mate
If you're sold on the idea of a mattress in a box and the experience offered by Koala, you need to consider which Koala mattress to purchase. There is the New Koala mattress, which is effectively a 2021 edition of the original (or OG as they call it) Koala mattress we already know and love. I've detailed where that improves above.
Then there is the Calm As and the Soul Mate.
I've had all 3 models on hand, so will talk through the differences between them throughout this review. But with a substantial price increase between the models, I can confirm you do get tangible enhanced features as you move through the range. But here's a quick comparison.
|Features||New 2021 Koala Mattress||Calm As mattress||Soul Mate mattress|
|Sizes||Single | King Single | Double | Queen | King||Single | King Single | Double | Queen | King||Double | Queen | King|
|Price||$780 | $950 | $1,000 | $1,050 | $1,250||$980 | $1,080 | $1,350 | $1,650 | $1,950||$2,350 | $2,700 | $2,950|
|Flippable Top Layer||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Quilted Plush Cover||No||1cm||2cm|
|Support Base Zones||3||3||5|
|StayPut Edge Support||No||Yes||Yes|
|5-Zone Adaptive Springs||No||No||Yes|
|Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam||No||No||Yes|
|Sleep Surface material||TENCEL Lyocell||COOLMAX Technology||Sensapole Technology|
|Through mattress air-flow||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The 3 layers of the New Koala mattress
The New Koala mattress effectively comes in 3 layers. You have the sleep layer, which is a 7cm-thick comfort layer made of Lyocell fibre. You then have the dual-sided (firm and medium firm) Kloudcell layer and then the core base layer. The latter now offers 3 support zones to give your hips greater reinforcement.
The 5 layers of the Koala Calm As mattress
The Calm As increases that to 5 layers. The top sleep layer gets an added 1cm of plush quilting and ditches the Lyocell in favour of COOLMAX, which is a polyester that absorbs moisture and dries quickly. There is then the dual-sided Kloudcell layer, followed by an additional ZoneOut transition layer. This does a better job of letting unwanted heat escape as well as adding an additional 3 zones of support, especially around your lower back.
You then have the same core base as the New Koala mattress. Finally, you have a fifth StayPut edge support layer that looks to stiffen up the sides. This is a problem with the base model I will go into later.
The 5 layers of the Koala Soul Mate mattress
When you step up to the Soul Mate, it sticks with 5 layers, but there are some significant differences. The top sleep layer becomes considerably thicker. It's 11cm in total. There are 2cm of plush quilting, then 9cm of a third polyester material called Sensapole. It contains Phase Change Materials. These don't just absorb heat and cold, but actively cool and heat the skin as required to make for a more stable in-bed climate.
You then have the Kloudcell layer, but underneath that is a perforated bamboo charcoal memory foam that promotes airflow and relieves pressure. The core base is also different here, using 5 zones of adaptive foam springs to give you more nuanced support across your entire body. The final layer is the same StayPut edge support as seen on the Calm As.
The unboxing experience
I've been burned by a mattress in a box before, so I had a healthy scepticism when the boxes arrived. The New Koala mattress comes in 1 box. However, the thicker Calm As and Soul Mate mattresses arrive in 2 boxes; the Kloudcell layer gets its own box. There's a fair bit of plastic and cardboard to deal with (so much for environmentally friendly), but otherwise the unboxing process is easy and even impressive. It just pops out of the plastic and voila! You can see it in the video above.
The perhaps unspoken advantage in all of this occurs when the mattress is going into a hard-to-reach room, such as up a tight stairway or in the top unit of a block of flats. This is because you don't have to open the box until it's in its location. You can move it before it's the size of a huge bloody mattress.
As instructed, I left all 3 mattresses untouched for a few days to fully find their form before sleeping on them. OK, that's a little lie. I did try them out briefly straight out of the box and was impressed by how firm and comfortable they were instantly. But I do believe the few days of respite made a positive difference, so perhaps that's something to consider before you throw out your old mattress.
What I like about the Koala OG, Calm As and Soul Mate mattresses
The fast free delivery and simple unboxing process aside, it's the sleeping experience that matters most. I had come from sleeping for around 14 years on a great mattress. It had a thick pillow top (which was novel at the time) and was around $4,500. But it was old and sagging by the time I swapped it out for the new Koala mattress.
When I first jumped onto the Soul Mate, which I had set to medium-firmness, I was shocked by how firm it felt. It felt so flat. Comfortable, but flat. And as someone with a history of lower back issues, I was concerned there would be a painful adaption phase. However, I need not have worried. Despite offering rock solid support, and the advertised zero disturbance – well more like 15% disturbance, but still good – I found the Soul Mate to be very comfortable.
I don't sink into it like I did on my old mattress, but I can wiggle into it and it feels soft and loving. Needless to say, over the last 2 months I've become a big fan. My back and neck have been fine, because even when you lie on your side or half on your front, the support keeps your spine from sinking at weird angles. And I've felt not only cosy, but also temperate despite classic Sydney with its springtime fluctuations in climate.
While there's a noticeable step down in the suppleness and comfort to the Calm As and the New Koala mattress, both still offer fantastic support. Indeed, my son – who has a history of neck stiffness – has been noticeably better since switching to the New Koala from his old no-name mattress. Even though it's the least comfortable of the 3, I think he has benefited from it being firmer and slightly less sinky than the other two mattresses.
Ultimately, I think the mattresses are well priced for what they offer, if not something of a bargain. The tiers also allow for different budgets to find a mattress that works for them.
What I don't like about the 2021 Koala mattresses
I feel like the ability to flip the Kloudcell between firm and medium-firm is an unnecessary gimmick. I get that not everyone will understand their needs prior to getting the New Koala, Calm As or Soul Mate, but the difference is negligible. Yes, if you flip from one side to the other, it does feel firmer on one side. If that's real or psychological I don't know – that's how close it is.
And the hassle, at least with the Calm As and Soul Mate, of having to zip the Kloudcell layer into the mattress after arrival is annoying. I had multiple zipper failures and had to spend so much time and patience getting it in with the Soul Mate, I didn't want to go through the process again to try the firmer side. You can see in the video above how I fixed it.
Note: As part of Koala's customer service policy, the company will replace a faulty mattress if you have a zipper failure such as the one I encountered.
By the time I got to the Calm As, I had more experience and the zipper was easier, but it's too impacted by being crammed into a box and too flimsy in general. You must wonder if it would have just been better to have a firm or a medium-firm option at the point of sale, and then sending the mattress in 1 self-contained set-up with no zipper in sight.
That said, after a few years, if you're getting some sag, you can flip it just to get some firmness back, so that's potentially the long-term silver lining.
I also don't like the low support edges. It's most noticeable on the base New Koala mattress, which doesn't have the StayPut layer. You sink right off the edge as soon as you sit on it, which isn't great if you're in an environment where you'll be sitting on the edge of your bed a lot – maybe to put on shoes, get dressed, eat, watch TV or whatever.
The Soul Mate and Calm As offer noticeably better support at the edges, but still well below other mattresses I've experienced. You do get used to it, but psychologically, I find myself trying to climb into bed as centrally as possible. If I come in near the edge, the sag – even though you don't notice it once you're in bed and your weight is distributed – plays on my mind. You think it's slanting off the edge, even though it's not.
Is it worth spending extra on the Calm As or Soul Mate Koala mattresses?
I've had the luxury of being able to sleep on all 3 mattresses as well as jump between each of them to get a real-time sense for the variances – at least in terms of comfort if not the subtleties of the cooling, breathability and moisture defence.
There's a very noticeable difference between each tier. All 3 are firm, supportive and comfortable. When you step up from the new Koala to the Calm As, there's definitely a softer feel that takes away a bit of the harshness. The Soul Mate then offers more of that same comfort, providing what could be described as a luxury feel.
I think the New Koala mattress is a good fit for kids or people just leaving home. It's a definite step up from your rote mattresses you get in that sub $500 range (for singles). The Calm As is a good halfway point for people with a bit more budget on hand and are either buying for an older child or a couple just moving out together.
For married couples, long-time partners or anyone investing in a mattress with a long-term view, I'd totally step up to the Soul Mate. You're going to spend a third of your life on this mattress, so you'll reap the dividends of its added luxury.
If you're not sold on the Koala, why not check out our 18 best mattress in Australia for some options in the market.
Verdict: Should you buy a Koala mattress?
I've quickly become very fond of the Koala Soul Mate mattress. My 2 eldest kids have also become enamoured with their Calm As and New Koala mattresses, too. They love them!
There's certainly an argument to say that there's more gimmick than function to the Kloudcell feature. And I long for better edge support. But it's great that you feel a tangible difference as you step up between each tier. This gives consumers genuine choice.
All 3 remain winners, however. The process of receiving the product is easy, there's no noticeable handicap for coming boxed and they offer the support and comfort I didn't know I needed. In a true sign of how I felt about the experience, when my brother asked if he should get one, I didn't hesitate in saying yes.
Pricing and availability
The pricing ranges from $780 to $2,950, depending on which level of Koala mattress you get and which size. There are occasional deals as well as discount codes to be found. You can refer to the table up top for all the pricing. Just note that not all sizes are available in the Soul Mate variance. The new Koala mattresses are available now, and the original 2015 mattress has been discontinued.
How we tested the Koala mattress
I got in all 3 version of the Koala mattress: a Soul Mate as a queen and the Calm As and New as doubles. My family and I slept on them for a period of 2 months before coming to our conclusion.
Mattress size and weight
Images: Chris Stead
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