Crossover & Midsize

2021 Hyundai Kona vs. Kia Seltos: The Sportier, Safer, and Cheaper Choice Is Clear

Narrowing down your choice in the subcompact SUV segment can be challenging. There are worthy contenders around every corner, including the Hyundai Kona, Subaru Crosstrek, the Nissan Rogue, and the Mazda CX-30. These stylish and peppy rides are masters at offering sporty performance, affordable price tags, and hefty rosters of safety extras. If you’re like many consumers, you might have your eye on both the 2021 Hyundai Kona and the 2021 Kia Seltos.

These two subcompact SUVs definitely earn bragging rights in several key buying factors. But in a head-to-head comparison between the two crossovers, there’s only one victor. After looking at some of these stats, the choice will likely be clearer for you to move forward with your purchasing decision.

Which is better when it comes to fun and driving performance?

If you plan to spend the next five years with your new SUV, you’ll probably want something fun to drive. Performance matters and enjoyment behind the wheel can often be the deciding factor for many consumers. U.S. News compiled a best-of list based on SUVs with an above-average performance score for less than $30,000. And the results, based on vehicle acceleration, horsepower capability, ride quality, handling, and braking, clearly endorse the Hyundai Kona. The 2021 Hyundai Kona comes in sixth on this list, while the Kia Seltos comes in at No. 10.

The 2021 Hyundai Kona is capable of harnessing 175 hp with its 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The all-wheel drive is additionally helpful with tapping into more power off the line. The 2021 Kia Seltos comes with a less impressive 146-hp 2.0-liter base engine. It does, however, offer the same engine configuration as the Hyundai Kona.

Can the Hyundai Kona beat the Kia Seltos in safety?

Looking at the apples-to-apples list of safety features offered by U.S. News, the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Seltos seem to run in tandem. Both offer the same menu of standard airbags along with a few common driver aids, like lane departure warning, traction control, and lane-keeping assist.

But Consumer Reports lists official ratings by the NHTSA and IIHS for both crossovers, which is where there is a distinction. The Hyundai Kona earns five stars in each crash-test category listed. The Kia Seltos earns many five stars but gets one four-star rating in an overall-frontal crash test. This could be splitting hairs a little, but one officially ranks better than the other. 

Is the Kia Seltos cheaper than the Hyundai Kona?

RELATED: Consumer Reports Only Recommends 5 2021 Subcompact SUVs

The problem with some of the best SUVs on the market is that not everyone can afford them. Price isn’t a problem for the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Seltos, though, and anyone on a budget can certainly find value with either. Based on ranges provided by Consumer Reports, the 2021 Kia Seltos is roughly $21,990 – $27,990, representing price points across four trim levels: LS, S, EX, and SX. The 2021 Hyundai Kona, however, starts around $20,500. The Kona offers six available trim levels with the SE, the SEL, the SEL Plus, Night, Limited, and the high-end Ultimate.

Bonus data that might help you decide

If you’re still on the subcompact SUV-buying fence, predicted reliability scores might help you decide. As an added bonus in support of the 2021 Hyundai Kona is the Consumer Reports five-star rating for this category. The 2021 Kia Seltos earns three stars.

You won’t be disappointed buying either the Kia Seltos or the Hyundai Kona. But deciding which crossover is better can be made easier when comparing performance, safety, and price side by side. If these three value points matter most to you, it’s clear the 2021 Hyundai Kona comes out ahead.