In recent years, crossover SUVs have become very popular. The subcompact crossover stands at the tiniest end of the SUV spectrum. There are plenty of options for buyers to choose from in this competitive class, but the 2021 Mazda CX-30 and 2021 Kia Seltos are two solid choices.
Both are affordable, sporty vehicles with decent room for people and belongings. But the Mazda CX-30 boasts one safety feature the Seltos lacks.
The 2021 Mazda CX-30
The 2021 Mazda CX-30 is similar to the CX-3 and the Mazda3 hatchback, according to MotorTrend, and looks more like a raised hatchback than like an SUV. The interior offers nice materials and a “minimalist-cool vibe.” But the rear seat is pretty tight. MotorTrend says the infotainment touchscreen in the CX-30 is too small, too far from the driver, and too complicated.
The CX-30’s powertrain offers a 186-hp, 2.5-liter inline-four with a six-speed automatic transmission. Though it boasts good steering, the transmission has widely spaced gearing, requiring extra downshifting when going uphill, MotorTrend reports. Plus, the CX-30’s ride is a bit bumpy and lacks Mazda’s usually great driving experience.
The 2021 CX-30 comes standard with a long list of advanced safety features, U.S. News reports. That includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, driver attention monitoring, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a rearview camera.
Additional safety features available on the 2021 Mazda CX-30 include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a head-up display, adaptive headlights, rear automatic emergency braking, traffic jam assist, a surround-view parking camera system, and traffic sign recognition. But MotorTrend found the driver-assistance features to be “laggy” and “more annoying than helpful,” with a shadow from a nearby vehicle prompting a false forward collision warning.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2021 Mazda CX-30 five out of five stars for its front and side crash tests and four out of five for its rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2021 CX-30 as a Top Safety Pick+. To earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating, vehicles must receive acceptable or good ratings for all headlight options.
The 2021 Mazda CX-30 starts around $22,000, but the model MotorTrend tested cost $31,425 with a loaded 2020 Premium trim.
The 2021 Kia Seltos
The 2021 Kia Seltos look like a smaller Kia Telluride. Though it’s “handsome and stylish,” MotorTrend found its appearance “rather bland.” The interior is spacious and nicely finished but not as nice as the Mazda CX-30’s. MotorTrend says the Seltos’s “interior is good. Just not the best.”
However, the publication says the infotainment systems in Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis vehicles are the best. The Seltos has an available 10.3-inch touchscreen that’s easy to use and compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Seltos also offers two powertrain options. One comes with a 146-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission. The other is a 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbo-four with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available. Though not a luxury car, the Seltos “delivers a relatively smooth ride and reasonably nimble handling,” MotorTrend reports.
The 2021 Seltos boasts a long list of advanced safety features, but most are optional, not standard like on the Mazda CX-30, U.S. News reports.
Standard Seltos features include a rearview camera and a rear-seat reminder. Available features include forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, driver attention monitoring, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high-beam headlights, rear cross-traffic alert, speed limit recognition, and stop-and-go adaptive cruise control. MotorTrend found the lane-keeping system and the smart cruise distance-keeping excellent.
NHTSA safety ratings for the Seltos are almost as good as for the Mazda CX-30. The Seltos received five out of five stars for side crash and front driver crash tests but got four out of five stars for front passenger and rollover tests.
However, The IIHS gave the Seltos a poor rating for all three headlight options. But it earned strong ratings in all the other categories except child seat anchors.
The 2021 Seltos also starts around $22,000. MotorTrend’s test version cost $29,485 for the Seltos SX Turbo AWD.
Here’s why the Mazda CX-30 is safer than the Kia Seltos
The 2021 Mazda CX-30 has great looks and great safety ratings. This subcompact crossover stands out for being an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ thanks to its superior headlights. The 2021 Kia Seltos offers a nice design and great ride, but it could use better headlights, an important but sometimes-overlooked safety feature.