The Subaru Crosstrek walks the fine line between a hatchback and a crossover. Given its high ground clearance and bulky size, Subaru has categorized it as the latter. For 2021 the Crosstrek receives some major updates, namely a bump in power and some updated styling cues. The Kia Seltos, on the other hand, is one of the Korean brand’s newest offerings at the same price point. While both subcompact SUVs come close, the Subaru Crosstrek is the one to buy.
The Subaru Crosstrek is a smoother ride
One of the greatest assets the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek offers is a carryover from the 2020 model. During Consumer Reports‘ testing of the small Subaru, they noted the Crosstrek’s smooth-riding suspension. The soft suspension comes as a major surprise because most off-road-oriented models often ride very harshly. Despite being soft, CR noted that the small crossover retained good emergency handling and was excellent under braking.
Consumer Reports also tested the 2021 Kia Seltos and were not quite as impressed. In their list of the best subcompact SUVs, the Kia Seltos ranks significantly below the Subaru. A possible explanation could be that CR found the Seltos’ ride to be fairly uncomfortable. Thankfully, the Seltos excelled in terms of emergency handling and braking. While the handling may be excellent, like the Subaru, that discomfort will become a significant issue during daily commutes.
The Crosstrek is more powerful
In standard form, the Subaru Crosstrek comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which develops 152 hp. The Kia Seltos also includes a 2.0-liter engine, although it produces 147 hp. Both the Kia and the Subaru offer more powerful engines, although the story doesn’t change much.
The Crosstrek offers an optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine developing 182 hp. The Seltos’ range-topping engine is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder developing 175 hp. A major drawback of both is that they use variable transmissions. However, a big win for the Seltos is the inclusion of a DCT for the turbocharged models.
While the FWD versions of the Seltos achieve greater fuel efficiency consumption of 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, the AWD models cannot. Since the Subaru comes exclusively with all-wheel-drive, we’ll look at the equivalent Seltos’ fuel consumption ratings. The Crosstrek manages to consume 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The Seltos AWD, on the other hand, consumes 27 mpg on the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
The Subaru is quieter on the road
Nothing spoils a commute quicker than a noisy car. The result is that you’ll feel tired just driving to wherever you’re going. The last thing you want to do is finish a day’s worth of work and have a noisy ride home. Consumer Reports rated the Subaru Crosstrek as having a refined cabin, resulting in low noise levels. Despite having a variable transmission, which often revs the car very high, the Subaru remained quiet during testing.
On the other hand, CR noted that the Kia Seltos was decently loud on the road. A major contributing factor comes from having a low-hp engine and a variable transmission. This means that when you’re trying to get up to speed, the transmission makes the engine rev really high, causing excess noise.
Despite subtle inconveniences, the Kia Seltos’ party piece is its price. Starting at $21,990, the Seltos sells slightly cheaper than the Crosstrek’s $22,245 starting price. However, if it were up to us, we’d gladly pay the difference to have a better driving experience.