Hyundai Kona vs. Kia Seltos

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - March 10, 2020

As budget-friendly crossovers have risen in popularity, budget-friendly manufacturers have stepped into the spotlight. Two new front-runners come from Korea: the Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos.

The Kia Seltos is a brand new model for the 2021 model year, slotting underneath the existing Kia Sportage. The Hyundai Kona has been around since 2018, but it’s already made a name for itself as an all-around pick. The Korean sister-brands have a lot in common, so we took a look at the details to sort out their subcompact crossovers.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Kona & Seltos »

What the Kona Gets Right

If budget is the first priority, the Hyundai Kona is the better bet. Starting a little over $21,000, a base Kona is $1,915 cheaper than the base Seltos.

Even at that price, every Kona rolls off the line with automatic emergency braking. The base Seltos can’t say the same, nor can it (yet) match the Kona’s Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS.

The Kona has better moments in the mid-range trims, too. A Kona SEL (our favorite trim) adds heated seats, keyless ignition, and blind-spot monitoring – all for only $115 more than a base Seltos.

Finally, the Kona has the more pleasing cabin to our eyes. It’s not quite as big as the Seltos, but it makes up for it with quality interior materials and a pleasing layout.

What the Seltos Gets Right

The Seltos’ biggest advantage is its size. With around 5 inches more length and a couple in height, the Seltos doesn’t take its “subcompact” classification quite so seriously.

That translates into more interior space, especially in the second row. The Seltos has 38 inches of leg room for rear passengers against just 34.6 in the Kona.

The story is the same for cargo space. The Hyundai manages 19.2 cubic feet behind the seats, which is fine for a hatchback, but the Seltos will carry up to 26.6 cubic feet of luggage.

While the Kona may have the edge in the cabin, we prefer the exterior of the Seltos. The floating roof and upright proportions are easier on the eye than the Kona’s rugged cladding and slatted grille.

Space vs. Savings

Despite occupying similar niches for their respective makers, these two crossovers have distinct personalities. The Kia Seltos is more stylish (on the outside, at least) and has a substantial advantage in size. If you frequently carry adults in the second row, the Seltos will make life easier.

But if you’re looking to stretch your dollar, the Hyundai Kona is the better buy. It offers better features and nearly as much versatility at prices that are easier to swallow.

Our Verdict: Hyundai Kona

Economy crossovers need versatility, but they’re even better when they come with value. The Hyundai Kona has enough of the former for us, and has the latter in spades. That’s enough to hand it the win, though the Kia Seltos’ looks and space should draw its fair share of buyers.

Take a closer look at the Kona »

Take a closer look at the Seltos »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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