2021 Kia Seltos
2021 Kia Seltos starting price: $21,990
Above average: Optional turbo engine; all-wheel drive (AWD) is standard on all but one trim; roomy interior; great warranty.
Below average: Base S version missing active safety features in lieu of standard AWD; 2.0-liter engine’s CVT.
Consensus: The 2021 Kia Seltos slots between the Soul and the Sportage in the Kia 000270, +1.03% lineup. We like the turbo engine. All but one trim come standard with AWD. A locking center differential gives these models some off-road capability.
2021 Ford EcoSport
2021 Ford EcoSport starting price: $19,995
Above average: Available AWD; nimble handling; easy to park.
Below average: Fuel economy; acceleration; tight interior confines.
Consensus: Subcompact SUVs are popular, but the 2021 Ford F, -1.66% EcoSport has a hard time against some of the competitors in this segment. Lacking many of the driver-assist systems that are standard on most of its rivals makes the EcoSport a tough buy.
Seltos vs. EcoSport: Affordably is the key
The 2021 Kia Seltos is a new model that sits between the Soul and the Sportage. Unlike the Soul, which is front-wheel drive (FWD) only, the Seltos comes standard with AWD on all but the S trim (where it’s optional).
A 2.0-liter base engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) makes a modest 146 horsepower, but there’s also a spunky 175-hp turbo 1.6-liter with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic in the top-spec SX. EPA combined estimates with the 2.0-liter are 31 mpg (FWD) and 29 mpg (AWD). The turbo with AWD is 27 mpg.
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The Kia’s squared-off shape makes for a roomy cabin with an adult-size rear seat and 26.6 cubic feet of luggage space that expands to 62.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The ride and handling are agreeable if not particularly sporty.
An 8-inch touchscreen with Apple AAPL, +1.26% CarPlay and Android Auto is standard, while a 10.25-inch unit with navigation is exclusive to the SX.
Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and driver-attention monitor safety features are on all but the LX, which substitutes standard AWD to keep the same entry-level price as the S.
The EX and SX get a power driver’s seat, heated seats, wireless charging, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The EcoSport is one of the smallest SUVs on the market. Front-wheel-drive versions are powered by a tiny 1.0-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder that musters 123 horsepower. AWD versions get a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 166 horsepower.
Both use a 6-speed automatic, and while the EcoSport can feel quick enough in town, acceleration at highway speeds is labored. Fuel economy is disappointing at just 27/29 mpg city/highway (FWD) and 23/29 mpg (AWD). The EcoSport’s chassis tuning, at least, lives up to the name with its nimble handling, and its small footprint enables easy parking.
A narrow cabin makes the EcoSport feel cramped, and there are just 20.9 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seat. That expands to 50 cubic feet with the seat backs folded, and access to the cargo hold is via an older-style side-hinged door.
An easy-to-use 8-inch touchscreen (in all but the base car) includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Waze integration. Navigation comes on the SES and Titanium trims. Those two models also get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, which is optional on the SE. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are not available, however — glaring omission.
Starting price; modest power from the base engine.
2021 Kia Seltos advantages
Turbo engine’s acceleration; interior space; long warranty.
2021 Ford EcoSport advantages
Low starting price; ease of parking.
Which one is right for me?
The 2021 Kia Seltos offers a long list of standard features, especially the AWD setup that comes on all but one trim. It also has fresh styling and plenty of cargo room. Also worth considering is Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
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If your garage is ultrasmall or parking space is at an absolute premium, the 9-inch-shorter 2021 Ford EcoSport may have an advantage. It also offers a lower price of entry.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.