2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Comparison

Erin Riches-Wong | May 11, 2021

If you're looking for convenience and versatility in a tidy package, small SUVs are tough to beat. They sit high enough off the ground that you can get in easily, and you can load up children, pets, or equipment for weekend adventures without much fuss.

In this class, the Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek will meet your basic needs and then some. These small SUVs offer eye-catching exterior design along with some of the best safety and driving assistance technology in this class. If one or both is on your short list, this 2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comparison should help you spot the details that matter.

Price and Value

2021 Kia Seltos Yellow Front Quarter View

2021 Kia Seltos

Consumers shopping for a 2021 Kia Seltos will find that it comes in LX, S, EX, and SX trim levels. Pricing ranges from $21,990 to $27,990, not including a $1,185 destination charge. 

Most versions of the Seltos come standard with all-wheel drive, which is unusual among small SUVs and among Kias in general. Only the Seltos S comes in a front-wheel-drive version, and you can get AWD for $1,600 more.

Kia offers connected services only on the SX trim level, which has the automaker's UVO system as standard. Your complimentary 1-year subscription includes remote locking, automatic collision notification, and rapid access to roadside services.

You also get geofencing (allowing you to set geographic boundaries for less experienced drivers), a vehicle finder feature for unfamiliar parking facilities, and anti-theft alarm notifications. On the navigation side, there's a voice search feature for POIs and a connected routing feature that improves the system's accuracy in guidance mode.

Kia does not offer complimentary scheduled maintenance for the Seltos. Instead, the automaker offers prepaid plans for purchase.

If you're researching the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, you'll find that Subaru's small SUV comes in base, Premium, Sport, and Limited trims levels. Pricing ranges from $22,245 to $27,995, not including a $1,050 destination charge. All-wheel drive is standard.

There's also the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) SUV with a fully functional AWD system. It's priced at $35,345 and qualifies for a $4,500 federal tax credit.

Subaru offers Starlink connected services on all Crosstreks, except the base model. Your complimentary 3-year subscription includes automatic collision notification, live emergency assistance, and rapid access to roadside help.

Other features like remote locking and engine start, geofencing, vehicle finder, and stolen vehicle assistance are free for the first six months.

Most 2021 Subaru Crosstreks come with a Wi-Fi hotspot. The trial subscription lasts one month and gives you one gigabyte of data.

Some Subaru dealerships offer complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 24,000 miles that you own a 2021 Crosstrek. Participation varies by region, so you'll need to check with your dealer.

The Subaru Crosstrek ranked second among small SUVs in the J.D. Power 2020 Resale Value Awards.

Advantage: Subaru Crosstrek

Reliability and Quality

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Yellow Front Quarter View in Snow

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

An all-new model for 2021, the Kia Seltos was not assessed in either the J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study or the 2020 Initial Quality Study. The 2021 Kia Seltos comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 5 years and unlimited mileage

The Subaru Crosstrek did not rank among the top three models in its class in either the J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study or the 2020 Initial Quality Study. The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Hybrid system warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles
  • Hybrid battery warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles (10 years or 150,000 miles in California emissions states)
  • Roadside assistance: 3 years or 36,000 miles

As a brand, Kia outperformed Subaru in both initial quality and dependability.

Advantage: Kia Seltos

Performance and Efficiency

2021 Kia Seltos Interior Dashboard

2021 Kia Seltos

The 2021 Kia Seltos LX, S, and EX come with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard, and most consumers will find that it behaves almost exactly like a conventional automatic transmission.

The CVT drives all four wheels on the LX and EX, which have standard AWD. The Seltos S is front-wheel-drive, unless you select AWD as an option.

A turbocharged, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine is optional on the S and standard on the Seltos SX. It makes 175 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque. A 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is standard, as is AWD.

Every AWD Kia Seltos has a button to lock the center differential. This mode distributes torque equally between the front and rear wheels and works only at speeds below 30 mph.

Equipped with the 2.0-liter engine, the 2021 Kia Seltos has a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 31 mpg with front-wheel drive and 29 mpg with AWD. With the 1.6-liter turbo engine, the Seltos has a 27 mpg rating in combined driving.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine on the base and Premium trim levels. This engine is rated at 152 hp and 145 pound-feet of torque. Shoppers have their pick of a 6-speed manual transmission or a CVT.

A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard on the Sport and Limited. This engine makes 182 hp and 176 pound-feet of torque, and comes only with the CVT.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid has a hybrid-specific version of the 2.0-liter engine that generates 137 hp and 134 pound-feet of torque. The PHEV Crosstrek also has two electric motors, an 8.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, and a CVT. Total system power is 148 hp.

Every Crosstrek is AWD, including the plug-in hybrid. Save for the base model, all CVT-equipped Crosstreks have X-Mode, which provides both hill descent control and selectable terrain modes. The Crosstrek Sport has an additional Deep Snow/Mud mode.

Subaru Crosstreks with the 2.0-liter engine earn EPA combined fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg with the CVT and 25 mpg with the 6-speed manual. Equipped with the 2.5-liter engine, the Crosstrek rates 29 mpg combined.

You can drive the 2021 Crosstrek Hybrid about 17 miles in pure electric mode. Otherwise, the plug-in hybrid Crosstrek rates 35 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The EPA says Subaru's PHEV SUV consumes 38 kilowatt-hours of electricity per 100 miles driven (kWh/100) and rates 90 MPGe.

Advantage: Neither. The available turbocharged engine on the Kia Seltos offers the best overall performance. If fuel economy is the priority, the plug-in hybrid Subaru Crosstrek might suit you better.

Safety and Driving Assistance

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Interior Dashboard

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Kia offers advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) on all versions of the 2021 Seltos, except the LX trim level. Standard safety equipment on the S trim and up includes:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning 
  • Lane keeping assistance
  • Driver monitoring system
  • Automatic high-beam headlights

The Seltos EX adds blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning. The SX has a more advanced forward-collision warning system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, along with adaptive cruise control, lane-centering assistance (which Kia calls Lane Following Assist), and Highway Driving Assist, which uses speed limit information to provide Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance on divided, restricted-access highways. You must keep your hands on the steering wheel, but overall, it's an exceptionally sophisticated system for this price range.

All versions of the Seltos have a rear-seat reminder system (including the base LX) that alerts you if it detects unattended passengers in the backseat. On the Seltos SX, you'll also get push notifications from UVO to your smartphone. Additionally, the SX comes with Safe Exit Assist, which warns you if the car's blind-spot sensors detect approaching traffic from the rear of the Seltos after you've parked.

The 2021 Kia Seltos earned four out of five stars for overall crash safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2021 Seltos a Top Safety Pick.

Most versions of the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, including the plug-in hybrid, have the EyeSight collection of ADAS as standard equipment. Notably, EyeSight is not available on any Crosstrek with a manual transmission.

The standard EyeSight package matches the equipment on the Kia Seltos S, except for the driver monitoring system and automatic high-beam headlights. But EyeSight also includes adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assistance as standard equipment.

When both the adaptive cruise control and lane-centering systems are active, the Crosstrek offers Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance, though it's not quite as smooth as the Kia's Highway Driving Assist. And, as with the Seltos, your hands must stay on the steering wheel.

Blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning is optional on the Premium and Sport trims and standard on the Limited and Crosstrek Hybrid. Automatic high-beam headlights and rear automatic emergency braking are standard on the Limited and Hybrid. A rear-seat reminder system is standard on all Crosstreks with the CVT. 

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek has a 5-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA for overall crash protection. It received four stars for front-passenger safety.

The IIHS named the regular Crosstrek a Top Safety Pick. The Crosstrek Hybrid earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating (the Institute's highest designation for safety) due to its additional standard safety equipment.

Subaru and Kia ranked second and third, respectively, among mass-market automotive brands in the 2020 J.D. Power U.S. Tech Experience Study

Advantage: Neither. The Kia has an edge if you're wanting to use semi-autonomous driving assistance on a regular basis, but overall, both small SUVs offer a high level of safety.

Infotainment and Technology

2021 Kia Seltos Yellow Rear Quarter View

2021 Kia Seltos

There's nothing basic about the standard infotainment interface in the 2021 Kia Seltos. It includes an 8-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. You get six audio speakers and a single USB port. 

The EX adds a rear-seat USB port and a wireless phone charging pad. The SX swaps out the 8-inch screen for a 10.25-inch touchscreen display. You also get factory navigation and an upgraded Bose audio system with eight speakers, sound-connected mood lighting, and a 3-month SiriusXM satellite radio trial subscription.

In base, Premium, and Sport trim, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen display. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is standard.

The base Crosstrek comes with a single USB input and four audio speakers. The Premium provides two USB inputs (both in the front seat) and six speakers. You'll also get a CD player (in case you still have CDs) and a 4-month satellite radio trial subscription.

An 8-inch touchscreen display is optional on the Crosstrek Sport and standard on the Limited and Crosstrek Hybrid. It comes with HD radio and a 4-month subscription to SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. And you'll get two more USB ports (both in the backseat). A premium Harman Kardon audio system with eight speakers is optional on the Limited and Hybrid.

The upgraded infotainment interface uses near field communication (NFC) to speed up phone pairing. Factory navigation is optional on the Limited and Hybrid, and it includes three years of free over-the-air updates.

Advantage: Neither. The Kia's standard touchscreen is larger, while the Subaru has more USB inputs. A thorough test drive of both SUVs is the best way to determine your preference.

Comfort and Utility

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Blue Rear Quarter View Action

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Standard equipment on the 2021 Kia Seltos LX includes manual air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Heated front seats are optional on the S and standard on the higher trims.

The EX adds single-zone automatic climate control, rear air-conditioning vents, a 10-way power driver seat, leatherette upholstery, and a keyless access system (the remote can stay in your pocket or purse). The SX adds an upgraded instrument panel and LED interior lighting.

The Seltos offers more cargo space than most small SUVs. The cargo bay measures 26.6 cubic feet. Folding down the standard 60/40-split rear seat yields a maximum volume of 62.8 cubic feet. 

The base 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is equipped much like the base Kia Seltos, but single-zone automatic climate control is standard fare on the Subaru. The Crosstrek does not offer rear air-conditioning vents, though.

The Crosstrek Premium trim adds heated front seats, and keyless access is optional. You can get a power driver seat on most trim levels.

The Sport trim comes with water-repellent upholstery, while the Limited and Crosstrek Hybrid have traditional leather. A heated steering wheel is a hybrid-exclusive option.

Gasoline-engine versions of the Subaru Crosstrek offer decent cargo capacity for this class. You'll find 20.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. With its standard 60/40-split rear seat folded, the Crosstrek offers a maximum cargo capacity of 55.3 cubic feet.

Because its battery pack is under the cargo bay, the Crosstrek Hybrid has just 15.9 cubic feet of luggage space. A high load floor makes it difficult to fit taller items. Folding the rear seats provides a maximum volume of 43.1 cubic feet.

Advantage: Kia Seltos

Learn More About the Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek

If you’d like to learn more about these compact SUVs, be sure to read our expert reviews of the 2021 Kia Seltos and 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, including the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. To find out how people like you rate vehicles in this segment, be sure to check out our ratings from verified vehicle owners.

Also, please keep in mind that while the information in this article was accurate and valid on May 12, 2021, it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker’s website or your local dealership.

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