The 2021 Kia Seltos is the brand’s latest entrant in the SUV octagon, and it enters the arena with a full head of steam. Last year Kia delivered a knockout punch in the form of the three-row Telluride. It was so good, we named it our 2020 SUV of the Year. With the recent release of the handsome new K5 sedan, as well as a redesigned Sorento crossover making its way to our shores, it’s safe to say that Kia is on a roll. The question is, can anyone stop this South Korean juggernaut?
Well, Mazda certainly has a contender in the CX-30. The hatchback-based CUV gives the Seltos a run for its money—but when it comes to dollars and cents, the Mazda is starting on its metaphorical back foot. The 2020 Mazda CX-30 with Premium package we’re using for this comparison is actually more expensive than the Seltos SX it’s up against. The Mazda stickers for $31,425, while the Kia will run you $29,485 all in.
CX-30 vs. Seltos: The Inside Story
The extra money, however, nets the Mazda a nicer interior. Its use of higher-quality leather and lack of clutter makes it the preferred place to sit. “Seat vinyl in the Seltos is a little rubbery and sticky in the heat, and feels a bit lower-grade than in the Mazda,” editor-in-chief Mark Rechtin said. “Similarly, the graining on the armrest and door cards and dashboard feels a half step back from the Mazda. But if you’re looking for budget wheels, the plastics are durable, and they will suffice for your needs.”
But the Seltos is not without its strengths. Its array of buttons for the climate controls and radio are laid out so logically that it takes mere minutes to get the hang of it all. The Kia’s infotainment system is the now-familiar system that appears in just about every Kia, from the Soul to the Telluride, and it’s less convoluted and requires far less digging through menus than the Mazda’s. Plus, even if its interior quality is a step down from the CX-30’s, the Seltos is notably more spacious.
“The hip-point is commanding in the Kia,” Rechtin said. “My eye line was at the same height as a woman sitting next to me in traffic in a Dodge Durango. The second row is enormous—a six-footer can sit behind a six-footer, and with cathedral seating, you still have a good view out from every angle. And yet there is a massive parcel area. How does Kia do this?”
I found myself wondering the same thing. The back seat of the Seltos is significantly more spacious than the CX-30’s, but Kia manages to find a way to give occupants ample room without sacrificing luggage space. The Mazda’s luggage compartment is nearly identical to the one in its Mazda 3 hatchback cousin—a mere 20.2 cubic feet of free space behind the rear bench. The Kia, on the other hand, offers a more generous 26.6 cubic feet of storage with the seats up.
CX-30 vs. Seltos: Power Hour
Interior space and price aren’t the only places the Seltos pulls away from the Mazda. Despite having a smaller engine that makes less power (but slightly more torque), the Kia is actually quicker to 60 mph than the Mazda—7.4 seconds to 8.3. That’s probably down to the extra low-end grunt of the Seltos. Its little turbocharged 1.6-liter four-pot makes all 195 lb-ft of its torque just off idle (at 1,500 rpm), which subsequently makes accelerating and passing a breeze. The Kia’s transmission probably helps some, too; it has a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, whereas the Mazda makes do with a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox.
“The engine is responsive, torquey, and has minimal lag,” associate online editor Stefan Ogbac said. “The seven-speed DCT is smooth, too. Shifts are quick, timely, and there isn’t much clunking going on. Hills and inclines are a cinch.”
The Mazda makes just 9 lb-ft of torque less than the Kia, but peak torque doesn’t come on until 4,000 rpm, just 2,500 rpm before redline. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter engine is responsive, but it’s paired with a transmission that holds it back and does a poor job of keeping the engine in its (relatively narrow) powerband. You regularly find yourself thrashing along at 5,000 rpm in the Mazda thinking, “Hey, where’s my upshift?”
“This gearbox feels unrefined—like Mazda rushed it out and forgot to tune it properly,” Ogbac said. “The tall gearing doesn’t help, either. I don’t know what they did to the 2.5, but it doesn’t feel as lively as it used to. It’s adequate for the average consumer, but it works hard when faced with hills.”
Just puttering around town, one might not notice the Mazda’s stressed powerplant. But once you ask it to do more than accelerate away from a junction or a red light, there’s no denying the Kia’s engine is better matched to the task of hustling the little crossover effectively. And you’ll want to hustle these two, too, because the CX-30 and Seltos are both surprisingly good to drive.
What the Mazda lacks in power, it makes up for with a feeling of directness and solidity. The nose is planted, the whole car feels well balanced, and the CX-30 genuinely likes to turn. But even if the Mazda is fun in the corners, the straight bits of tarmac take too long to cover. We know the CX-30 is getting a turbocharged mill under its hood for 2021, but for now, that strained four-cylinder lets a great chassis down.
CX-30 vs. Seltos: The Verdict
Luckily, you don’t sacrifice much of the Mazda’s athleticism in the Kia. Yes, the Seltos is taller and less nimble than the CX-30, but it does feel planted through bends. Its turbo engine is also well matched to Kia’s occasionally problematic DCT. The Mazda’s ride is the better of the two here. Still, even though the suspension irons out small road imperfections, it’s only adequate at soaking up bigger lumps and bumps.
This comparison is between two competent and desirable CUVs, but in the end, it’s a case of “(almost) anything the Mazda does, the Kia does better.” Yes, the CX-30 is slightly better to drive and more athletic on a curvy road, but this isn’t Best Driver’s SUV, is it? The Seltos nails criteria that the CX-30 fumbles. At the end of the day, fundamentals such as an easy-to-wrap-your-brain-around infotainment system, easy passing power on the streets and highway, and room inside the cabin and behind the rear bench are more important than driving dynamics. Mazda put up a good fight, but Kia rolls on with more wind in its sails than ever before.
|POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS||2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo T-GDI||2020 Mazda CX-30 AWD (Premium)|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Turbocharged I-4, alum block/head||I-4, alum block/head|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||97.1 cu in/1,591 cc||151.8 cu in/2,488 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||175 hp @ 6,000 rpm||186 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||195 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm||186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|REDLINE||6,500 rpm||6,500 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||18.5 lb/hp||18.0 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto||6-speed automatic|
|AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO||4.63:1 (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th), 3.61:1 (3rd, 6th, 7th, R)/2.58:1||4.10:1/2.45:1|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs|
|BRAKES, F; R||16.0-in vented disc; 15.0-in disc, ABS||11.6-in vented disc; 11.9-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||7.5 x 18-in cast-aluminum||7.0 x 18-in cast-aluminum|
|TIRES||235/45R18 94V Kumo Majesty 9 Solus TA91||215/55R18 95H (M+S) Bridgestone Turanza EL440|
|WHEELBASE||103.5 in||104.5 in|
|TRACK, F/R||62.0/62.4 in||61.6/61.6 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||172.0 x 70.9 x 63.6 in||173.0 x 70.7 x 61.7 in|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||7.3 in||7.9 in|
|APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE||28.0/28.0 deg||17.6/27.5 deg|
|TURNING CIRCLE||34.8 ft||34.8 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,243 lb||3,352 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||59/41%||60/40%|
|TOWING CAPACITY||Not rated||Not rated|
|HEADROOM, F/R||40.0/38.4 in||37.8/38.3 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.4/38.0 in||41.7/36.3 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||55.5/54.7 in||55.6/53.2 in|
|CARGO VOLUME BEH F/R||62.8/26.6 cu ft||45.2/20.2 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||2.7 sec||2.7 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||3.9||4.4|
|QUARTER MILE||15.9 sec @ 86.9 mph||16.3 sec @ 86.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||117 ft||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.4 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)||27.9 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||2,000 rpm||1,800 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$29,485||$31,425|
|AIRBAGS||6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, driver knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||10 yrs/100,000 miles||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 yrs/60,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||13.2 gal||12.7 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||25/30/27 mpg||25/32/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||135/112 kW-hrs/100 miles||135/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.72 lb/mile||0.70 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular|
The post Mazda CX-30 vs. Kia Seltos: The Lifted 3 Takes on the Shrunken Telluride appeared first on MotorTrend.