The 2021 Hyundai Kona and the Kia Seltos are two of the most compact cars in the small SUV segment this year. These two cars have a lot in common, they are both part of the same Hyundai Motor Group. Both cars share almost identical performance features. So, which one is a better buy? To answer that we’ve prepared a detailed comparison.
The 2021 Hyundai Kona has an elegant exterior. It’s not an ‘in your face’ design, rather it's simple, smooth and at times curvy. There’s a huge flat split grille in the front, which is reminiscent of the i30. The front of this car is bold.
There are extra pieces of grille underneath the boxy lights, and a thin strip of black grille between the lights gives this car a pencil moustache. Further down the car, the front bumper with a light on either side points inwards to give this car its rugged jawline. It all comes together well and gives the Kona a powerful stature.
The 2021 Kia Seltos has a more aggressive exterior design. The front of the Seltos is box-shaped and gives off a Range Rover vibe. The swept backlights that stretch a quarter way up the bonnet, and those two big chromium bars along the grille look mean. The Kia has a much smaller grille than the Kona. Kia calls it a tiger-nose grille because it does sort of look like a tiger’s nose from the front. It’s a very stand out design.
The Kia Seltos also has a higher ground clearance than the Kona (18.54 cm vs 17 cm). So, the 2021 Seltos will be better suited for off-road driving.
The standard Kona comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, and the standard Seltos comes with 16-inch steel wheels. You do get alloy wheels on the higher-end variants of the Seltos, but it’s a bit disappointing that Kia is offering steel rims where most of its competitors are offering the more durable alloy rims at a similar price.
Both the new Kona and the Seltos have a leather-appointed interior. While both give you a premium and comfortable feel inside the cabin, the Seltos has a more modern vibe to it.
The 2021 Kia Seltos holds an advantage over the Hyundai Kona in size and practicality. Even though both of these cars fall under the small SUV category, the Seltos has a bigger cargo and interior space than the Kona. The Hyundai Kona has a boot space of 374 litres, while the Seltos has 433 litres.
Both the Seltos and the Kona come with an 8-inch touchscreen display for their infotainment system. You can get a 10.25-inch display on the higher end variants of both models. Both the Kona and Seltos are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. You also get heated and ventilated front seats on both models.
The high-end GT-Line Seltos adds more stylish features to the interior that you can’t find on even the premium N-Line Kona. The GT-Line comes with sound mood lighting - the interior lighting changes colours in time with the beat of the music. It also comes with an 8 speaker Bose Premium Sound System.
These features along with the more spacious interior and the overall posh aesthetics give the 2021 Kia Seltos a definitive edge if comparing interiors.
The 2021 Hyundai Kona and the Kia Seltos have the exact same engine. This is because Hyundai Group is actually the parent company of Kia. Both of these models have 6 variants available in Australia.
For the standard version, you get a 2.0L four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine, with 147HP and 6.8L/100KM fuel consumption. There’s also a CVT auto transmission with front-wheel-drive on both the Kona and the Altos.
You can get a more powerful engine on the higher-end variants of both models. The Kona N-Line and N-Line premium have a 1.6L engine with 174HP. These variants are the more sporty versions of the Kona with a 7-speed all-wheel-drive manual transmission. These are also the same specs for Kia Seltos Sports+ and GT-Line variants.
The only difference is that you can actually choose between an automatic and dual-clutch manual gearbox in the Seltos Sports+ model. While you’ll only get the DCT manual gearbox on the Kona GT-Line.
Because of these identical specs, both the Kona and the Seltos will give you a very similar driving experience. They both have Australian tuned suspension, so both of these cars drive very well on our roads. However, there are some marginal differences.
Because of a more well-built cabin, the Kia Seltos actually feels quieter than the Kona while driving. Its higher ground clearance also makes the Seltos a better choice for off-road driving. However, the steering wheel of the Seltos is quite harder than the Kona. So, the Kona gives you a more comfortable long-drive experience.
However, these are rather marginal differences.
Both the Kona and Seltos have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible infotainment. They both have standard safety features such as lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, forward and real collision avoidance assist, front and rear parking sensors, and driver attention warning. Both models have 6 airbags, and a 5-start ANCAP safety rating.
However, the new Hyundai Kona comes with Smart Cruise Control (SCC), which the Seltos doesn’t. The SSC feature automatically maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and a pre-set speed.
Although both models come with forward collision mitigation, the Hyundai Kona is capable of mitigating forward Colliton at up to 180km/h speed, while the limit is only 120km/h in the Kia Seltos.
So, the 2021 Hyundai Kona gets a slight edge in the safety department.
Just like the features, the price for the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Seltos is also very similar. The base model for both of these cars starts at around $29000 AUD. The top of the line Kona N-Line Premium costs around $46,500 AUD, while the Seltos GT-Line costs around $44,300 AUD.
- Advanced safety features with Smart Cruise Control.
- A 1.6L turbo engine on the N series for high performance.
- Comfortable long-road driving experience.
- Spacious interior and storage space.
- Good ground clearance for off-road driving.
- Posh interior with a premium sound system.
Why you should buy the Hyundai Kona
If you want a small SUV that is great on urban and high-way roads, comfortable for long drives, smooth handling and absolutely loaded with the latest safety features, then the 2021 Hyundai Kona is a great option for you.
The only criticism of the 2021 Kona we can think of is its comparatively unappealing and slightly boring interior.
Why you should buy the Kia Seltos
If you want a comfortable driving experience both on-road and off-road, a spacious interior with a lot of legroom, large storage space, a posh interior, and an exterior that mimics the up-scale look of a luxury high-end SUV, then the Kia Seltos is the perfect car for you.
Our only criticism is that the Seltos might not be the most comfortable vehicle for longer roads, because of its hard steering wheel and the lack of Smart Cruise Control.
When two models have identical performance and tech specs, we usually use the price tag to determine the best one. However, the price range for the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Seltos are too close, with the base models being only a couple of hundred dollars apart.
So, it’ll ultimately come down to your personal preference. We will however give the 2021 Kia Seltos a slight edge because it’s a more comfortable choice for families, and the vibrant interior is too good to ignore.
Other Options to Consider
The Mazda CX-3 is a great alternative if you’re looking for more fuel efficiency and a sporty exterior. The CX-3 has a 2L petrol engine with 147HP, similar to the Kona and Seltos. However, it offers a better fuel efficiency of 6.3L/100KM.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly SUV without compromising on performance, then the Mitsubishi ASX is a great option. The base model starts at around $24000. It’s also a great car for off-road driving.
The 2021 Toyota CH-R is a great alternative if you don’t mind splashing a bit more cash for better performance and fuel economy. In terms of looks, the new Toyota CH-R stands head and shoulder above its competitors. You get a 1.2L turbo petrol engine in the base model, and also a hybrid option for better fuel economy.