Buy/Drive/Burn: Affordable Subcompact Crossovers in 2021, Round Three

buy drive burn affordable subcompact crossovers in 2021 round three

After we covered American and Japanese trios of $25,000 subcompact crossovers, round three means it’s time for the Korean offerings. But there are only two Korean brands in North America, so today we cover both of their entries and another from Japan.

Hyundai Kona

The Kona was a new offering from Hyundai in 2018 and took its place as the smallest crossover underneath the compact Tucson. In North America, the Kona is equipped with either a 1.6-liter turbocharged or 2.0-liter inline-four, depending on trim. There are six trims for 2021, which range from around $20,000 to $28,000. Today’s SEL AWD trim asks $23,700 and offers the 2.0-liter engine. 147 horses are managed by a traditional six-speed automatic.

Kia Seltos

The Seltos is new for 2021 in North America, though it has been in production since 2019 for other markets. It shares a platform with the Kona, but uses its own body and interior: Seltos is the more blocky and upright of the two. It’s also priced differently, with only four trims from $22,000 to $28,000. For $25,390, our selection today is the EX trim for which all-wheel drive is standard. The same 2.0-liter as in the Kona appears here, but the transmission is Kia’s IVT automatic. No shifting gears for Seltos.

Subaru Crosstrek

The Crosstrek debuted for model year 2013 as the XV Crosstrek, Subaru’s Impreza-based crossover that straddled the line between subcompact and compact. It received a second-generation for 2018 with a host of new refinements and additional features. Across four trims, Crosstrek ranges in price from $22,245 to $28,000, and all-wheel drive is standard across all models. Engines include 2.0- and 2.5-liter boxer fours. In Premium CVT trim, Crosstrek comes with the 2.0-liter (152hp) and asks $24,645.

Two Koreans, one Japanese, and three different approaches to a crossover. Which one’s a Buy for you?

[Images: Hyundai, Kia, Subaru]

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  • Theonlydt Theonlydt on Feb 05, 2021

    I own a second gen Soul - right car at the right price at the right time. It's not bad. Not stellar, and the engineering underneath isn't as sophisticated as it feels for the first 20 yards. However, it's nippy, compact, relatively spacious, relatively quiet, rides and handles surprisingly well unless you push it (when the roads are bad or you push it the short wheelbase, torsion bar suspension and lack of sophistication in the shocks tuning becomes apparent). The third gen Soul has more ground clearance (useful with my steep driveway), better fuel economy etc. If I were buying FWD my money would probably be there, again, over any of the nine on this list with FWD. If you "compromise" with FWD over AWD, then why put up with all the compromises made for these 9 to make them AWD?

  • Fiasco Fiasco on Feb 06, 2021

    I wanted stick shift and decent handling. Needed good ground clearance and could use AWD/4WD. Drove a used Mazda3 and was very sorely tempted to pull the trigger, but ground clearance was merely OK, and the salesman said the previous owner traded on a Jeep, even though it had studded snow tires on it. Having previously had two stick-shift Subarus (one that went 223k miles before being traded for beer to a Lemons Rally team and another that had a bum fuel tank coincide with the need to move an infant, a toddler, and a great-grandmother simultaneously and led to minivan ownership), I test drove a 2021 manual Crosstrek (heated seats, cruise control, and a fancy screen that has a radio and Apple CarPlay) and found I could be onramp to 85 in less than 10 seconds, which was better than the "OMG IT'S SO SLOW!!!" warnings I had been given. The Crosstrek is a bit cozy and not quite as comfortable compared to the 97 Volvo I've driven the past six years (I inherited the Volvo after I wore out the previous Subaru) It handled better than expected, so I ended up coming home with it. After 1300 miles in three weeks fully intend to run this one more than 200k. Only issues, the TPMS is flaky (can I just pull the damn bulb in the instrument cluster?) and I really need a set of winter tires (keeping with Subaru tradition of AWD and crummy tires).

  • Tane94 are both eligible for federal tax credits? That's the big $7,500 question.
  • Jkross22 Toenail says what?
  • MaintenanceCosts This sounds like old-school GM drama!
  • SCE to AUX It's not really a total re-badge since some of the body parts are unique, and the interiors are quite different.As I mentioned the other day, the Tonale has a terrible name and a dim future.As for the Alfa team - guess what, this is how corporate ownership works. You are part of Stellantis partly because you're not viable as a standalone business, and then your overlords decide what's shared among the products.By the way: That Uconnect infotainment system found in Alfas was originally a Chrysler product... you're welcome.
  • Kurkosdr Someone should tell the Alfa Romeo people that they are a badge owned by a French company now.The main reason PSA bought FiatChrysler is that PSA has the technology to enter the luxury market but customers don't want a French luxury car for psychological/mindshare reasons. FiatChrysler has the opposite problem: they have lots of still-respected brands but not always the technology to make good cars. Not to say that if FCA has a good platform, it won't be used in a PSA car.In other words, if those Alfa Romeo buds think that they will remain a silo with their own bespoke platforms and exclusive sheet metal, they are in for a shock. This is just the start.
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