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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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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).

  • Jeff NYC does have the right to access these charges and unless you are traveling on business or a necessity you don't have to drive or live in NYC. I have been in NYC a few times and I have absolutely no desire to go back. I can say the same thing about Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston where I lived for 29 years. A city can get too big where it is no longer livable for many. I was raised in West Houston near the Katy Freeway which is part of I-10. The Katy Freeway when I moved from Houston in 1987 was a 6 lane road--3 lanes on each side of the interstate with each side having side access roads which we called feeder roads for a total of 8 lanes. Today the Katy freeway has 26 lanes which include feeder roads. I went back to Houston in 2010 to see my father who was dying and lost any desire to go back. To expand the Katy Freeway it took thousands of businesses to be torn down. I read an article about future expansion of the Katy freeway that said the only way to expand it was to either put a deck above it or to go underground. One of the things the city was looking at was to have tolls during the peak hours of traffic. Houston is very flat and it is easier to expand the size of roads than in many eastern cities but how easy is it to expand a current road that already has 26 lanes and is one of the widest roads in the World. It seems that adding more lanes to the Katy freeway just expanded the amount of traffic and increased the need for more lanes. Just adding more lanes and expanding roads is not a long term solution especially when more homes and businesses are built in an area. There was rapid growth In Northern Kentucky when I lived in Hebron near the Northern Kentucky Cincinnati Airport. , Amazon built a terminal and facility onto the airport that was larger than the rest of the airport. Amazon built more warehouses, more homes were being built, and more businesses. Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties in Northern Kentucky are constantly expanding roads and repairing them. Also there is the Brent Spence Bridge which crosses the Ohio River into Cincinnati that is part of I-71 and I-75 and major North and South corridor. The bridge is 60 years old and is obsolete and is in severe disrepair. I-71 and I-75 are major corridors for truck transportation.
  • Art_Vandelay It's not like everyone is topping their ICE vehicles off and coasting into the gas station having used every last drop of fuel either though. Most people start looking to fill up at around a 1/4 of a tank. If you constantly run the thing out of gas your fuel pump would probably be unhappy. If you running your EV to zero daily you probably bought the wrong vehicle
  • ToolGuy Imagine how exciting the automotive landscape will be once other manufacturers catch up with Subaru's horizontally-opposed engine technology.
  • FreedMike Oh, and this..."While London likes to praise its own congestion charging for reducing traffic and increasing annual revenues, tourism has declined..."The reason London's tourism numbers are down is that the city has resumed its' "tourist tax." And why did the tourist tax get reimposed? Brexit.
  • Dukeisduke Eh, still a Nissan. Nope.