Comparing “Tweeners” From Kia and Mazda

We drove the 2022 Kia Seltos Nightfall Turbo AWD with 18-inch wheels and unique blacked-out exterior trim and wheels.  MSRP: $26,690

Kia’s Seltos was introduced in 2021 as a “tweener,” slotting between Kia’s subcompact Soul hatchback and its compact Sportage SUV.  When introduced, Kia’s stated target was a younger, more sophisticated urban audience, with a focus on the female driver.  The distinctive styling of Seltos is less quirky than the Soul—a vehicle that people seem to either love or hate.  But even for those who don’t relish Soul’s boxy styling, it’s hard to truly hate.  Seltos is comparable in size and offers similar attributes–large cargo capacity and a nice array of included technology and safety features.  Both crossover SUVs earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick award. Pricewise, Seltos is slightly costlier than Soul,

Compared to the Sportage, Seltos has a lower entry price, even with included all-wheel drive, which remarkably still gets better fuel efficiency than a standard Sportage.  The two engine choices for Seltos, both gas, are a 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a 1.6-liter turbo fitted to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with standard all-wheel-drive getting 175 hp and 195-lb-ft of torque.  Horsepower is slightly less than Soul’s similar engine choices, but Seltos’ traction-enhancing all-wheel drive system gives it the edge off-road.   Those looking for a hybrid or plug-in hybrid will have to look to Sportage.

 

Mazda’s CX-5 is noted for classy interiors, a peppy driving experience and some of the best handling among small crossovers. Our 2.5 Turbo AWD had a listed MSRP of $36,400.

Since Mazda recently added the CX-30 (slightly smaller) and CX-50 (just slightly larger and designed to be more rugged), the best-selling CX-5 can also be called a tweener.  If you were directly comparing Kia’s tweener to Mazda’ CX-5, you’ll pay more for the Mazda to get the (Zoom-Zoom™) driving experience, which is one of the key reasons to consider Mazda (besides the brand’s stand-out interiors.)   With premium 93 octane fuel, Mazda’s 2.5-liter turbo boasts 256 horsepower with 320-lb-ft or torque.  (Regular 87 octane will still get 227 hp and 310-lb.ft.)   If the budget needed to stay around $26K, the option would come down to the Seltos with optional turbo engine, AWD and automatic transmission, or CX-5 with the base engine.  Notably, every Mazda CX-5 has a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. Otherwise, the CX-30 might be a closer comparison if you’re willing to give up some size and space.

The Bottom Line:  Manufacturers continue to cover every base to compete in the hot, hot, hot compact SUV marketplace, even if it means competing with others in their own line-up. 

 

If you’re shopping in the compact segment, sedans and hatchbacks are now the anomaly in a sea of crossovers. Here are some fun-to-drive choices ton consider.