An auto industry inside tip: a subcompact SUV might be all the car you need. No, they won’t carry seven adults or 1,000 pounds of cement for a weekend project. But if you’re reading this article, you already know you don’t need that regularly.

If what you need is a comfortable commuter you can rely on and the ability to carry a few friends or family members from time to time, the passenger and cargo space in a subcompact crossover is all you need. They’re affordable, easy to live with, and today’s smallest SUVs have enough power for almost any driving situation.

The Subaru Crosstrek is among the most distinctive – an automotive hiking boot with an environmentally friendly plug-in hybrid option. The Kia Seltos is a well-rounded alternative with a longer warranty and fun color choices.

Let’s compare the two.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek

The 2023 Subaru Crosstrek is one of Subaru’s least-expensive models and among the easiest ways to join the legions of fans of our Most Trusted Brand Award winner. It boasts standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and 5-Star crash test scores. Prices start at $23,645.

Subaru Crosstrek Highlights

Standard AWD: With the exception of the sporty little BRZ, there’s no such thing as a Subaru without AWD. Kia has made AWD standard on most, but not all, Seltos trim levels.

5-Star safety scores: Both cars won the Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But the Crosstrek outperformed the Seltos in the federal government’s crash tests. If safety is your number one consideration, it’s hard to beat a car that aced testing by both of America’s two crash testing agencies.

Available plug-in hybrid (PHEV): America’s automakers, and America’s drivers, are going electric. If an electric car isn’t realistic for how you plan to use your next car, a plug-in hybrid might be. Subaru’s lets you drive up to 17 miles on electricity alone and use gasoline for longer trips. It’s pricey, starting at $36,845. But as your neighbors go electric, you’ll have joined them but kept the ability to take long road trips anywhere gasoline can get you.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Subaru Crosstrek models for sale near you.

2023 Kia Seltos

2023 Kia Seltos with trees in background.

We just gave the Kia Seltos our Best Buy Award in its class three years in a row. Guess how many years the Kia Seltos has been on the market? Yup. Three. It’s a great jack-of-all-trades, more stylish than most entries in this segment, and modestly priced, starting at $23,340.

Kia Seltos Highlights

Better fuel economy: The base version of the Seltos, the LX, gets 31 mpg in combined driving. The base Crosstrek gets just 25 mpg with its 6-speed manual transmission (and 30 mpg with an automatic). The Crosstrek’s PHEV model changes that equation but costs so much more, at almost $37,000, that you won’t quickly make up the difference at the pump.

Load it up without overpaying: Kia was once a budget automaker, but today its quality scores are much higher than its prices suggest. That’s particularly true as you add on options. The top of the Seltos line, the SX model, with every option Kia put in it, costs just a touch over $30,000. An equivalent maxed-out Crosstrek? Nearly $40,000.

Exceptional warranty: Kia’s 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty can’t be beat. The long-term security of a decade of warranty protection can be a real comfort.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Kia Seltos models for sale near you.


These two have almost identical starting prices, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder base engines with optional upgraded powertrains, and standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.


There are a lot of uninspiring subcompact SUVs. These two don’t fit that description. The Crosstrek has a unique, outdoorsy personality, standard AWD, and a PHEV version that’s one-of-a-kind among subcompact crossovers. The Seltos is incredibly well-rounded, available in an expressive array of colors, and includes a long warranty for peace of mind.

You could be happy with either. Only your own priorities can tell you which one is your car.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek 2023 Kia Seltos
Starting Price $23,645 $23,340
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter 4-cylinder 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower 152 hp @ 6,000 rpm 146 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual CVT automatic
Fuel Economy 22 city/29 highway/25 combined mpg 29 city/35 highway/31 combined mpg
Also Available 2.5-liter 4-cylinder; CVT auto; PHEV 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder; 7-speed automatic; AWD
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 4 stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 104.9 inches 103.5 inches
Overall Length 176.5 inches 172.0 inches
Width 71.0 inches 70.9 inches
Height 63.6 inches 63.6 inches
Turning Diameter 35.4 feet 34.8 feet
Headroom, Front 39.8 inches 40.0 inches
Headroom, Rear 38.0 inches 38.4 inches
Legroom, Front 43.1 inches 41.4 inches
Legroom, Rear 36.5 inches 38.0 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 56.7 inches 55.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 55.6 inches 54.7 inches
Cargo Volume 20.8/55.3 cubic feet 26.6/62.8 cubic feet

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