Similar but not the same: Kia Seltos vs Sportage

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

Kia Seltos vs. sportage

Kia’s SUVs are popular, with some models becoming quite hard to find on dealers’ lots. The automaker’s quality and design have matured over the years and are to the point that there’s not a ton of daylight between its highest-end offerings and some premium brands. Kia’s smaller models are quite nice, too, and two of its SUVs offer surprisingly similar specs and ownership experiences. The Seltos and Sportage are subcompact and compact SUVs, respectively, but they offer generous technology and safety features, well-built interiors, and decent powertrains.

Which one of these two Kia SUVs is best? A better question would be, which one is best for you? To help you answer that, we’ve compared the Kia Seltos and Sportage in several key categories, from price to safety equipment and interior comfort. Let’s get rolling.

Kia Seltos vs. sportage

Kia Seltos vs Sportage: Price

Winner: Kia Seltos

The Seltos undercuts the Sportage by almost $6,000, a stunning amount, given how closely the two are aligned on interior space and other dimensions. The Sportage gets a more powerful base engine and more cargo space, while the Seltos is easier to maneuver and delivers better fuel economy. At the top end of the lineup, the Seltos tops out at around $30,000, while the Sportage creeps near $40,000 before options, taxes, and destination.

Kia Seltos vs. Sportage: Performance

Winner: Tie

Though similar in many ways, these two Kias perform differently on the street. The Seltos feels smaller and is a bit easier to maneuver in tight spaces, while the Sportage’s base engine provides better acceleration and a notable improvement in power output. That said, the Seltos’ available turbo engine is stronger than the Sportage’s single non-turbo engine option, giving its more expensive trims better power and grunt. Neither of these SUVs provides an engaging driving experience, and both could use more power in many driving scenarios. At the same time, they make more noise than expected, and both feel unrefined at times.

Kia Seltos vs. sportage
Seltos interior

Kia Seltos vs Sportage: Interior quality and comfort

Winner: Sportage

The five-seat Sportage offers a more upscale interior with nicer materials and superior build quality. Cloth upholstery comes standard, and synthetic leather is available. The SUV provides good space and comfortable accommodations across both rows, and the second row offers best-in-class legroom. The Seltos also seats five, though its cabin is slightly less deluxe than the Sportage’s. Cloth with synthetic leather accents comes standard, and higher trims get full synthetic leather. Heated and ventilated front seats are also available. The front seats are open and spacious, but back-seat passengers may feel the pinch of limited legroom. 

Kia Seltos vs. Sportage: Fuel economy

Winner: Seltos 

With front-wheel drive, the Sportage is rated at 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined. Those numbers fall to 23/28/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. The front-wheel drive Seltos returns 28/34/31 mpg, which drops to 27/31/29 mpg with all-wheel drive. Stepping up to the Seltos’ available turbo engine further depresses fuel economy numbers to 25/27/26 mpg. We’re comparing the two gas models here, but Kia offers a Sportage Hybrid that returns up to 43 mpg combined in its most efficient configuration. 

Kia Seltos vs. sportage
Sportage infotainment

Kia Seltos vs Sportage: Technology features

Winner: Sportage

The Sportage gets an eight-inch touchscreen and a 12.2-inch digital gauge cluster as standard features. The system brings wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth, USB-C, and more. Higher trims add dual 12.3-inch displays with navigation, Kia apps, and more. The Seltos gets a standard eight-inch touchscreen and a 4.2-inch driver display built into the gauge cluster. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, along with six speakers, Bluetooth, and USB inputs. Available tech includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen, a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster, wireless phone charging, apps, and more. 

While the Sportage’s tech features are a few steps ahead of the Seltos’, both SUVs benefit from Kia’s easy-to-use infotainment system and responsive hardware. The smaller screens aren’t as flashy or powerful as the larger units Kia offers, but all available displays offer a solid experience. Though not as flashy as some on the market, Kia’s interface makes interacting with the vehicle less distracting while driving, and the available digital gauge clusters offer good configurability and crisp graphics.

Kia Seltos vs Sportage: Safety

Winner: Tie     

Both SUVs earned Top Safety Pick awards in 2022, but neither has seen the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new testing protocols, which involve more crash force in the side tests and other updates. Standard safety tech for both includes automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane following assist, driver attention warnings, rear parking sensors, automatic high beams, and rear occupant alerts. Kia offers blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and a highway driving assistance system. Beyond the fact that there’s a good amount of standard safety gear in both SUVs, it’s important to note that Kia’s safety tech is intuitive and works predictably in all scenarios. That’s a good characteristic for driver assistance tech, as the features can become overwhelming and alarming if they’re not done right.

Kia Seltos vs. sportage
Seltos turbo engine

Kia Seltos vs Sportage: Warranty and reliability

Winner: Tie

The Seltos and Sportage have been recently updated, and neither has accumulated enough reliability data for a score. That said, Kia’s overall quality has improved over the years, so both SUVs should be at or above average for reliability. At the same time, Kia’s powertrain warranty stretches to ten years or 100,000 miles, giving the two vehicles some of the longest coverage in the industry. 

Overall winner: Tie

We’re scoring this a tie despite the Sportage being slightly nicer and more expensive. Though the Seltos is classed as a subcompact and the Sportage as a compact, the two are so closely aligned in many areas that the choice between them comes down to budget and styling preferences. If neither of these fantastic family haulers gets you excited, the market is full of great alternatives, including the Toyota RAV4, which is available in hybrid and plug-in hybrid configurations. The Honda CR-V is another compelling choice, and its hybrid configuration is more fun to drive than the pure gas model. If subcompacts are your thing, the Honda C-HR and Hyundai Kona are solid choices, along with the upscale Mazda CX-30.

Frequently asked questions about Kia Seltos vs Sportage

Learn more about the Kia Sportage and Seltos here.

What are the cons of a Kia Sportage?

The Sportage has a nice interior and great tech, but it’s not all good stuff. It’s not particularly fun to drive, and its four-cylinder engine leaves plenty to be desired from a power standpoint. Its styling may also be polarizing for some, as it’s busier and more futuristic than others in its class.

What are the cons of the Kia Seltos?

Despite its comfortable interior and generous technology features, the Seltos has too many hard plastics and cheap materials for most. The base engine is also underpowered and noisy, though both engine choices are too loud for our liking.

Have there been Kia Seltos or Sportage recalls?

The Seltos currently has a few recalls, depending on the model year. The 2023 model has an urgent warning for fire risk, and owners are urged to park outside and away from structures. The 2023 Sportage has the same recall and is subject to other actions, including a recall for loss of power brake assist, one for a blank LCD, one for side curtain airbags improperly deploying, and one for a loose alternator battery nut.

Is the Kia Seltos a good value?

In lower and middle trim levels, the Seltos is a fantastic value, and even at the top end, it’s not that expensive. Though it’s in line with most rivals, the top trim’s almost $33,000 all-in price doesn’t feel as impressive as the value-forward pricing seen in the mid-range EX and X-Line models. 

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