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Is the Mazda CX-30 a better small SUV than the Kia Seltos?

By Trent Giunco, 20 Feb 2020 Comparisons

Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina vs Kia Seltos GT-Line comparison

Mazda’s niche-filling CX-30 takes on the well-received Kia Seltos in a fight for compact SUV honours.

The compact SUV class is flush with strong competition. With the release of the Kia Seltos and the Mazda CX-30, the battle ground just got a lot tougher. We put the two newest players against each other with high-grade variants to see which has the credentials to rise to the top of the segment.

Kia Seltos

EQUIPMENT AND VALUE

You’re not really left wanting for tech or features in either SUV, but the Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina FWD is loaded with kit. And so it should be for $41,490. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen (which isn’t a touchscreen for safety reasons, according to Mazda) features the updated MZ Connect as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

All CX-30s come with blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert an AEB. The head-up display (HUD) is one of the clearest and best integrated systems on the market. A 360-degree camera, driver monitor and front cross-traffic alert is added to the G25 Astina. The CX-30 is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Usually new cars have unused buttons that become active when you pay to tick an option – but the GT-Line has almost no dormant controls. It’s full to the brim with kit. The active safety systems virtually mirror the Mazda, while the Seltos gains creature comforts over the CX-30 like ventilated front seats (both have heated leather seats) and power adjustment for both driver and passenger. The Kia’s HUD is not as well resolved, however.

One area where the Seltos dominates is warranty, with the seven-year/unlimited kilometre package being one of the benchmarks within the new-car market. Yet, the GT-Line’s value proposition diminishes at this price point. Whereas the CX-30 taps the shoulders of more premium marques, the GT-Line feels like it has been dressed up to socialise in a space it isn’t comfortable in.

WINNER: Mazda CX-30

Read next: Which car manufacturers offer the longest warranties?

Mazda CX-30

SPACE AND COMFORT

Soft-touch materials, sound ergonomics and a design that looks a class above – it might be plucked out of the current Mazda 3, but the CX-30’s cabin is a welcome place to be. It’s quiet, too, with a high level of refinement and atmosphere. The leathers used are pleasing and there is a reassuring tactility to all the dials and controls. However, there is a but. And that’s in the form of interior space. While the CX-30 is noticeably bigger than its own sibling, the CX-3, the Mazda is outclassed by the Kia in this regard. Leg and toe room are tight, and while the plunging roofline doesn’t cut into headroom as much as you’d think, it is still at a deficit to the Korean. So it’s swings and roundabouts.

If size matters, choose the Kia. In every discernible way, the GT-Line offers more space. Leg and headroom is noticeably better front-to-rear and the taller cabin architecture means the glasshouse is large, creating a more open and airy feel. It also aids visibility in all directions. The boot is more practical, too, with a total litre count coming i at 498 – or, 181 litres more than the Mazda. Where the high-grade Seltos falls down is in terms of quality and ambience. It isn’t as overtly luxe, with scratchy plastics and a design that is less aesthetically pleasing. It’s essentially the same cabin as the base model, just with more trinkets and goodies.

WINNER: Kia Seltos

Read next: Boot sizes of Australia's best-selling SUVs

Kia Seltos

RIDE AND HANDLING

Let’s face it, you don’t buy an SUV for outright dynamic talent. However, Mazda’s have traditionally been infused with a certain level of Zoom Zoom. And so is the case with the CX-30. Yet it comes with conditions, namely being smooth roads. While the G25 Astina more than meets the handling expectations of the class, it isn’t a Mazda 3 on stilts. Hard hits to the suspension from big pot holes can be felt and heard, while rebound could be more resolved. Still, tone down the tempo and the CX-30 remains competent, while it also has the better steering of this duo.

Considering the GT-Line gains a turbo four-pot, dual-clutch ’box and a multi-link rear-end (entry-level variants, like the CX-30, make do with a less sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension), it’s basically a different car to the one you’d be purchasing in the lower grades. And it shows, with the GT-Line’s dynamics verging on fun. However, the steering isn’t as natural as the Mazda’s and the tall body induces more lean and lateral head toss. The ride quality, with its Australian-tuned suspension set-up, is comfortable, with only the bigger bumps causing issues. It also has AWD if you want to go off-road.

WINNER: Mazda CX-30

Watch: WhichCar's compact SUV megatest tournament 

Mazda CX-30

PERFORMANCE AND ECONOMY

The SkyActiv-G 2.5-litre four-cylinder isn’t a new engine, but its big-boy displacement returns a slight improvement in performance over the 2.0-litre used in the G20 variants. The naturally aspirated unit does need revs on board if you require something more than commuting performance as peak power doesn’t arrive until 6000rpm. The kilowatt count totals a healthy 139, while there’s 252 Newtons available from a rather lofty 4000rpm. The six-speed torque converter auto is proficient, while drive is sent to the front wheels only. Fuel consumption is rated at 6.6L/100km, a marker that is achievable in real-world driving.

Nicked from the Cerato GT, the Seltos GT-Line uses a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and sends its power to all four wheels. However, compared to the Cerato, the on-paper figures are curtailed to 130kW and 265Nm. While the former is down on the CX-30, the latter is healthier – and from lower in the rev range, meaning progress is a little more effortless down low. However, the smaller capacity engine and heavier body (1500kg) means the Seltos is thirster at the bowser, with a combined fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km. Still, it punches above its weight in terms of performance and liveability, while the seven-speed dual-clutch is quick-shifting on the run.

WINNER: Kia Seltos

Read next: Diesel vs Hybrid engines - which is the better petrol alternative?

Kia Seltos

VERDICT

The Kia Seltos is a cracking SUV. It ticks so many boxes that buyers in this segment want that it’s hard to ignore in this arena. However, at almost $42K in the top-spec GT-Line, the value equation starts to diminish. The reality is the less you pay, the better Seltos you’ll receive – which is exactly what we found in the SUV mega test in the January issue of Wheels.

As a result, the high-grade CX-30 G25 Astina FWD narrowly takes home the bacon in this comparison. Ultimately, it’s the contender that rises to meet its price tag with a truly plush cabin and a pleasing driving/ownership experience. The CX-30 delights with luxe materials, a vast array of standard kit and a proven powertrain. It’s a great example of why so many private buyers flock to Mazda dealerships.

OVERALL WINNER: Mazda CX-30

Read next: 2020 Mazda CX-30 Australian price and features revealed 

Mazda CX-30

MAZDA CX-30 G25 ASTINA FWD SPECS:

Price: $41,490

Engine: 2488cc in-line 4, dohc, 16v

Power: 139kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 252Nm @ 4000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 1442kg

Economy: 6.6L/100km

0-100km/h: 8.7sec (claimed)

On sale: Now

KIA SELTOS GT-LINE AWD SPECS

Price: $41,990

Engine: 1591cc in-line 4, dohc, 16v, turbo

Power: 130kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch

Weight: 1500kg

Economy: 7.6L/100km

0-100km/h: 8.0sec (claimed)

On sale: Now

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