Prestige or mainstream? It’s a funny question as the answer used to be so clear, with both sides of the automotive fence traditionally separated by a chasm of money.
But things are a bit more blended these days, with one-time challenger brands now throwing full equipment catalogues at their ever-improving machines, and previously out-of-reach badges eager to attract new buyers to their showrooms with better value positioning.
This gives buyers with even a moderate budget a choice between the upper end of one spectrum and the lower end of another.
Case in point, our pair of mid-$40K compact crossover SUVs, the 2020 Audi Q2 35TFSI and 2020 Kia Seltos GT-Line, represent the top of one range and the entry to the other. Their respective retail pricepoints (before options and on-road costs) sit less than $1000 apart (Kia RRP $41,100, Audi RRP $41,950), which arguably places both in the budget range of the same buyer.
Sure, they live at opposite ends of their brochures, but offer a similar feature set and overall proposition, prompting the question: can you cross over with these crossovers? Let’s find out!
Price and specs
In the blue corner is the range-topping Kia Seltos GT-Line AWD. It gets things moving with a pretty decent head start, as despite the $41,100 MSRP, the Seltos GT-Line is currently available from $42,990 drive-away. Our car is finished in Neptune Blue Metallic paint ($520), which is one of seven choices and the only ‘option’ on the table.
With its 18-inch alloys and multi-beam LED headlights and running lamps, the Seltos GT-Line is a modern- and up-market-looking machine. Satin trim elements and a two-way sunroof complete the ‘sporty’ SUV vibe, consistent with the Seltos’s urban-warrior two-box design.
There’s a full-house equipment list including keyless entry, push-button start, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, an eight-speaker Bose sound system (which interacts with the cabin lighting), wireless phone charging, head-up display and a digital instrument cluster.
Infotainment comes by way of a BMW-sized 10.25-inch widescreen touch display, which includes DAB radio, satellite navigation and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Safety tech is strong, too, with lane change and lane-keep assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and collision-avoidance assist, driver-attention alert, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and car avoidance, and adaptive cruise control with a lane-follow assist function. Phew!
The Seltos range starts at $25,690 (Seltos S MSRP), meaning an approximate $16K selection window, but much of the kit noted above is only found on the GT-Line, which sits $5500 above the Sport+ AWD ($37,490 drive-away).
Over in the red corner is the front-wheel-drive $44,550 (before options and on-road costs) Audi Q2 35 TFSI Edition #2, which sits $2600 above the ‘design’ edition entry point mentioned in the intro ($41,950 MSRP). The Edition #2 package adds 19-inch wheels and black trim pieces to the grille and rear pillar, as well as keyless entry and start.
As a bundle, it's not a bad value pack, as the wheels alone are a $3200 box-tick on the base Q2, and it certainly gives the car a bit more of visual ‘cool’ factor to go with the funky, modern aesthetic of the Q2.
Our car goes a little further and adds a power tailgate ($890), heated front seats ($600), panoramic sunroof ($1650), the Technik Package ($2700) that includes a digital instrument cluster, sports steering wheel with paddle shifters and upgrades to the MMI infotainment system that adds a larger screen, 3D maps and a 10GB media storage capability, and the Assistance Package ($990) that adds adaptive cruise control, lane assist, blind-spot warning and automatic parking.
These combined with the Tango Red Metallic paint ($1150) – one of eight options – all contribute an additional $7980 to our sticker price for a total of $52,530 (before on-roads).
You do get a solid amount of kit out of the box, though, with the 2020 Q2 including LED head and tail-lamps (with animated indicators), wireless phone charging, dual-zone climate control and a DAB tuner as standard. You also score front and rear parking sensors, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and AEB with pedestrian detection.
For total clarity, the Q2 range extends across a $10,450 window, with the range-topping AWD Q2 40 TFSI Edition #2 ($52,400) able to be further enhanced by $11,640 worth of options. We’re not suggesting you do that, though, so back to our ’35 we go.
Now, before you leap in and suggest that the old five-figure price chasm is opening up again, you could argue the Edition #2 trim, power boot and sunroof are more of an individual-choice thing for Q2 buyers. Sure, the #2 looks cool (and yes, it’s a pretty dumb name), but taking a base Q2 35 TFSI and adding the Assistance ($1600 on non-Edition #2 trim) and Technik packs, keyless entry ($650) and heated seats ($600) comes in at $47,500 list.
Factor in Audi currently offering a discount equal to the 10 per cent GST, add on-roads, and you're somewhere in the realm of $49,500 – about $6500 more than the Seltos for a very well equipped Audi. Not quite parity, but not poles apart.
Worth noting, too, that the added value bundled in to the Q2 for the 2020 update makes it around $3K more attractive than it was last year. It’s a step in the right direction, but not enough to take the obvious value benefits away from the Seltos. Of particular note is the Assistance Package on the Q2 that, especially in terms of the safety equipment, really should be included in this day and age.
Servicing is pretty close, with the Audi able to be purchased with a three-year or five-year service package for $1580 or $2140 respectively. The Seltos is 30 per cent cheaper to own over three years, at $1101, but just five per cent less expensive after five years ($2205). The Kia also has an industry-leading seven-year warranty to the Audi's three.
|Kia Seltos GT-Line||Audi Q2 35 TFSI Edition #2|
|Colour||Neptune Blue Metallic||Tango Red Metallic|
|Options as tested||$520||$7980|
Design and practicality
From the cool LED signatures up front to the myriad trim flourishes around the body, both our cars are undeniably stylish. The clearly more ‘hatchy-looking' Audi feels slightly more youthful than the ‘wagony’ Kia, which with its integrated roof rails pushes a more practical vibe.
While both are classed as ‘compact’ SUVs, the Audi is 179mm more compact than the Kia in the length stakes (4370mm to 4191mm), which is mainly due to the larger overhangs of the Seltos, as the Kia’s wheelbase is only 29mm longer (2630mm to 2601mm). There’s a minimal difference in width, just 6mm to the Kia’s favour (1800mm to 1794mm), but the Seltos is 107mm taller (1615mm to 1508mm).
That said, the boots aren’t dramatically different with 433L in the Kia against 405L in the Audi (which has a two-level floor and luggage hooks), until you fold the 60:40 seats to offer 1393L in the Seltos to 1050L in the Q2.
You notice this difference the most as a rear passenger, with the Audi best described as being ‘tight’. It’s pretty spartan back there, too, with no vents or even an armrest to keep you comfy.
As well as more leg room, the Kia offers a USB charge point and air vents, as well as an armrest with cupholders. Both cars have a pair of ISOFIX points on the outside seats.
Up front, the Kia has a wireless phone-charge tray, another storage tray, a pair of USB points and a 12-volt outlet in front of the transmission lever, plus more storage in the central cubby as well as twin cupholders on the console. To counter, the Audi has a single USB port up front, wireless charging in the central cubby, and again two cupholders. The door pockets are smaller in the Q2, too.
Materials feel softer and more up-market in the Audi, with the soft leather flat-bottomed steering wheel a more pleasant tactile experience than the leather wheel in the Kia. It might sound like a strange measure, but you should be spending most of your time holding the steering wheel, so it's as good a gauge as any.
There might be more space in the Seltos, but there’s a nicer space in the Audi. Even split.
|Kia Seltos GT-Line||Audi Q2 35 TFSI Edition #2|
|Mass (tare kg)||1470kg||1375kg|
|Boot space (min/max L)||433L/1493L||405L/1050L|
|Wheels/tyres||18-inch - 235/45/18 Kumho||19-inch - 235/40/19 Hankook|
Technology and infotainment
As noted above, you need to spend more to get all the goodies in the Audi, but the implementation and use in both are excellent.
The widescreen 10.25-inch touch display in the Kia is the same size as the unit found in a BMW, and it looks crisp and bright using both the integrated software as well as the smartphone projection.
There are a lot of functions and customisation points, and while the interaction options of the row of buttons and twin dials can be combined with touch, some elements aren’t that easy to get to on the move. It’s something you can get used to over time, and only really a small gripe as it is a well featured and well-implemented system.
The LCD display between the analogue dials is clean and provides basic information. The inclusion of the flip-up head-up display is a welcome inclusion, too. Audio quality thanks to the eight-speaker Bose system is great, and I quite liked the ‘dancing Coke can’ interactive cabin lighting.
The Q2 still uses the older ‘jog’ wheel to interact with the 8.3-inch media screen (or 7.0-inch without the Technik Pack upgrade), as opposed to the touch pad in some more up-market Audis, and I have to say, I still quite prefer this.
You can use it while driving without having to look, which is great, but the lack of a touch interface on the screen makes using smartphone projection less convenient. It’s okay, though, as the native Audi system works well and has all the key features you need.
More crucially, the wholly digital ‘virtual cockpit’ instrument display is excellent. Being able to configure the information and layout here is great, particularly with navigation engaged. There’s no HUD, but this is the next best thing.
Sound quality isn’t as punchy as in the Seltos, but the eight-speaker system manages a bit of ’90s DAB radio as well as any.
Both are well-rounded solutions, but the wider screen, touch interface and dancing light show snag the win for the Seltos.
|Kia Seltos GT-Line||Audi Q2 35 TFSI Edition #2|
|Infotainment screen||10.25-inch touch||8.0-inch|
|Sound system||Bose 8-speaker||8-speaker|
|AEB (Autonomous braking)||STANDARD||STANDARD|
|Adaptive cruise control||STANDARD||OPTIONAL|
|Rear cross-traffic alert||STANDARD||OPTIONAL|
Engine and drivetrain
Both our urban runabouts use turbocharged, four-cylinder petrol power and seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions, but the implementations are a little bit different.
The 1.4-litre unit in the Audi offers 110kW at 6000rpm and 250Nm between 1500 and 3500rpm. Here you only have the option of using the front wheels, but while it feels a little slow off the mark, the Q2 zips around quite happily.
Response within the peak torque band is good and gear shifts are fast and sharp. Although there is no ability to engage a dynamic driving mode, it does feel pretty sporty. It’s good on fuel, too, with our result of 5.8L/100km falling a bit short of the combined consumption claim of 5.3L/100km, but well ahead of the 8.1L/100km in the Kia (against a claim of 7.6L/100km).
Forward vision is good, but the thick C-pillar makes the rear quarter feel a little dark. The Audi’s ambience is a mix of nice soft-touch, high-quality materials, clean back-lit switchgear and emotionless Germanic implementation. It is nice, but not hugely special or different.
Over in the blue camp, the Seltos opts for a slightly larger 1.6-litre unit with 130kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm between 1500 and 4500rpm, and runs to all four wheels through a part-time, front-bias AWD system. There’s a manual ‘locking’ function to engage the rear wheels, meaning that you’re not going to be using, nor getting the benefit of, all-paw traction on your regular cross-city jaunts most of the time.
The twin-clutch gearbox is well matched, with on-the-go changes feeling smooth and fast, but like many DCT-equipped cars, the initial take-up can feel quite elastic at times. There is an Eco mode to dull throttle behaviour and a Sport mode to sharpen it, but neither makes any material difference – keep it in the regular mode and the Seltos works as well as you need.
The Seltos is quite sprightly off the mark, and noticeably shiftier than the Audi, but there’s apparently no substitute for Vorsprung durch Technik in Korean, with the four-cylinder turbo sounding quite buzzy at medium to high revs. It’s a sensation that reminds you this is a $20K-something car with a lot of equipment, rather than a $40K-something car off the bat.
On the road, the Kia’s taller cabin offers good all-round vision, and while the seats are comfortable and the layout well balanced between clean and funky (those speaker grilles!), there’s just not the same sense of ‘solid’ that the Audi provides.
If only to seal the deal, a traditional measure of the mainstream-to-premium divide is still evident here, with the Seltos still using a manual ‘stick’ to prop the bonnet to the Audi’s gas strut.
Vorsprung durch ahead.
|Kia Seltos GT-Line||Audi Q2 35 TFSI Edition #2|
|Engine configuration||Four-cylinder turbocharged petrol||Four-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Displacement||1.6L (1591cc)||1.4L (1395cc)|
|Power||130kW @ 6000rpm||110kW @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||265Nm @ 1500–4500rpm||250Nm @ 1500–3500rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||88.4kW/t||80.0kW/t|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||7.6L/100km||5.3L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||50L||50L|
Ride and handling
Audi’s five-spoke Rotor design wheels might be some of the oldest rolling stock around, but they still look good. That said, the 19-inch set on the Edition #2 package are potentially a little big for the diminutive Q2, with the 235/40-profile Hankooks not offering a lot of rubber cushioning.
You can feel roadway imperfections and larger surface changes in the Audi, but while the ride is firm, it is very composed. The Q2 feels decidedly sporty, the damping giving the Audi a real sense of surety and solidity on the road. There’s a bit of tyre roar in the cabin at cruising speed, but considering the size of the wheels, the Q2 feels remarkably comfortable and fun to drive. On 18s with a little more sidewall it would be brilliant.
The Kia’s behaviour is perhaps a little less taut, with the suspension compressing well, but rebounding with less dignity than the Audi. It’s still comfortable and well mannered about town, though with the 18-inch wheels and 235/45 tyres providing a bit more urban compliance. They even run in a set of five, with a full-sized spare found under the boot floor.
Again, the car feels well sorted for urban running, and still offers an element of sportiness, but there’s an intangible difference between the pair, with the Audi coming off as just a bit ‘nicer’ to drive.
Score another for the Q2.
What an interesting time we are living in! What started out looking like an apples-to-mangos mismatch has settled to an almost peaches and pears two-fruit combo, albeit the slightly more swanky organic kind.
To see a Kia discussed in the same breath as an Audi is a tremendous statement to the inroads made by a brand on the rise. Conversely, to see an entry-level SUV from Ingolstadt be offered in a generous specification out of the box is testament to the normalisation of technology as an everyday convenience rather than a top-shelf luxury.
Both these cars have plenty to offer buyers looking to spend around $45K on a funky urban SUV. Yes, the Q2 feels better built and more intangibly 'premium' than the Seltos, but the lack of standard safety tech is an oversight, particularly when ticking the box is only a two per cent increase in the car’s price. That said, it's still a fun and usable urban runner, with plenty of style, a decidedly sporty feel, and again shows Audi's fundamental engineering experience at play.
The top-spec Seltos leaves you wanting for nothing, neatly wrapping up zippy performance and a stack of features in a stylish and entertaining package. It might not have the same door-close thunk or driveline refinement of the Audi, but as a premi-ish city dweller, the Kia's skills extend beyond its badge to provide a very well rounded and complete compact SUV.
The Audi is the more polished performer, though, and with a few more years of premium experience under its four-ringed belt, it's no real surprise. That the Kia is a legitimate alternative in this space is the big news here, with the top-of-the-range Seltos hopefully a sign of bigger things to come.
The gap between premium and mainstream has certainly been blended, with both these crossovers showing you can truly cross over.