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First Reviews2021 Kia Seltos First Drive Review: Kia Knocks It out of the...

2021 Kia Seltos First Drive Review: Kia Knocks It out of the Park Once Again

Kia’s success on Canadian soil is palpable, and the Korean manufacturer invited us to test out the new addition to its family: the 2021 Kia Seltos.

Car companies all want to go after millennials, especially companies that are not doing so well. You can’t blame them; someone has to keep buying their cars when the old customers retire from the road. However, convincing the young ones is proving to be a laborious task.

Kia is three sheets to the wind in Canada and is taking on the endeavour with great determination, launching multiple youth-oriented products that have the potential to secure its future. And this (unfortunately for car people) starts with making good compact SUVs, it seems!

Looks that stand out, and loads of tech

In terms of size, the 2021 Seltos slides on top of the Niro and under the Sportage. And as it is customary with Kia’s aggressive strategy, this one comes loaded with standard features, some of which you would have to dish out big bucks to get with premium and luxury brands.

The Seltos has looks of its own; its face was not copied/pasted from its taller siblings. Be advised, however, that the Canadian Seltos won’t get any of the two-tone exterior colour schemes pictured in this article.

Apparently, this exclusion is linked to the sunroof; the U.S Seltos doesn’t get the sunroof (which is quite curious), but Canada does. And canucks are also rewarded with a whole bunch of other gizmos like power passenger seat ventilated front seats and heated rear seats head-up display heated washer nozzles, all of which are non-U.S options.

A duo of small engines

2021 Kia Seltos | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

The base engine is a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit. And there is a 1.6-litre turbo available on the top trim and the top trim only. The first puts out 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The second engine is exclusive to the top SX Turbo trim and increases the power to 175 ponies and 195 lb-ft of torque. That one is paired with a 7-Speed automatic DCT.

A nimble and *almost* fun driving experience

The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine doesn’t disappoint. Although a little loud when being pushed around, it provides enough power to haul the Seltos in city driving conditions. Yes, it does feel like it would get tired on the top end when hurdling the Seltos onto a highway onramp at illegal speeds, but I found it more than sufficient from a “point A to point B” perspective. Plus, the CVT is getting better and better at not being elastic and sounding like a dying goat.

As for the turbocharged unit, it steps things up a notch with more bottom-end torque and more breathing power at high speeds. The 7-Speed DCT turned out to be a winner with smooth shifts.

Handling is where the Seltos stands out from the competition. Driving around in an otherwise very competent Honda HR-V or a Nissan Qashqai seems like a soulless exercise. With the Seltos, you’re still driving a mainstream SUV, so no orgasms at the wheel here, but it does bring a bit more bite to the table. Even the Sport mode tested on the SX Turbo 1.6-litre unit seemed like it impacted other components, or more than only the engine, in a genuine effort to make the experience enjoyable.

A basic, but efficient interior with dome Déjà Vu’s

2021 Kia Seltos | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

The 2021 Seltos’s interior is basic, but functional, with a lot of familiar Hyundai/Kia design cues. It is loaded with safety features, some of them annoying, others quite useful. The lane follow system is not like a lane keep system, it comes without the pinball effect, but it seems to interact with the steering a bit too much when engaged.

A neat feature is the heads up alarm function that triggers when waiting at a light that turns green and the car ahead is pulling off. Very useful for when you’re staring at your phone (tsk tsk) or just into nothingness.

The Seltos gives you 752 litres of cargo behind the rear seats. That’s more than most of its rivals like the Nissan Qashqai and Honda HR-V. And rear legroom is unfazed by that, leaving plenty for an average-sized adult.

The grade walk goes as follows: LX FWD, LX AWD, EX AWD, EX Premium AWD and SX Turbo. The very base LX FWD is the only front-wheel-drive version, and it comes with 16-inch alloys (no steelies in this lineup), an 8-inch display, Android Auto and Apple Carplay, heated front seats and a few key safety techs like Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. This one goes for $22,995.

The EX AWD, which is expected to be the big seller, still comes with the 2.0-litre engine, but adds all-wheel drive, a whole bunch of safety gadgets, Sofino leather seats, a heated steering wheel, among other things. It starts at $27,595.

Finally, the top trim SX Turbo uses the 1.6-litre turbo and is the only one to do so. It gets 18-inch alloys, a head’s Up display and a Bose sound system, among other premium things. This one will cost you $31,595.


2021 Kia Seltos | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

If you’re a trendy millennial with city-driving needs, or the head of a small family that desperately has to trade in that compact car for more space (thanks to ever-growing kids and the proliferation of junk they have to carry around with them), the Seltos is very recommendable in both cases. Even more so than many rivals thanks to its fun factor and space extras. And no need to go high up in the trims, 2.0-litre, AWD-equipped EX AWD is plenty of CUV power to run around and get stuff done.

2021 Kia Seltos Photo Gallery

2021 Kia Seltos | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube
2021 Kia Seltos | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube
2021 Kia Seltos | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube


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Louis-Philippe Dubé
Louis-Philippe Dubé
Louis-Philippe Dubé has been contributing at for over a year, and for the NetMedia360 network for nearly three years now. His passion for everything automotive comes from a career as a mechanic, but also from the family vehicle collection that includes a 996 Porsche Turbo and a 2004 Ford GT. We've been bugging him to drive the GT, but he hasn't responded. Send L-P an email


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