The base price in Canada for the 2020 Kia Seltos is $22,995, $21,990 in the US.
The Seltos is everywhere.
It’s one of my surprise hits for the 2021 model year.
It’s true, sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees. Meaning, in only a few short months since its arrival on the market, a 2021 Kia Seltos has just about popped up on every street corner. Clearly then, consumers like the small SUV quite a bit. Do we then need to ask why?
With less than a handful of exception, package-wise, the Kia Seltos is no more no less exactly what the average consumer with a small family needs in one vehicle. In the past, I’ve described vehicles such as the Nissan Rogue as being perfectly adequate. While this remains true, at the time, Nissan had not gone out of its way to make any more appealing – this may have changed with the 2021 Rogue and I look forward to driving it.
Is Kia Shifting Its Focus?
Kia, on the other hand, has built a reputation on giving more than expected and this approach has paid off for both Hyundai and Kia. Items and features such as a heated steering wheel, satellite radio and cooled front seats were unheard of in sub-$30k vehicles but now they’ve become more common-place. And now, Kia’s once more pushing the boundaries with a driving experience that was quite rare in the same price range.
The final frontier is the drive. And in this department, Kia’s tapped into the importance of comfort over handling without, however, sacrificing it. Its platform is shared with the extremely-popular Hyundai Kona but the emphasis for the Seltos is smoother sailing. Its wheelbase is slightly longer and although the suspension setup is identical (MacPherson front, multi-link rear), the Kia is far more refined.
I was quite nearly shocked by how well the chassis dampened the road’s surface and how poised and comfortable it drove. I’m still somewhat in disbelief that I was this enthralled with the Seltos. In fact, it gets worse, in a way.
The CVT And The Power Are Good
Included with all trims save for the SX Turbo is the naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine which develops 146 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. Anything but special, this powertrain managed to surprise me not by its power but by how well the standard IVT (Intelligent Variable Transmission or Kia-speak for CVT) transmission did its job.
Under load, the transmission “shifts” mimicking gear ratios but because there’s no actual shift, there is no associated shift-shock. As well, under heavier throttle demands, it pulled out all the stops and managed to make the best of the available power, no matter the selected drive mode. Despite the tested Seltos’ 3,200-lb heft, there was plenty of power to go around.
Styling And Substance
The exceptions I speak of are limited to design. Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis feel a constant need to reinvent themselves which is why, from one generation to another, the same vehicle may look completely different. This pushes designers to “try” things and clearly many of these attempts make it to production.
The Seltos sports a very classic SUV profile and the same can be said about its hind-quarters. The tested $27,595 EX includes LED taillights, a satin chrome beltline, and a chrome grille up front. And it’s the vehicle’s front fascia that serves to differentiate it, as is the case with many other Korean products. Although more conventional than the Kona for example, there are 3D embossed details in the grille which are nearly invisible to the eye unless standing very close. Why Kia did this is a mystery however it certainly is unique.
This 3D theme continues indoors with unique speaker grilles and some printed textures on the dashboard. Beyond that, however, everything else is typical Kia-fare. That is to say that ergonomics are excellent, materials, fit and finish are spotless. The LX and EX trims are fitted with an 8-inch display that, grows to 10.25 inches in the EX Premium and SX Turbo. Standard infotainment technologies include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and higher trims will throw in wireless phone charging, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, and head’s up display.
The cabin is impressively spacious as well. The boot can hold up to 752 litres (26.6 cubic feet) of gear while the second row will welcome three passengers with relative ease. Upfront, there’s plenty of storage and room for legs, elbows, and the like. The main issue with comfort in the Seltos is the absence of lumbar support in the front unless opting for the $30,595 EX Premium. Although the SOFINO synthetic leather seats look nice, I would have preferred cloth with lumbar.
There’s Really Nothing With The Seltos Except…
While on the topic of issues, the only other one that comes to mind is fuel economy. But, honestly, at an average is about 9L/100km or 26 mpg, it’s not the most economical small SUV but it’s not the worst either. And that about sums it up.
In the segment, the Seltos tackles numerous competitors including the Nissan Qashqai and Rogue, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and CX-30, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Renegade and Compass, Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona, and a few more. Of the lot, it’s easily my favorite.
Now, I’ve made a point of bringing this up in almost every Hyundai/Kia review and will again: although initial impressions are through the roof, iffy long-term durability and reliability remain relevant points to ponder especially if you plan on keeping the vehicle past 48 months.