One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2021 Kia Seltos splashes into the market as a well-designed, right-priced SUV

The adventure-ready Kia Seltos has debuted to a long list of accolades.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

If you think the 2021 Kia Seltos has familiar looks, you're right. This all-new compact crossover has been crafted with the DNA of Kia's full-sized 2020 Telluride SUV. That's good news because the award-winning Telluride was lauded not only for its handsome looks, but also for its smart engineering and notable collection of standard features. Seltos is endowed with a similar set of attributes in a smaller footprint. It slots between Kia's Soul and Sportage.

Kia calls the new model "rugged, refined, and right-sized" and is targeting singles and couples from Gen X, Gen Y, and Boomer demographics who are seeking a mainstream utilitarian vehicle that is suitable for Costco runs and capable for modest forays into the backcountry.

2021 Kia Seltos Seltos is designed for adventuring but not true off-roading. Goats not included.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Seltos is available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, with a choice of two powertrains and six trims. It comes with Kia's industry-leading warranty.

The Korean automaker offers a clever value proposition for its based-priced Seltos model that retails for $21,990 (plus $1,120 for destination); buyers can choose the LX trim with less equipment and standard all-wheel drive or the S trim with more equipment and front-wheel drive; both are powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.6-liter engine. All other models are offered with the available AWD and a choice of the 1.6-liter or a turbocharged 2.0-liter; the top-of-the-line SX Turbo starts at $27,890.

Kia says Seltos, "punches above its class." Its styling, safety features, and wide array of technologies and comfort and convenience features give it the look and feel of a more premium vehicle than its low price point would suggest it is.

2021 Kia Seltos The interior of the Seltos is more refined than the one in the Soul.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Standard equipment includes an 8-inch color touchscreen, AM/FM/MP3 with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice recognition, drive modes, hill start assist, downhill brake control, traction control, automatic cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, six airbags, alloy wheels, driver's seat height adjuster, heated privacy glass at the rear side and tailgate, and two-step reclining rear seats.

A wide array of trim-specific and optional equipment is on board or available. Some highlights include:

  • 10-way power-adjustable seat with lumbar/heated front seats/leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob;
  • 10.25-inch high-resolution color touchscreen (standard on SX trim level) with satellite radio, UVO telematics, navigation and split-screen display;
  • 8-speaker Bose premium sound system (first time in a Kia), with six color themes that echo the sound-connected mood lighting and change color and intensity based on volume level;
  • 12-volt power outlet, USB charging ports front and rear, and wireless charging;
  • Kia Drive Wise", a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems that brings collision warning, automatic emergency braking, driver monitoring system, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning; pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, lane-keeping and rear occupant alert.

Seltos sits upright at slightly over five feet tall and stretches to 172 inches in length. A pleasant blend of design attributes shape the exterior with robust and rugged cues comingled to upscale nuances. Kia's tiger nose honeycomb grille is detailed with diamond-like accents, while an aggressive lower front bumper and raked approach angle embolden the front. Skid plates lend a playful, off-road-ready attitude.

2021 Kia Seltos The Seltos's design makes it look road-ready.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The rear emphasizes its panache and power with sculpted dual exhaust pipes connected by a chrome trim and a chrome garnish that ties the tail lamps together. Most versions have projector beam headlights mounted between upper LED running lights and turn signals, and lower fog lights. Uplevel trims sport LED bi-function multi-focus reflector headlights.

Sofina leatherette either trims or covers the seats of the attractive and well-lit cabin that has good ergonomics for seating and controls; the easily-accessible infotainment system is positioned high on the dashboard. Seltos has more interior room than most rivals, says Kia; it's suited for four adults or three small-statured riders in the rear can bring the total to five. An adjustable luggage board in the rear cargo area expands stowage. Manual seats are standard in the base model, which is pretty normal for this size vehicle. Automatic seats are available in higher trims.

2021 Kia Seltos Kia has appointed the Seltos very well for its price point.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a continuously variable transmission, while the available 1.6-liter turbo-four gets 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque geared by a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Drive modes allow for normal, smart (eco) and sport motoring; all-wheel-drive versions have a locking center differential that provides enhanced traction and torque vectoring for dirt or slick surfaces and improved handling for treacherous weather. Fuel economy ranges between 25 and 27 mpg city, 30 and 31 highway, and 27 and 29 combined, depending on the drivetrain.

On the road, the compact ute has a mannered ride and brings punchy performance with the turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission, when the throttle is pushed and sport mode is engaged. The SX trim offers good cornering grip, a responsive suspension, linear steering, and efficient brakes. An off-pavement track provided the opportunity to take note of the crossover's 7.2 inches of ground clearance and the impressive 28-degree approach angle. Although Seltos is not an authentic off-roader meant for extreme motoring, it has an impressive set-up for weekend adventures and wilderness forays.

2021 Kia Seltos The car has many design characteristics of the Kia Telluride.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Seltos enters the SUV market as an immediate contender. Kia is riding high on the success of Telluride and producing a small, well-appointed SUV with similar styling that executes the mission it was made for well should be a recipe for success.

The 2021 Kia Seltos starts at $21,990 and tops out just below $28,000. That pricing is similar to the Hyundai Kona, which is arguably its closest rival.

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New compact pickup truck

Hyundai announces pricing for Santa Cruz pickup

It's small, but the Santa Cruz can do plenty of truck stuff like the big guys.

Hyundai

Looking at American trucks over the years, it's hard to ignore their growing size and price, but 2021 might just be the year that bucks that trend. Earlier in the year, Ford announced the compact Maverick pickup truck, and after months of rumors, Hyundai did the same. The Santa Cruz will be a small unibody pickup designed in California and built in Alabama. Today, the automaker announced pricing for the upcoming vehicle.

Pricing for the Santa Cruz starts at $23,990, which after the $1,185 destination charge comes to $25,175. That reasonable sum buys the base SE trim, which comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. Hyundai estimates that the base engine produces 190 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, while the available turbocharged 2.5-liter engine makes 275 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.

Other standard features include:


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz The Santa Cruz rides on a unibody frame, which gives it a better ride than most trucks.Hyundai


  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • LED taillights
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Rear occupant alerts
  • Driver attention warnings
  • Lane keeping assist
  • Speed limit warnings
  • Leading vehicle departure alerts

Despite its size and unibody construction, the Santa Cruz does offer traditional truck capabilities. With the base engine on board, the vehicle is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, and with the turbocharged engine that number increases to 5,000 pounds. The unibody setup also gives the Santa Cruz a more car-like ride and handling, which improves comfort. It's a configuration that is also used by the Honda Ridgeline and the upcoming Ford Maverick pickups.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz The Santa Cruz has a useful bed that can be configured a few ways.Hyundai


Hyundai started building the Santa Cruz at its Montgomery, Alabama factory in June. The automaker says that its production will eventually add 1,200 jobs to the facility, and notes that the vehicle will go on sale sometime later this summer. We're heading out to drive the new Santa Cruz in early August, so stay tuned for a first-drive review in a few weeks.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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