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