Behind the Wheel

2021 Kia Seltos Review: Asphalt-eating enthusiasm paired with comfort and convenience

The 2021 Kia Seltos is a fresh addition to the company's portfolio.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

You can learn a lot about a person by going on a road trip with them. Sharing a cramped space for days on end will bring out the best and worst in everyone.

Are they clean or messy; patient or not; tolerant of their companions' playlist picks or a more discerning musical connoisseur? All of this goes into whether a road trip partnership will be a success or failure. And there's a similar equation to be balanced with the other member of the road trip crew: the car itself.

2021 Kia Seltos Kia has made the Seltos stylish and given it unique paint color options.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

A proper road trip requires (ideally, anyway) a few things from an automobile. Decent fuel economy is always nice, as is ample cargo space for both your haul and supplies. Comfortable seats are a must, a decent stereo and convenient storage cubbies for drinks, food, phones, and whatever else must be kept close at hand.

Finally, the car must be a good companion — not too noisy and harsh, and definitely no complaining about the heat. Just smooth acceleration and an enthusiasm for eating up endless miles of American asphalt.

The new 2021 Kia Seltos checks every box.

The review car for my 1,700-mile road trip was the top-of-the-line Seltos SX Turbo AWD, weighing in at $29,485 after an extra $345 for the Starbright Yellow paint that was either a rather pleasing shade of dark yellow or an unfortunate sickly green, depending on the light. At least it photographs well, which is probably the point.

2021 Kia Seltos The Seltos is well appointed for a sub-$30,000 car.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Even for just under thirty grand, the Seltos SX was totally loaded with useful features: Automatic high beams (which seem silly until you have them, then they're essential); adaptive cruise control (ditto); active lane keeping; a large center touchscreen; wireless phone charging; a Bose stereo; and a full safety suite including pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, and rear-cross-traffic alert. The only safety feature it was missing, somewhat weirdly, is automatic windshield wipers — a small complaint, really.

The center console, which is an essential part of road trip kit, is particularly well thought out. There's a bin just ahead of the shift knob that's the perfect size for both your smartphone and for storing bags of beef jerky or Skittles. Above the bin is a wireless charging pad, which, when combined with the USB cable that's required for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, lets you keep two smartphones charged up with ease. There are a pair of decently sized cupholders behind the shift knob, just fore of an armrest and storage bin that's perfect for holding a vast quantity of facemasks which you'll need to do just about anything these days.

2021 Kia Seltos Despite its size, the Seltos has a good amount of storage in the rear.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Seltos is not a particularly large subcompact crossover, which is both good and bad, though it makes excellent use of the space it does have. This is certainly a car meant for a two-person road trip, but there is ample room in the back for kids if you're bringing those along. My traveling partner and I preferred to put a cooler on the backseat instead, which was easily reached by either driver or passenger.

The trunk is surprisingly roomy for such a small crossover, easily swallowing up my full size suitcase plus several weekender duffel bags, a couple of collapsable lawn chairs, and a case of water — all without obscuring visibility through the rear window.

The SX Turbo comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, but it produces an easy 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque that is more than enough to keep things moving along. It was no problem to pass slow-moving trucks on the highway or to merge into traffic, and we easily exceeded the 25/30/27 fuel economy ratings. We averaged 30.7 mpg across more than 1,700 mostly-highway miles, which is particularly important in California, which has some of the highest gas prices in the country. And, though it has a turbocharged engine, the Seltos is happy with regular gasoline.

2021 Kia Seltos The 2021 Kia Seltos delivers enough space for kids in the second row.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

I wish the digital speed indicator on the instrument cluster was a bit bigger, and a sunroof would have been nice — that last feature isn't available if you get the black or white roof option. And dual-zone climate control might have been nice, though I wouldn't really expect it on a sub-$30,000 car. And to be honest, I can't come up with any other complaints.

The Seltos SX, with its small, turbocharged engine and eminently reasonable price, was our perfect vehicular road-trip companion. Quiet, practical, comfortable, and completely overshadowed by the grandeur of America's National Parks. Just as it should be.

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The 2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST gives buyers more performance at a lower price.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer lineup is getting a three-model enhancement for the 2021 model year. The Explorer Enthusiast ST, Platinum, and Platinum Hybrid will be making their way to dealership lots later this year in a targeted attempt to identify customer desires.

The new models join the just-announced 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch, also a new addition.

2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST

The Enthusiast ST grade takes a lot of what customers like about the existing Explorer ST and delivers it at a far cheaper price. The Enthusiast ST has a starting MSRP of $48,750 as opposed to the ST, which starts at $52,830.

Setting it apart from there Explorers is the Enthusiast ST's quad chrome exhaust tips, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets, and sideview mirrors with ST projection lamps.

The new model comes equipped with the same 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that's in the Explorer ST that churns out 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission completes the powertrain.

Ford has given the model a sport-tuned suspension and a top track speed of 143 mph. A standard Class III Trailer Tow Package provides towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds.

The cabin of the Enthusiast ST is complete with leather seating surfaces, unique Miko micro-perforated inserts, and City Silver accent stitching with the ST logo. There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated sport-style steering wheel with the ST logo, and paddle shifters.

The Explorer Enthusiast ST also features standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology.

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum

2021 Ford Explorer Plat Ford has two new Platinum models coming to a dealership near you.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

2021 Ford Explorer Plat

The new Explorer Platinum is powered by a 3.0-liter engine and comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-when drive is available.

To make the Platinum version worthy of its upscale price tag, its packaging includes door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails, a twin-panel moonroof, and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish. Its cabin is fitted with leather seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard, door rollovers, and door and front console armrests.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Platinum has a starting MSRP of $52,480. The hybrid version of that model starts at $53,085.

All the models are currently available for order via Ford dealerships. Deliveries are expected to begin this summer.

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Drivers will be able to utilize the Mappo app in their Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Mappo is a new way to explore. The app provides culture-oriented travel recommendations based on books, movies, music, and more, going further than the traditional reach of points of interest recommendations. It includes themed routes and utilizes crowd sourcing to generate content from locations around the globe.

The app launched with 30,000 points of interest with references in more than a dozen major cities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Points of interest aren't just marked on a map, but are supported with content such as quotes, book clips and trivia. Users can browse points of interest nearby, or you can use the search box to look up themed routes based on a place, the name of an author or book, or several other filters such as movies, music and history.

Mappo app interface in SYNC 4

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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Ford will be the first automaker to add Mappo to its vehicles. The addition is the result of a collaboration between Mappo, a startup from Tel Aviv, Israel, and the Ford Research Center in Israel.

"People love telling their friends about interesting places in books, movies and music – now they can share these passions with the world through Mappo," said Stuart Taylor, global director, Ford enterprise connectivity. "Mappo makes long drives or brief escapes richer experiences, whether people stay inside their vehicle or step out to experience a landmark."

Customers who have vehicles equipped with SYNC 3 or SYNC 4 technology will be able to use Mappo through voice commands, giving them an easy way to experience the app as they travel. Mappo also will be available for the 2021 F-150, Mustang Mach-E, Bronco, and other future Ford vehicles.

Vehicles equipped with navigation technology can use SYNC AppLink for the unique capability of creating routes to the points of interest found in the Mappo app.

In addition to Ford vehicles, the Mappo app is aviaalbe for iOS and Android devices.

Getting in and out of your vehicle to explore doesn't stop the Mappo experience. Any saved route on your smartphone can be easily selected once running the app inside your vehicle, and you can quickly pick up where you left off – whether leaving a vehicle to explore or coming back to continue to your next destination.

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