2021 Kia Seltos
Over a year ago, Kia made a statement on what their vision for the SUV was going to be. The result was the award-winning Telluride. It became the standard for all mid-size, three-row SUVs to become.
However, Kia needed help on the smaller end of the SUV market. It needed a purposeful small vehicle that would compete in what has turned out to be a breakout segment set below the popular compact models. Something that can play in town, as well as outside of it.
The solution arrived as the 2021 Kia Seltos. It is smaller than the Sportage, larger than the Soul, and offers an available all-wheel-drive system to handle weather and terrain.
In this smaller package, did Kia create another winner in the Seltos?
Looking on the outside, Kia created something more distinctive in the small SUV class. The front end follows some of the brand’s conventions, while integrating the lighting units and signature. The result is a clean sheet look that will be appearing on future Kia SUVs.
From there, the Seltos feels more upright with a longer roof profile and typical side glass with a triangular c-pillar pane. The roof also receives a “floating” profile based on a satin chrome piece splitting the top and side parts of the structure. The rear end shows off a split-taillamp treatment by the trim piece framing the part that splits the license plate area from the rest of the tailgate.
Our S tester received a set of 18-inch alloy wheels, which finishes off the Seltos design, along with trim-specific satin-finish chrome trim.
Step inside to an interior with a lot of the brand’s elements all around. The analog instrument cluster has a small digital screen for more information. The infotainment screen sits on top of the dashboard crowning the center stack. There is a smaller version of Kia’s t-bar shifter that serves as a hub for drive-related controls, including the drive mode knob. All switches and controls are good to the touch and offer great operation and logic.
Our S tester came with cloth seating surfaces with a leatherette trim around them. They are pretty supportive and quite comfortable. You get manual adjustments for height, rake, and recline. Rear seat room is very good with plenty of leg and head room for six-footers. Cargo space starts with 26.8 cubic feet before folding down the second row. Once folded down, the Seltos offers 62.8 cubic feet of cargo room.
You get two choices of performance in the Seltos lineup. The 146-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard. However, our tester has a 175-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, which is available on the S and SX Turbo models. This engine on our tester is connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a Torque Vectoring all-wheel-drive system.
The result is great low-end pickup with solid performance all around. You never notice the transmission at all, which makes it stand out on this vehicle. Not only does it motivate this Seltos S Turbo tester, it returned pretty decent fuel economy. We observed an average of 31.1 MPG in our care.
The ride quality is pretty good for this vehicle. It felt very light on its feet, weighing in at 3,317 pounds. It also felt pretty high, even though it sat 7.3 inches from the ground. In cornering, the Seltos truly felt light with plenty of control to keep it from getting loose.
Braking was superb for this type of vehicle. Pedal feel was solid with good stopping power in normal and panic situations. The steering system was a good enough weight on-center and is quite responsive in the turns. We like the size and thickness of the steering wheel giving us an overall sporty vibe with the Seltos.
Pricing for the Seltos lineup starts at $21,995. Our S Turbo tester with all-wheel-drive came with a sticker price of $26,740. There are five different Seltos models to choose from.
The Kia Seltos plays in an emerging segment among SUVs – not too small and not too compact. Consumers have compared the Seltos to the Jeep Compass, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Rogue Sport, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Subaru Crosstrek, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Buick Encore GX, and Mazda CX-30.
Even in an emerging segment, the Kia Seltos is another solid choice to make for those who want the utility of an SUV with a bit of performance and solid engineering. It shows how much Kia is spreading is award-winning formula from the Telluride onto other products in its lineup.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors