It wasn’t long ago that Kia was considered an up-and-comer, selling affordable cars that ticked boxes but weren’t enough to turn heads.
Flash-forward to today, however, and it's a major player, regularly converting brand-loyal buyers with a penchant for all things premium thanks to its remarkably well-equipped and well-priced top-spec offerings.
The Seltos range brings the option of all-wheel-drive in a compact package with modern looks, an affordable entry point, and a competitive list of standard equipment.
At least that's what it says on the brochure, so I set out to uncover whether the Seltos truly is as good as it looks on paper.
What kind of car is the Kia Seltos?
The Seltos variant I’m reviewing here is the top-of-the-range GT-Line. It’s all-wheel drive and has a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine under the bonnet.
The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic set-up. By comparison, the lower-spec Seltos models are available with front-wheel drive, a continuously variable transmission and less powerful engines, though one step down from the GT-Line, the Seltos Sport Plus, is the only variant with a choice of either powertrain.
The main additions you’ll receive on top of the Sport Plus grade include LED headlights (the other grades get halogen lights), a sunroof, a few more active safety features, heated and cooled artificial leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, a wireless charger, a head-up display, and a Bose sound system with sound-responsive mood lighting.
|Engine configuration||Four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power to weight ratio||88kW/tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||7.6L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||50L|
How does the Kia Seltos’s price compare to competitors?
The GT-Line is priced from $41,400 plus on-road costs, and Kia offers a permanent national deal of $42,990 drive-away. However, that’s with the no-cost paint option of 'Starbright yellow', which might be a tad too vibrant for some.
If you’re after other colours, like the snappier black or the blue on my test car, it will add an extra $520 to the purchase price.
Although some may baulk at the notion of paying more than $40,000 for a Kia-badged car, the GT-Line's price is fairly standard for the top models in its segment.
You’re looking at $43,490 for a top-spec, all-wheel-drive Mazda CX-30, while a similar variant in the Hyundai Kona line-up is priced at $40,200, and an all-wheel-drive Subaru XV 2.0i-S is slightly more affordable at $36,530 – all before on-road costs.
The flagship all-wheel-drive Toyota C-HR, meanwhile, will set you back $36,690 plus ORCs.
A lot of buyers may also be pondering the Seltos’s older sibling, the larger Kia Sportage, which is $45,290 plus on-road costs for an all-wheel-drive, petrol-powered GT-Line variant.
The biggest difference in size between the pair is length, where the Sportage boasts an extra 11.5cm on top of the Seltos – it’s also 3cm taller and 5.5cm wider – meaning you’re paying $3890 (before on-road costs) more for a combined 20cm of size (that’s around $195 a centimetre, FYI).
|Options as tested||$500|
What is the Kia Seltos like to drive?
The first thing I notice when driving the Seltos is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is unique to top-spec variants. I often find a dual-clutch transmission feels a little unpolished at city speeds, and the Seltos is no exception.
Specifically, there’s a delay when you hit the accelerator and, as a result, the car can feel jerky when you’re parking or manoeuvring. It’s by no means unbearable; it’s just a little less smooth for everyday driving than a continuously variable transmission.
The trade-off is that there’s a bit of sporty feel to the Seltos, and acceleration feels punchy and quick, particularly as you’re getting up to higher speeds.
The steering feel is also a little sporty – it’s not so light you feel like you’re driving a dodgem car, but it’s also easy enough to handle in smaller city streets.
Keeping in the sporty spirit, there’s a sport drive mode that allows drivers to shift through gears using the gear lever, or sharpens shifts and accelerator response if left in drive.
Otherwise, the behind-the-wheel feel is like that of a full-size SUV – there’s visibility, there’s power, and it feels like there’s lots of traction courtesy of the all-wheel drive, which also offers AWD lock at low speeds for particularly slippery surfaces.
The cabin is quiet, aside from a smidge of tyre noise, but I will say the ride can be rougher than expected on imperfect roads, possibly because the GT-Line gets bigger wheels with lower-profile tyres than some of the other grades.
Again, it’s not at all uncomfortable, but it’s also not as cushioned as it could be.
Is the Kia Seltos a safe and reliable car?
Safety is where the Seltos excels. It has a five-star ANCAP rating from 2019, and even the lower grades are well equipped with active features.
No matter which Seltos you buy, you’ll get essentials like autonomous emergency braking with forward-collision warning and pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, a rear-view camera and reverse sensors.
On top of other grades, the GT-Line adds front and rear sensors, blind-spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic alert, lane-following assist and cyclist detection for the AEB.
While all the base grades get cruise control, the GT-Line gets smart cruise control that can brake and accelerate for you to match the speed of leading vehicles, plus there’s steering assistance, which keeps you centred in your lane.
It all works well enough, but I found the steering assist tugs left and the live speed-limit information doesn’t do the greatest job of updating, so it's best to rely on your own eyes and steering.
The ‘leading vehicle departure alert’, which alerts you when the car in front pulls away from the lights, is a good idea if you’ve zoned out behind the wheel, though I couldn’t help but feel it’s enabling those who text and drive.
On the ownership front, Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty is an industry leader and a major drawcard.
Kia offers scheduled servicing for the Seltos GT-Line every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first, and services are priced from $282 for the first year, increasing up to as much as $600 or $640 for the six- or seven-year service, respectively.
Is the Kia Seltos a fuel-efficient car?
Kia promises combined fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km in the GT-Line, and that’s pretty bang on. I recorded 7.8L/100km across several freeway stints and regular daily driving sessions.
For an SUV, I’m pretty happy with that, especially since there’s no idle-stop system. In fact, these days I rarely drive cars – other than hybrids – that even come close to equalling their quoted fuel consumption figures. So kudos, Kia.
Is the Kia Seltos a spacious and comfortable car?
While it may purport to be a ‘small SUV’, I found the Seltos to be big on practical space – roomy enough for families, adult passengers, dogs and IKEA runs.
There’s plenty of head room and leg room in the back seat and basic accoutrements like air vents, an armrest with cupholders, a single USB port and ISOFIX ports.
Slightly taller occupants will appreciate how the rear seats can recline for extra comfort, as well as folding 60:40 to improve boot space.
The 433L of boot space on offer makes the Seltos one of the bigger boots in its class (it’s beaten by the Honda HR-V, which has an extra 4L) and the Sportage only adds an extra 33L – about the same size as your average milk crate.
There’s no power tailgate, which would have been nice, but there is a full-size spare alloy wheel, which is something of a rarity given lots of other cars offer temporary options. In the Seltos, you’ll get a proper spare in every grade bar the base-spec S.
|Boot volume (min/max)||433L / 1393L|
|Tare mass||1470 kg|
|Wheels/tyres||18-inch / 235/45 R18|
What standard equipment does the Kia Seltos have?
The front seat of the Seltos GT-Line is a surprisingly swanky situation. Any doubts you may have about dropping over $40K on a Kia will be dispelled by the glossy 10.25-inch touchscreen, colour head-up display and – praise be – a heated steering wheel.
Thankfully, it also has my must-haves: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and heated and cooled seats. Importantly, the GT-Line is the only Seltos grade to get heated seats, and with Melbourne’s winter temperatures, it’s almost non-negotiable and makes lower grades ever so slightly less appealing.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen is in every spec grade bar the base spec, and the display looks fantastic and is up there with the premium players – with the added bonus of being easy to use. The colour head-up display is also handy and stows neatly away in the dash, plus it has a digital speedometer, which is becoming something of a necessity in new cars.
Even though Kia is careful to point out the 'leather' in its cabin is artificial, the finishes don’t feel at all tacky or low-budget. However, some of the harsh plastic around the dashboard can show scratches easily.
There’s also a wireless phone charger, a sunroof, electronically adjustable seats, and a big 7.0-inch digital display nuzzled in between the instrument dials.
Overall, there are very few things missing from the GT-Line’s comprehensive package.
Specifically, there’s no dual-zone climate control, no power tailgate and no 360-degree-view camera. The latter, I find, is cropping up more frequently in top-spec, mass-market SUVs.
Otherwise, the only other crucial thing to note is that the eight-speaker Bose sound system is fantastic, and by being linked to the ambient interior lighting it adds a rather unique touch.
Should I buy the Kia Seltos?
All in all, I was really impressed with the Kia Seltos. I reckon the question that should be front of mind for potential buyers is not whether you should buy it, but rather which grade suits best.
Personally, my lifestyle rarely warrants all-wheel-drive capabilities, and I felt the occasionally jerky dual-clutch transmission was one of the few gripes in an otherwise polished package.
As such, lower grades – like the S or Sport fitted with optional safety pack – have the potential to save me some money and swap out the dual-clutch transmission for a continuously variable version.
Unfortunately, the lower-spec Seltos variants sacrifice seat heaters in exchange, but the safety and driver-assistance offering remains just as enticing.
And while the GT-Line may not be quite as affordable as many buyers expect from Kia, when you break down the sheer level of standard equipment on offer and the premium way it’s all packaged together, the price starts to make sense.
Add in its competitive cabin space, solid fuel economy and Volvo XC40-esque good looks, and we've got a winner on our hands. All that’s left to do is for Kia to bang a hybrid powertrain in the Seltos and the top-selling RAV4 will be shaking in its boots.