The Kia Seltos is quickly becoming one of the brand's most sought-after cars. An all-important offering in the Kia SUV portfolio, the Seltos is captivating, edgy, and developed by a brand that was once a challenger and is now a mainstay.
Arriving in late 2019, the Seltos has proved its worth and managed to stand tall in a crowded small-SUV segment. Sales in 2020 were impressive, with the Seltos managing to finish the year in a respectable third in its segment.
It’s for this very reason that we are testing this Kia. A vehicle in high demand for a wide buyer group, this car has continued its strong sales in 2021 – so much so that it's a car consumers are lining up for.
The Seltos’s portfolio is plentiful with four equipment grades on offer, starting with the S grade ($26,290), the Sport ($29,290), the Sport+ FWD ($32,790), AWD ($36,290) and the flagship GT-Line ($41,700). All prices are excluding on-road costs.
The model on test was the 2021 Kia Seltos Sport+ all-wheel drive finished with prestige paint in 'gravity grey', adding $520 to the price tag, and bringing the total as-tested cost to $36,810. (Drive-away $38,790 before any options).
Our model was equipped with the 1.6-litre turbo engine paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Sport+ is also available in front-wheel drive with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) – but there are no diesel or manual variants offered across the entire Seltos range.
|2021 Kia Seltos Sport+|
|Engine||1.6-litre turbo engine|
|Power||130kW at 6000rpm|
|Torque||265Nm at 1500–4500rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)||$36,810|
It's worth looking at the current leaders in this segment starting with the Hyundai Kona, which is perhaps the closest comparison in terms of its mechanical package. It packs a 1.6-litre engine, has an all-wheel-drive variant, and starts from $34,140.
The Mitsubishi ASX costs $33,490 for the Exceed, one grade under the top-of-the-range Highlander. It sports a 2.4-litre engine, but doesn’t offer an all-wheel drive.
Comparing price tags, the range-topping MG ZS Essence starts from $25,990. Note the engine is a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre, and drives through its front wheels.
While the Seltos Sport+ may be at the higher end of the spectrum, it offers a striking package – an attractive small SUV bundled with standard safety features and a huge boot. More to come on that.
Overall, the Seltos is a satisfying drive – it’s nimble, comfortable and the turbo packs plenty of punch. While it provides sufficient power, there is some hesitation and jerkiness that comes with the dual-clutch transmission. The delay is most noticeable at lower speeds, and more so when undertaking quick manoeuvres or in stop-start traffic.
Transmission aside, the Seltos feels refined with the all-wheel drive providing plenty of traction and grip. Notably, perhaps one of its greatest attributes in this Kia is its dynamic handling, especially when at higher speeds. It's precise and its handling is spot on – even more so than front-wheel-drive versions.
The Seltos scores a suspension tune, whereas all-wheel-drive variants are finished with the more sophisticated multi-link set-up in the rear. The result? The ride quality is exceptional.
Kia can be applauded for its local tuning effort making the ride absorbent and better suited to the unique roads in Australia. What's more, the Seltos’s steering is light, prompt and effortless, even when negotiating into tighter turns.
While the drive in the Seltos feels cosy and smooth, it’s not inherently quiet, with some noise that infiltrates through the cabin. It's nothing too imposing, though. The Kia gets additional ticks for its impressive visibility, a generous turning circle of 10.6m, and a great high-definition-guide reversing camera.
Once this Kia gets going on the open road, it’s a seamless and smooth drive, and you don’t need to put in much effort for it to deliver its power – the response is plentiful over the entire rev range. This Seltos pumps out 130kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm at 1500–4500rpm.
You don’t score paddles on the steering, but if you're wanting to add a bit more oomph to the drive, there is always the option of engaging the gearshifter. In Sports mode, the throttle response is noticeably sharper.
Along with Normal and Sport, there’s also an Eco mode that we didn’t engage a whole lot. When activated, you will feel an instant decline in power, but around town we opted for the Normal selection.
Kia claims a combined fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km, while we returned a much higher reading of 9.4L/100km, with driving mainly conducted in Normal mode on freeways and regular daily driving stints along urban roads. Perhaps we should have engaged Eco mode more often. In some good news, the Seltos can be filled with regular unleaded.
|Fuel claim, combined||7.6L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||9.4L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars|
The Kia Seltos measures in at 1800mm wide, is 4370mm long and 1620mm high. To put this in context, it’s not too far off the next step up in its SUV range with the Sportage only 55mm wider, 115mm longer and 35mm higher.
This car is a good-looker and does a great job at standing out in the crowded class. It's bold with sharp lines, black accents and a well-proportioned mesh front grille. The Sport+ is equipped with halogen headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Jump into the cabin and you'll be pleasantly surprised by its spacious interior. The front row is roomy with adequate storage space that isn’t always easy to come by in small SUVs. The centre console is generous, all four door bins provide a cupholder, and there are two additional cupholders up front too. Back-seat passengers score sufficient head and leg room, but miss out on air vents.
The fit-out of the interior is simple, but looks fairly well put together. Once you start rubbing and knocking on surfaces, though, you'll notice it has its fair share of plastics.
The Seltos is equipped with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, and we can happily report that the system is user-friendly and responsive. Connecting to Bluetooth, using the satellite navigation and navigating through the screens, all tasks were easily undertaken by the team.
The Kia is a clearer winner against the competitors mentioned when it comes to boot space. It's mega measuring in at 433L of cargo space with the second-row seats in use. With a 60/40 split you’re treated to 1393L. The MG offers 359L, the Hyundai 361L, and the Mitsubishi 393L. The Seltos also manages a full-size alloy spare wheel.
The Seltos Sport+ comes standard with blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, rear-view cross-traffic avoidance assist, lane-keep assist, driver-attention alert plus, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning and car, pedestrian and cyclist avoidance, and finally high-beam assist, just to name a few. We particularly prized the lane-keep assist and driver-attention alert as they weren't too intrusive like many other brands.
There are also six airbags and it carries a five-star ANCAP safety rating. Other features that warrant a mention are front seatbelt pretensioners, adaptive cruise control, three top tether and two ISOFIX child seat mounts, and traction and stability control.
In terms of warranty, Kia offers a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing costs are as follows for the 1.6-litre turbo petrol – $275, $466, $339, $600, $309, $595 and $632 ($3216 in total).
As there are multiple versions to choose from in the Seltos family, it's a decision that will no doubt require some analysis come purchase time.
If you want the overall package, then you may want to go for the GT-Line as it provides additions such as a panoramic sunroof, wireless charging, extra safety tech such as safe-exit alert and lane-following assist, heated and ventilated front seats, plus a head-up display. These are all niceties but non-essentials, and you'll find yourself entering the $40K-plus bracket.
Therefore, if these things aren’t deal-breakers for you, then don't pass by the 2021 Kia Seltos Sport+ in the showroom, as it's our pick of the bunch. It’s not that much more expensive than the Sport, sits just under the range-topper, and offers the safety package as standard. What's more, with the Seltos Sport+ you get the option of the CVT if this engine isn't to your liking.
Shopping the rest of the segment, you may get nervy at the Seltos's price, but you're spending that little extra for a car that presents a great package of clever styling, great drivability, impressive space and ample safety.