The first thing you notice about the 2021 Kia Seltos is the way it looks. Design has become a Kia hallmark, and the new Seltos serves as the most recent example.
The headlight fixtures wrap gracefully around to the fenders, all but eliminating any semblance of a corner. Attractive alloy wheels at each step of the trim ladder, innovative lighting and satin chrome accents on the C-pillars are further design touches.
The signature Tiger Nose grill is replicated at the top of the windshield. The added expense of creating an indent along the top of that big sheet of glass, tells you the design team had an unusual amount of influence over the bean counters.
Daytime running lights have been mandated for years, to ensure others on the road will see you coming. This important safety feature is all but wasted on a Seltos painted in Starbright yellow like the test vehicle. Anyone within kilometres will notice this newcomer!
The design excellence continues inside. The theme is simple yet elegant. Fit, finish, material quality and ergonomics are first rate, suitable for much more expensive vehicles.
Once you manage to pry your eyes away from the looks, you’ll find plenty of other reasons to focus on this compact crossover.
I came to think of the Seltos as ‘right-sized’.
Although it casts a shadow similar in size to the competition, the design team managed to find more space inside. Although compact in nature and classification, the Seltos has more rear seat leg and headroom than the others. This is especially important for those shopping for a small crossover, most of whom will have offspring assigned to the second row.
The Seltos, fits nicely into the Kia lineup between the Soul and Sportage. It is 22 cm longer than the Honda HR-V and 205 mm longer than the Hyundai Kona. The Seltos has more rear seat room than either, as well as the Mazda CX-30. Unlike its cousin, the Hyundai Kona, the Seltos is available with all-wheel-drive. It is also taller, longer, and has more room inside.
This was accomplished without sacrificing cargo space. Open that big tailgate, and you are looking at 753 litres of cargo space, including a clever bi-level floor. With the 60/40 rear seat folded down, that grows 1,778 litres — more than the ‘bigger’ Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5!
The base Seltos comes with a 22-cm customizable infotainment screen, 26-cm on all other trim levels. Depending on trim level, you also get a Bose audio system, heads-up display, wireless cell phone charger and Kia’s UVO intelligence system that provides everything from remote functions from your smart phone to a monthly ‘health report’. It will even shut off the engine automatically if you park in a confined space long enough to produce elevated levels of CO.
The base Seltos comes with a 146-horsepower, normally-aspirated four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission, driving the front wheels. All-wheel-drive and a new seven-speed dual clutch automatic are standard through the rest of the lineup.
The SX has a turbocharged engine belting out 175 horsepower, and more importantly 195 lb, ft. of torque at only 1,500 rpm.
All Seltos come with Drive Mode Select which tailors the transmission, engine and steering to different driving styles. On AWD models, you can lock the center differential for maximum traction in poor conditions.
Excellent suspension calibration results in a good compromise between ride and handling. There is a decent touch of sportiness when the road develops the bends, yet the Seltos does a decent job of soaking up road blemishes. As you’d expect from a tall vehicle, there is some lean in the corners and like all small, light vehicles it is more susceptible to major changes in the road surface.
The turbocharged engine, dual clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive combination is impressive. All 195 lb. ft. of torque are available from only 1,500 rpm. That low-end grunt allows the Seltos to get to 100 km/hr from rest in about seven seconds. Accelerating and passing are a breeze.
The 2021 Kia Seltos comes in LX FWD ($22,995); LX AWD ($24,995); EX ($27,595), EX Premium ($30,595) and SX turbo ($32,595) trim levels. Even the base model comes with air conditioning, power windows and locks, alloy wheels, heated front seats, blind spot warning system, rear cross traffic alert, rear seat occupant and safe exit alert, rear view camera, and a 20-cm info screen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto.
Obviously each step up the trim ladder brings more content.
The range-topping tester had 18-inch alloy wheels, forward collision avoidance and lane keep assist, blind spot collision avoidance, heated steering wheel, leather seats, sunroof, automatic climate control, push button start, LED headlights, navigation, UVO, heated and cooled power seats, heated rear seats, smart cruise control, adjustable ambient lighting, heads up display and a Bose audio system.
All models come with the full array of active and passive safety features, including a rear seat reminder with safe exit, blind spot detection and collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a rear view camera.
Kia has topped the J D Power initial quality ratings for five consecutive years. Yet it still offers a killer warranty – five years or 100,000 km covering virtually the entire vehicle. That includes roadside assistance for the same period.
The newest member of Kia’s crossover family, offers an excellent combination of style, space, value and driving dynamics.
Click here for artist-in-residence Michael Doyle’s take on the 2021 Kia Seltos.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2021 Kia Seltos SX
As tested: $34,740 including freight
Smart Cruise Control, forward collision avoidance assist, blind spot detection and collision avoidance, rear cross traffic alert, LED headlights, lane keep assist and lane follow assist, rear view camera,
navigation, 26-cm touchscreen infotainment display with UVO telematics, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, Bose audio system, satellite radio
18-in alloy wheels, Sofino leather seats, heads up display, wireless cell charger, sunroof, heated washer nozzles and power mirrors, automatic climate control, keyless entry, smart cruise control. Tilt & telescope steering wheel, push button start, heated steering wheel, electronic parking brake, LED headlights, power heated and cooled front seats, heated second row seats, cargo cover
Starbright yellow paint, $250
Turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 175 horsepower, 195 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.4 / 7.9
Length, 4,370 mm; width, 1,800 mm; wheelbase, 2,630 mm; weight, 1,507 kg
Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Compass, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Roque, Subaru Crosstrek