The Seltos is Kia’s latest, and smallest, crossover. (No, we don’t count the Soul, and neither should you.) It sits below the Sportage, but you’d hardly know it from inside, where the Seltos offers up practically as much space as some of the compact crossovers out there. It’s an affordable, spacious family hauler.
New for 2021: The Seltos is all new for 2021, going on sale early in 2020.
EPA has released the fuel economy figures for the upcoming Kia Seltos. The most fuel-efficient of the three powertrains is the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter/CVT/FWD setup which returns 29mpg in the city, 34mpg on the highway while the combined efficiency stands at 31mpg. In the AWD variant of the same powertrain, the efficiency drops to 27mpg in the city, 31mpg on the highway and to 29mpg overall. The 1.6-litre, dual-clutch powertrain is available with AWD only and returns 25mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 27 combined. It is also the least fuel-efficient powertrain of the Seltos.
Kia unveiled the Seltos at the 2019 Los Angeles International Auto Show on Wednesday, November 20. While it’s a new model for North America, other markets have had access to it since summer of 2019.
The Seltos is the Korean brand’s latest entry in its crossover lineup. Slotting in between the Soul and Sportage, the Seltos is a compact two-row crossover on the same platform as the Hyundai Kona. Compared to its H-badged sibling, the Seltos is 8.2 inches longer: at 172.2 inches nose-to-tail it’s actually closer to the Sportage in length. That makes it a much roomier proposition, especially for second-row passengers.
Engine choices mirror the Kona lineup, with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 146 hp and 132 lb-ft and 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with outputs of 175 hp and 195 lb-ft. These send their power to either the front or all four wheels via two transmission choices: a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the base engine, or seven-speed dual-clutch for the turbo.
The Seltos features a big touch screen at the center of its interior, in either 8.0- or 10.25-inch sizes. It also features Kia’s full suite of safety features on every trim bar the LX, including, emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. Additional driver assists depend on the trim.
Pricing for the Seltos begins at $23,110, including $1,120 in destination charges. Spring for the top SX Turbo and you’re looking at a still-reasonable $29,010 before options.
Pros/ Lots of space / Affordable pricing / Smooth city ride
Cons/Slightly cheap interior / Fidgety highway ride / Base engine lacks oomph
Bottom Line/A smart, friendly family crossover, the Seltos leverages Kia's traditional reputation for value to strong effect.
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Kia Seltos Powertrain
The Seltos offers two engine options, both of which should be familiar to Kia and Hyundai drivers. The base engine is the company’s sturdy 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Naturally aspirated, it produces 146 hp and 132 lb-ft. Pairing with it is a CVT, with a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive.
Those looking for more oomph can graduate to the 1.6-liter turbo. This bumps power to 175 hp, and torque to a strong 195 lb-ft of twist. It’s all-wheel drive only, with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission handling shifting duties.
Kia Seltos Features and Pricing
Seltos LX: Starts at $23,110
The Seltos lineup starts with two identically-priced models. The LX is the all-wheel drive option: it sacrifices some comfort, convenience, and safety features from the front-drive S for that purpose.
Even at this price, the little Seltos crams in a reasonable amount of standard features. This includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen, 17-inch allow wheels, a six-speaker sound system, keyless entry, 60/50 split-folding rear seats, and an independent rear suspension.
You won’t find Kia’s full suite of driver assists on the LX, however. For that, you need to either move up to other trims, or switch to the front-drive S.
Seltos S: $23,110
The S is the only front-drive trim on offer, and it packs a bunch of extra features in for the same starting price as the LX. Outside you’ll find LED daytime running lights and tail lights, and roof rails. Inside, the Seltos S features Kia’s Sofino faux-leather on the seats, with contrasting blue stitching. Real leather wraps the steering wheel and shift knob.
Opting for the S also includes Kia’s suite of driver safety assist, including automated emergency braking, driver attention warning, auto high beams, and lane keep/departure/follow assists.
Seltos EX: $26,410
The mid-level EX is the top trim with the 2.0-liter engine. Here you’re back to all-wheel drive, with every goodie from the S included. In addition, you’ll find auto climate control, a wireless charging pad, power sunroof, smart key with remote start, and seats fully trimmed in the Sofino material. The driver’s seat is 10-way power-adjustable, too.
On the safety side, the EX adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Seltos S Turbo: $26,610
Just as how the regular S prioritizes features over all-wheel-drive, the S Turbo goes for power over features. For $200 more than the EX, you get to keep the all-wheel drive, and find the more powerful 1.6-liter turbo under the hood. Sharp 18-inch alloy wheels sit at all four corners too.
The seats go back to partial cloth/Sofino, and the driver’s seat is once again manually adjustable. You’ll lose the sunroof, smart key, and wireless phone charger too.
Seltos SX Turbo: $29,010
As you can probably guess, the SX adds a lot of the EX features back onto the S Turbo. All the good stuff is back, and you also get the larger 10.25-inch infotainment screen, full LED fog- and headlights, an upgraded instrument cluster, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and LED interior lighting.
The SX Turbo is also the only trim in the Seltos lineup to feature Kia’s Highway Driver Assist and adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality.
Kia Seltos Recommended Trim
There’s a lot of value in the Seltos, and Kia has spread out the trims to make it easy for folks to pick based on their priorities. It’s helpful to offer the entry-level models in both front- and all-wheel drive, with the difference being in the amount of kit.
For us, the sweet spot is right in the middle with the Seltos EX. You get the all-wheel drive, you get most of the toys, and crucially, you also get all the important safety assists. It misses out on the turbo engine, but the added power isn’t a deal breaker in something this size.
Kia Seltos Features
The Kia Seltos comes with an 8.0- or 10.25 inch touchscreen infotainment system. On the top-shelf SX trim, this pairs with another 7.0-inch screen for the driver. (Other trims use a 3.5-inch display between the gauges.) Also included is Kia’s easy-to-use UVO system, which offers a range of smartphone pairing features as well as full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. The system allows two Bluetooth connections at the same time, while the Kia Owner’s app lets people carry their audio preferences with them. An in-vehicle notification system also keeps buyers updated on areas like maintenance, warranties, and recalls.
The Seltos features a familiar pair of Kia engines: the 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated inline-four and the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-pot. Outputs are 146 hp / 132 lb-ft and 175 hp / 195 lb-ft, respectively. The larger engine hooks up to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), whereas the turbo pairs with Kia’s seven-speed dual-clutch unit. Front-drive is standard, with AWD available on all trims.
Kia Seltos vs Ford EcoSport
It might be a lot smaller, but in terms of price, Ford’s pint-sized EcoSport isn’t far removed from the new Seltos. It starts at $21,580 with destination, and you’ll want to add a few grand to that to get an interior experience that matches the Seltos’.
Given its smaller size and tiny 1.0-liter engine, you’d think the EcoSport had the fuel economy advantage. Truth is, it’s unlikely to: Ford quotes 27 mpg city, 29 mpg highway for its little crossover, whereas the Seltos’ platform-mate, the Hyundai Kona, boasts 27/33. Kia hasn’t released Seltos figures yet, but we don’t expect it to be too far off those.
Kia Seltos vs Nissan Rogue Sport
If there’s another manufacturer out there that knows about plugging gaps in its crossover lineup, it’s Nissan. The Rogue Sport showed up on the scene a few years ago, slotting in between the Juke—now replaced by the Kicks—and the regular Rogue.
The Rogue Sport and the Seltos are practically the same length at around 172 inches long. Both feature a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine hooked up to a CVT, in front- or all-wheel drive. They both start around the $22k mark. The Rogue Sport majors on safety with a suite of driver assist tech. So does the Seltos. Needless to say, these two are well-matched, and we’ll need to test them head-to-head to figure out the differences.
2021 Kia Seltos EX Review: Where Do Its Priorities Lie?
By Kshitij Sharma
Kia’s new sub-compact crossover has an uphill battle on its hands. Can it prevail?
The general quality of cars has risen tremendously over the past decade and a half. We are at a stage in the history of the automobile where there are no more “bad cars”. This has made the job of an automotive journalist quite difficult. Now we actually have to put in the work and look at the finer points, because everything just works.
But the whole rise in quality has also brought something unique to the fore: the focus. The sub-compact crossover segment where the 2021 Kia Seltos sits is fraught with options. But instead of what works and what options are available today, the question is what the car does best. Is it a highway cruiser, a city slicker or a corner carver? That is the question we attempt to answer with the Kia Seltos EX 2.0—so let’s start with where you’ll spend the most time.
The Spacious Cabin
The Seltos’ boxy shape frees up an ample room inside, and you never feel constrained despite the tiny sunroof. Plus, even taller passengers will have ample headroom in the rear bench thanks to the high and squarish roofline. According to dear wifey, the seats are more comfortable than more expensive crossovers. Those of slightly wider proportions, like yours truly, will feel snug without feeling uncomfortable. The addition of lumbar adjustment could have added to the comfort though.
We had the EX trim as our tester. It sits in the middle of the lineup overall, and at the top of the trims with the 2.0-liter engine. Despite being the top dog in the 2.0-liter lineup, it is devoid of electrically adjustable seats and soft-feel plastic. Though the plastic on the dash feels of adequate quality, you do feel that you are in a budget car.
The steering wheel is (faux) leather-wrapped and feels nice to hold but it also further enhances the contrast between what you get and what you miss. The rear bench, as we said before, is quite spacious but the seat backs could be more supportive. You constantly feel you are spilling out of them despite the sizeable shoulder width of 54.7 inches. One of the gripes—rather a nitpick—is that door pockets are a tad too small to hold one-liter metal bottles. They do however fit into the cup-holders without a problem, so you will have to choose wisely between your cuppa joe and the water.
The trunk space is massive. I would go into the exact measurements but it is almost square barring the wheel arches that protrude into the trunk. It easily swallowed my three-year old’s stroller and bicycle along with half a week’s worth of groceries so that’s quite impressive.
Is the 8.0-inch Screen Enough?
Surprisingly, yes. The infotainment screen isn’t groundbreaking but is adequate and honestly, better than the one on some crossovers from a segment above (I’m looking at you, RAV4). The screen resolution is sharp, and the interface is smooth.
You can customize the home screen but the interface itself isn’t intuitive. The buttons on the sides really help in quick navigation. Speaking of, there is no in-built navigation so you will have to rely on the navigation from Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, both of which are standard. Both work quite well but Apple CarPlay is smoother. If you have the map and Spotify on at the same time the system tends to lag at times, though. I really like the star button, which lets you assign any function you want to it.
Let’s start with the city. The ride is supple and very comfortable. You can tell the suspension is soft sprung but not overtly so. It tackles undulations and deep manhole covers that seem to litter the city streets with ease. Even if you hit them at 35 mph you get barely a thud and just don’t feel it. Even staggered rumblers don’t unsettle the car, provided you do slow down for them. Body roll is minimal and even the sharper turns at sedate speeds do not upset the balance of the Seltos. The cabin too is fairly quiet and NVH levels are adequate for the city as not much sound filters into the cabin unless you’re passed by a loaded semi.
Get on to the freeway however, and things, unfortunately, fall apart a bit. The moment you cross 50 mph, the tire roar simply switches on. It sounds like someone turned the dryer on right beneath your feet and forgot to turn it off. The wind noise increases too, and it becomes hard to drive with no music on. Plus, given the Seltos’ almost square side profile and relatively low weight, it’s easy picking for a strong wind draft. It simply doesn’t feel comfortable on a highway. It gets jittery especially when changing lanes and a bit jumpy when you hit undulations on the freeways. You will almost always feel stressed on the freeway and relieved when you get off them.
One of the most remarkable things about the engine is the instantaneous start-up. Thumb the starter and the engine come to life instantly. It’s almost like an electric car except, you know, the engine noise, of which there is plenty. Though the cabin is fairly quiet, if by any chance you have your window down, you will hear it. And from the outside, it doesn’t sound nearly as refined as you would expect—it’s rather clattery.
The engine pairs with a continuously-variable transmission with all-wheel drive. Kia calls their CVT the IVT or the Intelligent Variable Transmission and with good reason. It has an eight-step ratio system and it goes through its virtual ratios exactly like an AT would. It makes gearshifts (between virtual ratios of course) feel more organic than a conventional CVT. Rolling off the line is no problem and just like the suspension setup, the CVT feels completely at home in the city. Although easy-going, you don’t feel the four-pot is lacking in power or grunt. But it is not the one for quick overtakes. The transmission is sedate too: it responds well to throttle inputs but sudden changes throw it off its balance. You will miss the overtake window because the transmission couldn’t shift down its ratios fast enough. Dial the enthusiasm back a bit and the transmission responds well—and you tend to cover ground more quickly—but the urgency you sometimes might require is lacking.
The engine makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque which, while adequate in the city feels, not so on the freeway. There is virtually no grunt in the lower half of the rev-range. Nothing happens before 3,000 rpm at highway speeds. Plus, since it has eight ratios, the seventh and eighth are essentially overrides. Even while coasting, the gearbox usually seats itself in sixth unless you go for the manual override which can be used for coasting only. Sitting in eighth I mashed the pedal to the carpet to analyze the results and literally, nothing happened. It was a similar case in seventh but at least there was gradual progress.
When you do want to accelerate you will have to drop down to fifth to make up ground at highway speeds which means constantly edging over the 3,500 rpm mark. That’s when the Seltos starts to cover ground but also severely affects the fuel economy. After 250 miles evenly distributed between city and highway the Seltos returned 25.8 mpg overall which isn’t exactly impressive. If the car is fully loaded with four adults and a child on board, it tends to feel even more underpowered and almost bogged down by the weight.
A Sharp Suit But Not Tailored
In profile, the Seltos looks quite SUV-like, more so than a lot of its competitors, which stay true to their crossover roots.
The Seltos sports the conventional two-box SUV styling with a square face, a relatively steeply raked windshield, a roof that doesn’t swoop downwards, and a tailgate that is just that. The sleek DRLs and the tiger nose grille stands out in a crowd and a brighter color than the one we had will certainly turn heads.
Another quirky design element is the tiger-nose-esque kink in the windshield that lines up perfectly with the grille and lends the front a unique look. The tail lamps are far from unique though. If you were to remove the badges, anyone would be hard pressed to discern what it was that was holding up the fast lane on the freeway.
The Kia Seltos starts from $23,110 for the base LX trim, ($24,790 in Canada). The one we got for our test was the EX trim which starts from $26,410 ($29,390) before options. The EX is the top 2.0-liter trim; beyond that you’re in turbo territory. Going above the EX trim the S and SX trims are priced from $26,690 and $29,010 ($34,390) respectively. By comparison, the Toyota C-HR, only available in front-drive form, starts from $22,620 ($25,590) and the Mazda CX-30 with AWD starts from $24,400 ($28,000). Though the Mazda is more powerful and also more expensive, with the Seltos you get a lot of car for your money.
Verdict: 2021 Kia Seltos EX Review
There is no doubt that the Seltos, especially with the 2.0-liter engine, is strictly an urban dweller. It rides well in the city and has a trunk large enough for groceries and your kid’s school supplies to coexist with ease. Out on the highway though, it feels nervous and out of its element. So, if you drive mostly in the city, virtually never venturing out on the highway, and want something that is compact, comfortable and easy on the pocket, the Seltos 2.0 is the ideal car.
|Price Range (USD) /||$23,110–$29,010 (est)|
|Engine /||2.0L I4 / 1.6L I4 Turbo|
|Horsepower (hp) /||146 / 175|
|Torque (lb-ft) /||132 / 195|
|Fuel Economy (mpg) /||29/34/31 (2.0 FWD) / 27/31/29 (2.0 AWD) / 25/30/27 (1.6T AWD)|
|Transmission /||CVT/7AT, FWD/AWD|