New car review: Kia Seltos S

Kia delivers timely upgrades to keep its Seltos near the front of the compact SUV pack.

It’s been just over a year since Kia arrived fashionably late to the booming small SUV party with its all-new Seltos.

While the early birds may have snaffled some of the juicy sales worms, the Seltos doesn’t appear to have suffered for its tardy arrival, finishing 2020 as the third most popular model in the sub-$40k small SUV segment.

Only its Korean cousin, the Hyundai Kona, and Mitsubishi’s class leading ASX boasted more sales last year.  

Now that it has a competitive player in the segment Kia seems determined to press its advantage, recently releasing an MY21 update to ensure the Seltos snares its share of attention in the fiercely competitive segment.

The low-key revisions include the addition of junction assist into the existing AEB system on Sport+ and GT-line, as well as on S and Sport models where the $1000 optional safety pack is specified. 

The entry-level S and S with safety pack, as tested here, also receive a new 8.0-inch colour LCD touchscreen with wireless smartphone connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The other variants get a larger 10.25-inch screen but require a cable connection.

Kia Seltos.

A cargo cover, already standard on Sport+ and GT-Line, has also been added to S and Sport models, further enriching their offer. 

The model range includes AWD variants of the Sport+ and GT-line, both powered by a 1.6-litre turbo direct-injection petrol engine with seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and three front-wheel-drive models powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT auto.

The standard Seltos comes well-equipped with safety and driver assistance features but in the case of the Seltos S the optional safety pack adds some valuable extra features. 

These include adding junction assist to the standard AEB system; cyclist detection in addition to standard vehicle and pedestrian detection; and driver attention alert+, which advises drivers to take a break if it detects signs of fatigue and provides an alert when a stationary vehicle in front moves.

Other features include smart cruise control, larger rear brake discs (284mm, up from 262mm), an electric park brake with auto-hold function, power-fold exterior mirrors with turn indicators and auto up/down driver’s window.

However, if like us you appreciate the benefits of rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and blind-spot monitoring, you’ll need to set your sights higher than the entry-level S and look to the Sports+ or GT-Line for these features.

Kia Seltos.

The Seltos’ maximum engine outputs of 110kW and 180Nm might seem modest, but the 2.0-litre engine never feels sluggish or unresponsive. 

In fact, it’s a willing unit for the most part with enough verve to keep most buyers happy.

The CVT transmission is also one of the better autos of this type that we’ve driven with little in the way of rubbery elastic ratio changes or engine flaring that can be an annoying CVT characteristic.

Kia’s local suspension tuning team has also waved its wand over the Seltos with the result that our test car, rolling on 16-inch steel wheels, struck a pleasing balance between ride and handling. 

The ride proved a tad firm but nicely composed and easily capable of mopping up most road irregularities and imperfections.

The handling was likewise sure-footed and in combination with well-weighted and responsive steering, the Seltos proved a reasonably enjoyable drive. 

Manually adjustable cloth-trimmed front seats, six-way for the driver and four-way for the passenger, offer sufficient comfort and support. 

Rear passengers are reasonably well catered for, too, and will no doubt appreciate the extra space on offer, given the Seltos is one of the larger vehicles in the class. 

Drive_MOTORING

There are, however, no rear air vents, seatback pockets or USB ports for second-row passengers.

Load space is practically proportioned for a compact vehicle, with 468 litres (VDA) of cargo volume in S models with their standard space-saver spare wheel, and 433 litres for all other models with a full-size matching alloy wheel. This expands to 1428 litres and 1393 litres respectively with the 60:40 split rear seat folded.

The cabin is neatly assembled throughout, with piano black surrounds for the tablet-style screen and HVAC control panel, a silvery grey dash panel insert and a 3D textural surface to the door speaker grills as highlights. However, the synthetic steering wheel cover and wholesale use of hard-looking plastic slabs in the dash, doors, and other trim areas, remind one that the Seltos is finished with price containment in mind.

Owners can, however, draw confidence from the knowledge that Kia is one of only a few car makers to back its vehicle with an industry-leading seven years/unlimited kilometre warranty. Seven years of capped price servicing at 12-month/15,000km intervals totals a budget-friendly $2818.

Minor quibbles aside, the affordable and competitively priced Seltos is clearly one of the better offerings in the small SUV class. It delivers an effortlessly easy driving experience, along with good safety features, practicality, and spaciousness. 

Key stats

MLP: $28,290 drive-away.

ENGINE: 2.0-litre petrol four cylinder.

ANCAP CRASH RATING:  Five stars (2019).

FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined cycle, litres/100km):  6.8 (157g/km CO₂).

FOR: Pleasant and easy to drive, practical and spacious, MY21 updates, excellent warranty.

AGAINST: Some cheap-looking interior trims, space-saver spare on S grade.