In the hard-fought compact SUV/Crossover market, there's no shortage of offerings. All the major players have a skin in the game and with competition being so good, there's not a single offering that doesn't deserve a closer look for possible buyers in the segment. Take this KIA for example, it's the latest release from the Korean automaker (and my very first KIA press car) and it's sold under the name Seltos. I don't know about you, but I reckon it sure has some great styling, this is one very good-looking compact SUV, and if it looks a little bigger than many of it's segment rivals that's because it is. Not much, but enough to make it stand out just a little more. I'd first seen a Seltos in the launch press release somewhere in April, and not again until there was one in my driveway for review. I gave it the usual walk-around, climbed in and set off on my first drive, which took me out Pretoria way. Now I don't know if it was a Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or not, but I counted seven Seltos models on my route, and two billboards advertising it. That surely bodes well for sales of the Indian-built Korean SUV here in SA.
The model I was in was the EX+ model, the midway offering in the Seltos range, which falls in above the EX and below the GT-Line. Being the middle child often means a good combination of features and spec, but this is a KIA, and so there's even ample features included in the base model to keep you happy. With the EX+ starting at R389 995 it's not cheap, but still sits below the entry VW T-Cross Highline that starts at R397 100, the entry Opel Mokka X at R400 000 and the Suzuki Vitara that has a lineup that starts way down at R293 900 for the entry model to R405 900 for the flagship seven iterations later. While these all have good spec, the KIA Seltos does look to offer the best overall package for your Rand, and that's something many people are taking close note of these days thanks to the current state of the world.
As I mentioned, I think the Seltos is great to look at and while the looks are striking and bold, I think many will agree with me. Up front we find that the styling sees the Seltos fall in line with KIA's current design architecture with the Tiger Nose grille. I'll copy in the actual description from the press release, because everyone deserves to read such eloquent penmanship... "The Seltos strikes an agile pose on any road. From the front, its wide ‘tiger nose’ grille – featuring a new interpretation of KIA’s signature design feature – is flanked by striking headlamps to endow it with a sporty, confident visage. The bold front-end treatment is bolstered by a robust shoulder line and a glasshouse that tapers towards the rear, giving the vehicle an air of understated sportiness. On higher specification models, the chrome detailing along the window line emphasizes this sweeping look towards the rear, ending in a flourish on the C-pillar that creates a ‘floating roof’ impression. Wheel arches feature black cladding to underline the crossover nature of the car. The rear bumper features a three-dimensional surface treatment with an integrated metallic-look skid plate, as well as a dual chrome muffler garnish (model dependent). In combination with the chrome-look tailgate garnish, which connects the taillights horizontally, the width of the Seltos is emphasized for a sporty yet planted stance when viewed from the rear. All models are equipped with LED Daytime Running Lights at the front, as well as front fog lamps across the range. On the higher specification models, both fog lamps, headlights and indicators are full LED, with similar treatments for the rear combination lamps." In normal speak, the KIA Seltos looks cool AF.
My review model was in Intelligency Blue and I liked it a lot, especially with the darker than normal silver 17-inch alloys and black cladding as a contrast. The ones I spotted on my drive were Intense Red, an apt name because it looks just brilliant, and also Glacier Pearl White which also totally suits the compact SUV. Other colours available include Steel Silver, Gravity Grey, Aurora Black Pearl and a special order only - Punchy Orange. As is the norm with SUVs and compact SUVs, two-tone options are a given, and so the white and red models can be had with a black roof, and the special order orange can be had with a white roof.
Under the hood of the Seltos EX+ we find the same configuration as in the entry EX, except unlike the former it's only available in automatic guise. The powerplant is a 1.6 (1591cc) 4-cylinder without extra help from any form of forced induction, and so the power on tap is rated at 90kW with torque claimed at 151kW. The engine falls under the Gamma banner and while it's powerful enough to keep a fully-loaded Seltos happily trundling along, the range-topping GT Line (not to be confused with the Peugeot range) features a more powerful turbocharged 1.4-litre lump and will no doubt feel much punchier. Some of the segment competitors also feature turbocharged engines, but mostly for a fair amount more money, besides the Suzuki Vitara which is pretty close in pricing. The Seltos isn't meant to tear up the tarmac, and so the claimed performance figures of 0- 100km/h in 11.2-seconds, and a top speed of 175km/h are more than adequate. KIA clams fuel consumption figures of 7.2-litres/100km, but the best I saw during my test week was 8.2-litres, which still isn't bad at all.
The spec level of the EX+ is good, and the leather seats are especially comfortable with a really cool pattern in them. The EX features cloth and the GT Line also has leather but with red stitching to give it a sporty feel. Cabin layout is good too, the 8-inch touchscreen does look a little upright, but it's perfectly angled toward the driver. The functionality of the infotainment system is simple and easy to use, and with it being hooked up to six speakers, it plays great. You can bang your tunes via the radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and I mean bang coz it sounds that good. The front doors also have the coolest looking door panels and speaker grilles, especially when you're looking at night and the ambient mood lighting is set. In the cabin you'll also find manual aircon, electronically adjustable folding side mirrors, steering-mounted controls, electric windows, cruise control, front and rear USB charging ports and up front there's been the addition of a centre console armrest with integrated storage box. On the safety front the KIA Seltos again holds its own. We find a body shell is produced with a high percentage of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) and so the underbody is designed to absorb and disperse impact energy, while hot stamping technology is used to reinforce the core vehicle body sections to increase torsional rigidity, decrease weight and enhance occupant safety. All Seltos models feature dual front airbags, two side airbags for the front occupants and two cabin-length side curtain airbags. There's also ISOFIX child seat anchors, ABS brakes, with EBD (Electronic Brake-Force Distribution), rear PDC and a reverse camera. The EX+ and GT Line models are also equipped with ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and HAC (Hill-start Assist Control).
In real world driving, this KIA Seltos is really cool. There's not much for me to fault on it. I love the exterior looks, the interior layout and spec and the engine and transmission. I think I may prefer the powerplant in the GT Line, purely because it has a turbocharger and because boost is fun. Interior trim materials can feel hard in places, but to me that just means it'll last past the lengthy warrantee and more. Just about every time I stopped at a station or a shopping centre, I had people asking me what I was driving and if it's released yet. Most people just stare and don't engage, especially in this world of face masks and social distancing, so that should tell you something. As mentioned, I saw load of these on the road during my test week, and I think that's something that can be summed up in this quote: “KIA is well known for offering exceptional quality and comprehensive specification across its model ranges. The all-new Seltos delivers all of that, and more,” says Gary Scott, CEO, KIA Motors South Africa. For more info, specs and pics, head on over to the dedicated KIA Seltos website.
As with all KIA models, all KIA Seltos models ship as standard with KIA’s industry-leading Unlimited Kilometre, 5-year warranty (inclusive of roadside assistance), and also include a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan.
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX Manual R 353,995
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX Automatic R 371,995
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX+ Automatic R 389,995
KIA Seltos 1.4 T-GDi GT-Line R444,995
A 1.5-litre CRDI (Common Rail Diesel Injection) engine will join the Seltos line-up in the second quarter of 2020, also available with a choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Pricing will be announced closer to the local introduction.