The KIA Seltos is somewhat overdue for KIA. It has needed a crossover for some time, to fill that gap below the KIA Sportage. Unsurprisingly then, it is now the 2nd highest seller for KIA fairly close behind the much cheaper KIA Picanto.
Launched early in 2020, the KIA Seltos could possibly have quickly become the bestselling vehicle for KIA were it not for the oddity of 2020 and a hefty chunk of budgets dwindling and therefore sales being missed. But in July 2020, KIA added the 1.5CRDI diesel engine to the line-up, a welcome addition as far as variety is concerned and something that sets it apart from a number of other competitors in what is quite frankly one of the most fiercely contested segments. From Mahindra to Volkswagen, a number of manufacturers have something in this compact/crossover pot.
Late as it may seem, the KIA Seltos has been well received by the consumers and journalists a like. In most respects it is what we have come to expect from KIA, a quality product overall and generously specified.
It’s stylish in a sort of Korean way, the new grille seemingly not as universally popular across the board. Different yes but some of our team had varying remarks. Around the rest of the car, the silver roof rails and black trim contrasts particularly behind the C-pillar give the car an interesting and modern touch. Daytime running lights are standard on this model and at 4,31-metres in length, it’s not the smallest of the compacts but that bodes well for interior space and packaging as you’ll see later.
KIA has done a great job at building an interior that is welcoming and comfortable. This is mostly thanks to beautiful leather seats found on this EX+ model. The leather seats look like they come from much more expensive machinery with a ‘quilted’ pattern look. They’re not actually quilted of course, but rather a pattern formed stamping the shapes into the leather – but whatever, who cares, they really look and feel good.
Where the KIA Seltos really delivers as far as the cabin is concerned, it’s in the area of space and packaging. This is a generous interior with excellent legroom throughout the car and excellent boot space of 433-litres. The rear bootlid has a wide opening and it laid out in an uncomplicated square space and it still has a full sized spare wheel under the boot floor.
The price of this car is edging towards the R500k mark and for a compact SUV no less. SO one would expect a fair amount of specification here and KIA is on the money. The Seltos EX+ comes with a high spec list including cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, all connectivity options including CarPlay and Android Auto as well as reversing camera and PDC. What is something of an arguable point is the use of a large piano black panel across the passenger side of the dashboard which feels somewhat poorer in quality to the rest of the cabin. It’s a similar feel to the air-conditioning controls too.
These really small things aside, it’s a quality and practical interior.
Under the bonnet is KIA’s 1.5CRDI turbocharged diesel engine. It’s good for around 11,5-seconds 0 – 100km/h run and KIA claims a 176km/h top speed but that’s somewhat irrelevant here. What you’re searching for in 1.5 turbodiesel KIA is competent drive and excellent efficiency which I can safely say the KIA Seltos delivers on.
There is some turbo lag from the drivetrain which in this spec comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s expected and quickly becomes quite acceptable. The engine delivers 86kW and 250Nm of torque and once you’re on the boil its adequately powerful and very easy to drive. The transmission is relatively smooth and works well here for the most part. Again, when moving slowly along in traffic it can take a short while to pick up but you’ll hardly notice once you’re used to it.
The EX+ rides on 17-inch alloys with a good bit of rubber surrounding them. On McPherson struts up front and a torsion beam set up at the rear, the Seltos rides comfortably, soaking up poor roads and bumps relatively well aided by a nicely weighted power steering. ABS and EBD are standard across the range but the EX+ model offers stability control and hill-assist as well. Active Safety measures include 6 airbags including curtain airbags that extends along the side windows in the event of an impact.
Opting for the diesel would generally mean you’re interested in longer gaps between the pumps and you’d be right with this one. The Seltos on test was delivered with a full tank that’s a smidgeon under 50-litres(that’s the tank size) and the on board computer showed a healthy 765km range. After a week on test and with around 70% urban driving and the rest being longer freeway commutes, we returned the car with a 6,5l/100km economy figure. It’s decent – not class-leading but it is worth considering.
KIA retails the Seltos with its 5yr/90 000km service plan and its 5yr/Unlimited km warranty. It’s good but there are options out there with full maintenance plans so you need to weigh up the kind of ownership peace of mind you want.
In this segment there are many options, at least 18 others as far as my calculations go. Some are more bent on style, some on price, some on off-road ability, some on brand appeal, but at the end of the day KIA has come to the market with a car absolutely worthy of contending this huge segment.
It’s a stellar effort by KIA, commendable build quality matched with a competent engine and excellent ride should fetch the company a decent share of the market. At this price though, I’d opt for the GT-line flagship priced at just less than R30 000 more than the EX+ Diesel. It’s better looking with more personalised details too and you could probably fetch the same economy without trying too hard.