2020 Kia Seltos Review: Get The Funk Up

Derryn Wong

Driving Experience

If the Seltos is all about punching above what’s on paper, the driving experience confirms this.

There’s a high seating position and, with it, a lofty view out of the cabin, notwithstanding thick A-pillars and relatively high windowsills.

It has a slightly hefty feeling on the move, too, rolling along with a calm ride and soft responses to steering inputs. The 17-inch wheels work well with the suspension set-up to create a smooth, unflustered ride over all except the most badly-surfaced roads.

At highway speeds it’s reasonably quiet, too, with a pleasing absence of wind noise, but at times you’ll hear the suspension at work and the tyres do make themselves audible.

The best part of the experience behind the wheel comes from the drivetrain, a 1.4-litre turbo engine paired with a twin-clutch, seven-speed auto. The transmission is noticeably smoother than Kia’s early efforts, and it selects its gears well — it’s actually a prime example of how a good automatic is one you don’t notice much.

The engine is another highlight, offering smooth and linear acceleration most times. If you’re in a hurry, the Seltos doesn’t mind at all, and the reward for revving the engine hard is a quick trip to three-figure speeds. There’s 140 horsepower to play with, and the 242 Newton-metre torque peak arrives early, at 1,500rpm. That helps it feel faster than the 0 to 100km/h time of 9.8 seconds suggests, which is already quicker than the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR.

Between the front seats there’s a Drive Mode Select knob to play with, and it offers settings for Normal, Sport and Eco driving, along with a trio of off-road modes we didn’t try (Snow, Mud and Sand), and which most customers likely never will, either, since the car is front-wheel drive and not all-wheel drive despite what the looks and the knob insinuate.

The various settings do make a difference, but you’ll spend most of your time in Normal or the fuel-saving Eco mode. Sport makes the Seltos unnecessarily hyperactive, and since the car itself doesn’t handle sportily, there’s little point. If anything, the Seltos is a car about balance: the chassis is tuned for everyday comfort without being bouncily soft, and the engine is neither gruff nor particularly silky.

Space and Practicality

It might surprise you to learn that the Seltos has a meaningfully smaller footprint than Kia’s own Cerato small sedan.

Both cars are 1,800mm wide, but at 4,315mm nose-to-tail, it’s actually 325mm shorter than the Ceratos. Its wheelbase (the length between the front and rear axles) is 2,610mm, a good 90mm shorter than the Cerato’s.

In fact, it’s shorter than rivals such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-30 and Nissan Qashqai.

Yet, the Seltos is a boxier car than it looks and is fairly tall (taller than the competitors above, at least), so the cabin does manage to feel spacious inside.

Up front, the glass sunroof that comes with the GT-Line model does plenty to add a sense of airiness, assuming you’re okay with letting a bit of sunshine into your life.

Space for rear seat occupants is where it’s surprisingly generous, given the car’s small footprint. Legroom in the back isn’t a problem, and unlike sportily-styled SUVs with low rooflines, it’s not liable to trigger a claustrophobia attack.

That spaciousness isn’t stolen from the boot. At 433-litres in size the Seltos’ boot is class competitive, and it’s expandable to 1,393 litres if you fold the rear seats. They drop down with a 60/40 split, but some new SUVs (particularly those from Europe) have rear seats that recline and slide, so that’s one trick missed.

As for carrying stuff in the cabin with you, the Seltos offers plenty of stowage for odds and ends up front. There’s a shelf for a smartphone (with wireless charging in the GT-Line version), requisite cupholders, and a respectably deep compartment between the front seats.

Rear seat and door pockets take care of stowage in the rear, along with a small tray under the air-con vents. There’s a single USB charging outlet back there, which might invite a bit of squabbling on a long trip. On the plus side, there are pull-up window shades, a feature that always seems to impress people.

Overall it makes good use of its size by capitalising on its height. One of the ironies of a car with a boxy shape is that it’s less likely to make occupants feel boxed in.

Page 4: Competition and Pricing, Conclusion: Is the Seltos worth the dosh?

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1.4 GT Line 5 seat 5-door Kia petrol seltos SUV

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's former chief editor was previously the editor for Top Gear Singapore and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment.

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