Caraganza First Drive Review 2021 Kia Seltos: A bargain not found in any basement

2021 Seltos
We were first introduced to Kia’s latest entry into the SUV market back in February. Ah what a carefree time that was; a time before the word’s “pandemic”, “virus” and “lockdown” leapt out the pages of science fiction novels and into real life.

Men could still bash each other on a football field while thousands of fans sat side by side in the stands and spit on each other without a car in the world.  During the last game of the NFL season, the Super Bowl, Kia introduced the Seltos in a commercial that showed very little about the actual vehicle and instead tried to inspire.  All well and good of course, but in the ensuing months the last thing on people’s minds were new cars. Instead it was all about making sure we were hoarding enough toilet paper and color coordinating our masks with our clothes when we dared ventured out.

I too, forgot about the Kia Seltos.  Yes, I’ve still gotten new cars in the ensuing weeks, but I had forgotten about the Seltos. That is until a recent week when Kia sent me one.

The Seltos is an all new introduction from the Korean carmaker for 2021 and slots between the Soul and the Sportage.  It’s a little longer than the Soul (a car I’m not all that fond of considering I’m old), but not as big inside or out as the Sportage (a car that’s just ‘okay’ in my books).

The Seltos is has five trim levels: LX, S, S Turbo, EX and SX.

The base Seltos LX is powered by a 146-hp four-cylinder engine paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and standard all-wheel drive.  It has keyless entry, heated mirrors, a rearview monitor with parking guidance and rear-occupancy alert, an 8-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Voice recognition, a 6-speaker sound system, all power accessories, atop 17-inch alloy wheels.

The S trim includes all that but here the all-wheel drive ins an option bundled with heated front seats, there’s simulated leather upholstery, you can option in two-tone paint, and you get all the advanced driver safety features like lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and automatic high beams.

The S Turbo upgrades the engine and pairs it with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The wheels also grow to 18-inche alloy.

The EX drops back to the base engine but puts all-wheel drive standard.  It also adds leather upholstery with heated front seats, automatic climate control and a power- adjustable driver’s seat.

2021 Seltos

The top of the line SX puts the turbocharged engine back under the hood and adds LED headlights, foglights and options like a sunroof, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, Premium Bose audio system, and adaptive cruise control.

About those engines.  The base engine is a 2.0 4-cylinder with 146 horses and 132 lb.-ft torque, or a 1.6 turbocharged 4 delivering 175 horses and 195 lb.-ft torque.  Transmissions are a CVT, or 7-speed duel clutch.

My tester for the week was the top of the line SX loaded with all Kia offers. I must admit to a bit of bias that came about when I first saw it. Perhaps it was the two-tone paint, the stacked headlight design, or the overall shape.  Despite being classed as a small SUV, the Seltos doesn’t actually look small and is quite handsome.

That story continues on the inside.  Yes, it’s a Kia, and yes there is a lot of plastic, but the interior doesn’t really look all that plasticky. It in fact looks a lot more upscale than any Kia I’ve been in a quite some time.  There’s plenty of room, and the 10.25-inch touchscreen in my SX was well positioned and within easy reach.  The UVO link system seems easy to use, though sadly I didn’t have much of a chance to dive into it.

Both engines offer Normal, Smart, and Sport driving modes. Smart mode is supposed to automatically adjust powertrain response depending on how you’re driving, providing improved efficiency and better performance. With the turbocharged engine, a Sport transmission mode quickens the shifts. On the road the Seltos drives as good as it looks. The 7-speed duel clutch transmission shifted effortlessly, and the cabin was a very nice place to be.

Overall, It not only looked more upscale than previous Kia’s I’ve had, it felt more upscale as well.

If the Seltos is the future of the Kia brand, other carmakers will need to sit up and pay attention.  That’s especially true when I saw the MSRP for my tester.  The top of the line SX I had, loaded with all that Kia can offer, topped out at $29,845. Seriously?  After a week with the Seltos, that price is a steal. Hello Detroit, Korea calling.

Right now, there is no guarantee that football will even be played this year, much less a Super Bowl. And many people are simply worried about making ends meet, much less buying a new car. And that’s a shame. Let’s hope that “pandemic”, “virus” and “lockdown” soon disappear from our real life and make their way back into the pages of science fiction novels. And let’s hope the Seltos doesn’t fade from view. Because it really is a very good SUV, one that deserves to be successful and a signal that Kia is ready to get off the porch and run with the big dogs.
The 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD

MSRP: $27,590
MSRP (as tested): $29,485
Engine (as tested): 1.6 liter intercooled turbocharged I-4 175 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, 195 lb.-ft torque @ 1500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed duel clutch auto-Shift Manual w/OD
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 25 city, 30 highway, 27 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 31 mpg

Base Curb Weight (pounds): 3317
Exterior Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase: 103.5
Length: 172
Width, without mirrors: 70.9
Height: 63.6
Front Track Width: 62
Rear Track Width: 62.4
Minimum Ground Clearance: 7.3

Interior Dimensions (inches)
Passenger / Seating Capacity: 5
Front Head Room: 40
Front Leg Room: 41.4
Front Shoulder Room: 55.5
Front Hip Room: 53.5
Second Row Head Room: 38.4
Second Row Leg Room: 38
Second Row Shoulder Room: 54.7
Second Row Hip Room: 52.8
Cargo Space/Area Behind Front Row (cubic feet): 62.8
Cargo Space/Area Behind Second Row (cubic feet): 26.6
Cargo Space/Area Behind Third Row (cubic feet): 26.6

5 Basic Years / 60,000 Basic Miles
10 Drivetrain Years / 100,000 Drivetrain Miles
5 Corrosion Years / 100,000 Corrosion Miles
5 Roadside Assistance Years / 60,000 Roadside Assistance Miles

Greg Engle