Crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) are all the rave these days. In the compact and sub-compact form, they not-so-surprisingly outsell their sedan counterparts due to their unsurpassed versatility, efficiency, and value. Just about every automaker has entered into the fray of offering many variations of crossover utility vehicles with new intriguing introductions like the 2021 Kia Seltos.
The all-new 2021 Kia Seltos is something fresh from the brand that checks all of the relevant boxes for a complete package to appease many consumers seeking a compact or subcompact crossover. The new Seltos rides the fine line between subcompact and compact CUVs, which gives it space, pun not intended, to compete with a variety of crossovers, including hot-sellers like the Toyota RAV4. Sharing some components with its distant relative, the Hyundai Kona, the Seltos is slightly larger and has an added level of refinement.
Powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, producing 195 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, the new Seltos scoots along pretty good. The engine and transmission choice, a 7-speed automated dual-clutch unit, do well in the two upper trim levels (S Turbo and SX Turbo) as the choice powertrain and even more desirable in an all-wheel-drive configuration as found in my top-level-trim Seltos SX Turbo AWD test vehicle. Acceleration is good with just a tad bit of turbo lag out of the hole, but some of the lag is aided through the slipping of the clutch by the computer controlling the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). The DCT transmission offers up more of a direct connection with the engine and wheels to improve fuel economy and aide in overall performance. The only issue I find is that the DCT is often clunky at low speeds. Basically, the automated clutch is sometimes slipped upon engagement of first gear, and the computer attempts to smooth things out but leaves you with a little uneasy transition, which is exacerbated when you creep along with light throttle inputs such as in cases of slow, heavy traffic. Otherwise, making a dash to 60 mph is a zippy endeavor taking about 6.7 seconds with quick, smooth shifts.
The 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is eager to rev, and the direct link from the DCT and a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system with an electronic center lock give a surefooted quality of the Seltos out on the road. The larger 18-inch wheels also benefit the handling aspects of the Seltos SX Turbo over the lower three trim levels (LX, S, EX) with 17-inch wheels.
Fuel economy is not bad, but it isn’t stellar, either. The Seltos SX Turbo AWD is mostly consistent with its rate of burning regular unleaded fuel, which is estimated at 25 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined.
The styling of the new Seltos is almost a head-turner, especially when the attractive sheet metal is painted in my test vehicle’s Starbright Yellow paint with its contrasting black roof, unpainted lower body molding, and unique 18-inch alloy wheels. The automatic LED headlights with high beam assist, LED fog lights, and rear LED lights, complete an easy-on-the-eyes look.
Inside of the new Kia Seltos is a surprisingly spacious area, one that looks bigger than its exterior suggests. Controls are nicely placed with a large 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen being the center of attention, providing plenty of connectivity, navigation functions, and easy vehicle controls and menu sets. The infotainment system, combined with the latest UVO link telematics, has a short learning curve, but once you get familiar with the main home screens, everything falls into place with welcomed user-friendless. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration comes in handy even in the cases of utilizing your favorite smartphone map/navigation app over the built-in navigation system found exclusively on the Seltos SX Turbo trim level. All other trim levels do not include navigation and make do with a smaller 8-inch touchscreen. Though, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features across the trim range.
Seating comfort is a little questionable, but there is plenty of space throughout the cabin of the Seltos. The heated front seats seem just fine for short trips. The 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat offers a lot of adjustability, which is a good thing for any compact-sized crossover. In the rear seating area, there is a good amount of leg and headroom and passengers back there also get air vents. Cargo room is pretty generous with just over 26 cubic feet behind the rear seat backs. Fold the 60/40-split seatbacks down, and you have 62.8 cubic feet to work with to haul items.
A bevy of active safety features are included on the Seltos in the upper trim levels, including smart cruise control w/stop & go, forward collision warning and auto emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning & avoidance assist, and blind-spot collision warning & rear avoidance assist.
The value of the new 2021 Kia Seltos is a shining spot, almost as bright as the paint on my test vehicle. The base Seltos LX with a less-powerful 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission starts at a price of $21,990 before any fees. My top-trim Seltos SX Turbo AWD, which doesn’t have any options per-se – only a long list of included trim features, come to an as-test price of $29,485. Such a price may be on the border of looking to other mainstream compact crossovers and on the verge of entry-level midsized models, but the Seltos brings the goods to justify such a price in a “complete” good-looking crossover package.