2020 Kia Seltos Review

2020 Kia Seltos - Small, but Mighty is Kia's latest subcompact crossover named after the son of Hercules.


The 2021 Kia Seltos is an all-new five passenger subcompact crossover that makes Kia now a family of six different crossovers. The Seltos joins the lineup as a vehicle bigger than the Soul and smaller than the Sorento. It's a wild card on where the overall package compares to the similarly sized and priced Kia Niro and Sportage. Of the bunch, the Seltos stands the tallest with 7" of ground clearance whereas the Sportage has 6.4" and the Niro has 6.3."  The Seltos comes in five different trim levels (LX, S, EX, S Turbo, and SX Turbo) and eight different colors.  With an all new design, the Seltos stands out in the Kia line-up, especially when paired with some of the eye-popping colors such as Starbright Yellow, Neptune Blue, or Mars Orange.  Add in the option of a white or black roof and you can really custom order this one.

The styling of the Seltos further indicates Kia's design direction following the release of the Stinger, Telluride and recently the K5. All of these models have a more athletic and sporty appearance compared to past Kias.  Kia blended various materials in the design of the Seltos that overall comes together really nice. Up front, the Kia tiger nose grille is prominent with a silver surround that resembles a steel plate giving the Seltos a bold and rugged look up front. The LED daytime running lights stretch into that grille giving it a lighting signature that stands out at dusk.  The wheel base is stretched to the ends giving minimal overhang and a very confident stance. The Seltos' taller stance adds to the overall rugged look of the small crossover. Around back, you'll noticed that the C-pillar and rear window rake upwards to meet the roofline. On top of the roof are rails that resemble a spear on the end versus a standard style that wraps downward. It's small design choices like these that make the Seltos stand out. The Seltos comes standard with 17" black alloys on the LX and S trims. Upgrading to the EX, S Turbo or SX Turbo will get you very stylized 18" machine finished alloys with a redline trimmed center cap that makes a simple but sporty statement.

Under the hood the standard powertrain on the lower three trim levels is a 2.0 Liter inline 4-cylinder engine that delivers 146 horsepower. Also standard is AWD on all trims, except the S where AWD is a $1,500 option.  The S Turbo and SX Turbo models get a 1.6 Liter Turbocharged, Inline 4-cylinder that is mated to a 7-speed quick-shift DCT automatic putting out 175 horsepower. Having driven the S Turbo, the Seltos handled well around the suburbs. On the highway, it had enough of a punch to merge into traffic smoothly and pass vehicles with ease.  Acceleration in the turbo models is 7.5 seconds 0-60 which isn't bad for this class. The Seltos comes with three drive modes dubbed normal, smart or sport.  My personal preference was to zip around in sport mode which notably had a little extra punchiness to it, as if the Seltos had its morning Espresso.  When all windows were closed, the cabin was quieter than expected on an entry-level vehicle such as this. However, the crack of the rear windows did create an overwhelming loud wind noise and the knocking of the plastic seat belts against the harder trim pieces was at times alarming.  The Seltos takes regular grade fuel and FWD models get 29 MPG city and 24 MPG highway while AWD models get 25 MPG city and 30 MPG highway. With a lot of highway and suburban driving over the course of week, my test Seltos averaged 28 MPG.

Inside is where the Seltos really impresses. Similar to its big brother, Telluride, Kia has done a phenomenal job of maximizing the interior passenger space. At no point behind the wheel did it feel like you were driving a subcompact crossover that its shorter than a Honda Civic. The roominess of the Seltos was further apparent when we added a car seat and a booster seat in the back row for the kids. Even after filling both of those seats, our 11 year-old still fit in the middle seat. While it may not be ideal for a long road trip, it was sufficient for around town errands. The seats were a blend of materials and were surprisingly very comfortable and supportive. Rear seats easily folded down (not completely flat) giving the Seltos a total of 63 cubic feet overall (26.6 cubic feet with seats up). Storage is minimal with a small compartment between the front seats, smallish glove box and narrow pockets behind the seats.

The layout of the dashboard was modern and had many similarities to the Telluride. A standard 8" touchscreen sits atop the center stack and an optional 10.25" touchscreen is available on the SX trim. The rugged style seen on the front grille carries over inside with the speaker design covers resembling rigid rocks and a blue toned trim that stretches across the passenger side of the dashboard.  Android Auto and Apple Car Play are both standard and easy to use climate controls are placed just below the touchscreen. Optional upgrades include a wireless phone charging tray, additional USB ports, heads-up display and an 8-speaker Bose audio system. Surprisingly a sunroof was not available on the S Turbo, but it is available on the lower EX trim or higher SX trim level. When building out your Seltos on Kia.com, take a close look at the trim level packaging as Kia approaches them differently than some competitors which may require you to make some sacrifices in an effort to get certain features (such as a sunroof) that may be important to you or require you to spend a little more for the higher trim levels to get it all.

The value proposition on the Seltos is top notch. The starting price is $21,990 for an AWD S model and the top of the line AWD SX Turbo starts at $27,890. Even the base model comes with an impressive list of standard features such as automatic emergency braking, lane keeping & departure technology, LED daytime running lights & tail lights, front fog lights, roof rack rails, cloth & sofino seat trim and heated front seats.  Upgrade trim levels and additional safety features such as rear cross-traffic alert, safe exit assist, driver attention warning, and blind-spot monitoring are also available. Competition for the Seltos includes the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks, Toyota CH-R, and Subaru Crosstrek. There are a lot of options in this segment so be sure to get behind the wheel of a few to see what best suits your style and needs.

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.