2021 Kia Seltos Review

2021 Kia Seltos - Kia family welcomes cuddly new member


The five-door crossover population explosion continues (even
through a pandemic) as Kia Motors gives birth to yet another ‘cute-ute’ as this
trend shows little evidence of easing.

The South Korean Automaker welcomes its newest bundle of joy
wrapped in a swaddling 61 percent of advanced high-strength steel bearing a
2021 model year badge and the Seltos name.

Best to describe this newbie as a bit of a preemie.  Not only does it measure in as one of the
smaller five-door, two-row crossovers in Kia’s lineup (the descriptive phrase
‘subcompact plus’ gets tossed about), but it’s an early adaptor of 2021 model
year cataloging even as it reached dealer lots early in the first quarter of
the 2020 calendar year.  Some bundles of
joy just can’t wait, insisting upon an early and grand arrival.

A strong family resemblance is matched with the clan’s largest
crossover, the three-row Telluride, a vehicle Kia spotlighted at the 2019
Chicago Auto Show within the confines of its own woodsy-themed indoor test
track.  Consider Telluride the family
Patriarch, even though its 2020 model year debut pegs the large five-door as a
newer offering.  Automotive backstories historically
remain stoked with their fair share of familial dysfunction.

Expect uncomfortable sibling rivalry as Kia already sports a
well-established, if not off-beat subcompact ensconced in the family, the now
decade-old Soul.  To its credit, Kia never
ran away from Soul’s tall, boxy, somewhat nerdy existence; instead embracing its
‘hip to be square attitude.’ Soul rewarded Kia Motors with strong sales volumes
and wide demographic appeal. Seltos doesn’t seek to displace sibling Soul, just
attract a different clientele.

Seltos also carries forward the Kia family’s long tradition
of powertrain warranty coverage good for 10 years or 100,000 miles, the
industry’s most generous providing incalculable peace of mind.

The all-new Seltos slots between Soul and compact Sportage
crossover. Kia also offers the Forte wagon, a five-door version of the
long-established compact Forte sedan. Not to be sold short, Kia also markets
Niro, a trio of alternatively-powered compact five-doors. While Seltos
currently promotes traditional internal combustion engine choices, Niro offers
an all-electric EV version, plug-in hybrid and more traditional self-charging gas-electric

Five Seltos trim levels await (S, LX, S 1.6T, EX and SX) a high
count for a subcompact. Each trim builds upon a greater volume of standard content
when traveling up the trim-level ladder, with few stand-alone or optional
factory-supplied packages to weigh, easing the purchasing process

Keep in mind, however, Seltos markets TWO entry trims, S and
LX both starting at an attainable $21,900. When considering the merits of these
two beginners, the main distinction rests upon S as the sole selection riding
on a front-wheel drive platform (generating the best fuel economy), while still
offering a layer of safety nuances including lane departure warning and forward
collision avoidance assist.  The LX jumps
into the fray with all-wheel drive standard and minimal radar-based safety niceties.
The remaining three trims include the full monte of safety adding rear cross
traffic alert and blind spot collision avoidance.

It’s a value proposition for empty nesters or young families
looking to maximize finances and fun.  Kia
packs plenty of advancements inside Seltos adding to its merits. Our S Turbo
tester with all-wheel drive checked in at $25,490 with a bottom line of $26,740
after factoring in a $1,120 destination charge. 
The only extra was $130 worth of carpeted floor mats.

Two four-cylinder engines are offered; a 2.0 naturally
aspirated (non turbo) four cylinder cranks out a usable 146 horsepower mated to
a functional continuously variable transmission. For increased thrills, opt for
the 1.6-liter turbocharged four and its peppier 175 horses teamed to a
performance-based seven-speed quick-reacting dual clutch automatic transmission

The highly technical DCT works from a driver’s perspective
like a conventional automatic with no manual foot clutch to constantly depress
or gears to hand maneuver.  Two
computer-controlled under hood clutches operate different gear sets (odds and
evens) allowing change to occur without the engine disconnecting from the
transmission via a clunky torque converter. Benefits include improved fuel
economy, smoother shifting and quicker acceleration.  

Seltos rates as one of the few subcompact trims offering
Midwest-friendly all-wheel drive with torque vectoring standard in all trims
sans the entry S.  Torque vectoring
varies the amount of power distributed to each wheel, helping to improve
handling characteristics especially during twists and turns.

Both engines include three drive modes (normal, eco, sport)
providing different experiences. The 2.0-liter four comes standard in S, EX and
LX.  Expect the 1.6-liter turbo onboard
the S 1.6T and SX.

The Seltos interior welcomes drivers and riders with
generous headroom and a competent, user-friendly design easy to digest from the
get-go.  A simplistic instrument panel
includes two traditional circular analog gauges (left-side tachometer,
right-side speedometer) with half-moon inserts along the bottom. A multi-panel
digital central display monitors from a tactile push button at the 3 ‘O clock
steering wheel position.  Always
digitally displayed are the odometer miles and miles to empty.

An eight-inch multi-function flat screen jets out slightly
from the center dash with popular Smartphone companions Apple CarPlay and
Android Auto standard in all trims. Top-trim SX includes a slightly larger
10.25-inch screen face with programmable navigation.

Nothing fancy, but still highly effective when perusing HVAC
controls as three twist dials monitor fan speed, direction and temperature below
the multiple function touch-screen. Wind and tire noise inside the compartment
are notable when cruising at highway speeds.

Outside, the upright stance compliments a rather sizable
(for a subcompact) 7.2 inch ground clearance. For those ‘daring to be different,’
one of the few available factory options includes an available two-tone roof
with matching side-view mirror housing ($345) available in all trims sans the
base 2.0-liter S.  The top-trim SX also
offers a $700 moon roof with power sunshade option.

Composite cladding hugs circular wheel wells, lower door
panels and front/rear bumpers protecting those regions from wayward stone
pings.  Silver skid plates under the
engine and cargo area protect undersides and are usually the domain of larger
off-road products. The manual hatch door includes a body-color rear spoiler
atop with brake light nestled inside. 
When opened, enough head room awaits for those six-feet and shorter. A
temporary spare tire resides under the flat floor, a once-common feature
suddenly less so. Also in the region, a dual-level cargo floor.

Row two best matches with two adult riders; three’s a
crowd.  Backrests fold with a 60/40 split
increasing cargo carrying capacity to a segment generous 62.8 cubic feet of
mixable room.

Our turbo four’s fuel economy checked in at 25 miles per
gallon city and 30 mpg highway, better than average (thanks in part to its
high-tech transmission) especially since it teams with all-wheel drive, which
historically zaps fuel numbers. The base S with naturally-aspirated four and
front drive is the pick to click if fuel economy rates high as estimates rise
to 29/34 respectively.

2021 Kia Seltos

Price as tested: $26,740

Engine: 1.6-liter

Horsepower: 175

Wheelbase: 103.5 inches

Overall length: 172 inches

Overall width: 70.9 inches

Overall height: 64.1 inches

Powertrain warranty: 
10-years/100,000 miles

Fuel economy: 25 city/30 highway

Curb weight: 3,317 pounds

Assembly: South Korea

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.