2021 Kia Seltos Review

2021 Kia Seltos - Kia newest small crossover is worth a long, hard look.


Kia's new Seltos is a 5-passener subcompact crossover that's available as a 4-door wagon with front- or all-wheel-drive. Seltos shares chassis and components with the Hyundai Kona. Size wise it fits into the Kia lineup between the Soul and Sportage. Competitors include the Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30 and Subaru Crosstrek.

Seltos is offered in LX, S, EX, S Turbo and SX Turbo. Prices start as low as $21,990 and climb to more than $27,890. LX, S and EX come standard with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that's good for 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. Sole transmission with the 2.0-liter engine is a continuously variable automatic. S Turbo and SX Turbo get a turbocharged 1.6-liter four that pumps out 175 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque. It mates to a 7-speed automatic. S is offered with front- or all-wheel drive, while all other models come standard with all-wheel drive. Regardless of engine, towing capacity is 2,000 pounds.

Available safety features include rear occupant alert, rear-view camera, driver attention warning, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane-departure warning and assist, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning and assist. Available features include LED lighting, sunroof, leatherette trim, power seats, 8- or 10.25-inch touch-screen infotainment system, wireless charging pad, smart cruise control and push-button start.

The 2.0-lliter engine in the S, LX and EX, while certainly not a powerhouse, provides adequate acceleration. Add a few passengers or some heavy cargo and progress slows dramatically, however. In addition, Kia's continuously variable transmission isn't the smoothest or most refined in operation. Those looking for a bit more pep should opt for the smooth and refined turbo four. It provides a welcome bump in acceleration (7.5 seconds, 0-60 MPH) and works well with the traditional 7-speed automatic.

The all-wheel drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use. However, it does have an available locking center differential that, when engaged, provides an even split of torque between the front and rear wheels. In addition, the Seltos offers 7 inches of ground clearance and 28-degree front and rear departure angles.

The front-drive 2.0-liter Seltos nets EPA ratings of 29 MPG city and 24 MPG highway. All-wheel-drive 1.6-liter models get EPA ratings of 25 MPG city and 30 MPG highway. Both engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline. In routine suburban commuting the 1.6 with all-wheel drive is likely to average about 26-28 MPG. Certainly not the top of the class, but appropriate enough.

Seltos' ride is mostly determined by it's short 103.5-inch wheelbase and tall build. On smooth roads, Seltos provides good comfort and adequate bump absorption that blends nicely with a crisp feeling turn in adequate ride control. Compared to slightly larger vehicles like the Chevrolet Trax and Ford EcoSport, the Seltos feels decidedly more athletic. But not so much so that it can match the moves of the class leading Mazda CX-30.

Braking power is just adequate and the rear brakes are prone to quick locking in hard stops. In addition, the pedal has a numb and mushy feeling. Thankfully, wind and road noise are nicely quelled, though the base engine is decidedly less refined than similar offerings in some competitors.

Inside, the Seltos surprises somewhat. Materials seem to be a clear step ahead of most competitors (save the CX-30) and the design, while not groundbreaking, proves contemporary and functional. The design is dominated by a large and prominently placed infotainment screen, quite commonplace in this class followed by smaller buttons for the climate control. The gauges are traditional analog, but there is a center information screen that provides lots of useful information. 

As far as tech, the Seltos is loaded. Obviously, the tech savvy will want the available 10.3-inch infotainment screen, but either way, the Seltos comes standard with Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration (hear that BMW). There's also an available wireless charging pad, 3 USB ports, head-up display and 8-speaker Bose audio system.

The front seats are typical for the class, meaning they provide adequate support and modest comfort. They are narrow and somewhat softly padded. The rear seats have a flat seat bottom and minimal back support. Head room is good all around. Leg room adequate up front and a bit tight in back, though moving the front seats forward provides ample knee space. Entry and exit is a snap thanks to a tall roofline, which also makes for great outward visibility

Seltos' boxy design leads to decent cargo capacity -- 26.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 63 cubes over all. That's substantially better than most competitors, though the rear seat backs don't fold completely flat. Interior storage is unspectacular. Map pockets are small and narrow and there's scant room in the center console or glovebox.

Bottom Line -- Based on initial impressions, Seltos should immediately vault to the top of most subcompact crossover buyers. shopping list. It's impressive list of standard equipment, reasonable pricing, solid blend of performance, comfort, technology and strong warranty make it hard to pass up.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.