Car reviews - Kia - Seltos - GT-Line
Sensible packaging, excellent value for money, perky and economic engine, driving position and outward visibility, majority of fit and finish
Room for improvement
Firm yet unsettled ride, intrusive speed assistance technologies, hard cabin plastics and monotone décor, excessive road and tyre noise
More tech and a cool new look doesn’t necessarily equate to a more pleasing drive
22 Jun 2023
By MATT BROGAN
FACELIFTED late last year, the Kia Seltos now offers segment buyers a cracking not-so-small SUV with plenty of pizzazz, generous equipment levels and top-notch safety. Oh, and it’s also quite a decent thing to drive.
It may be dearer than the outgoing range, but the Seltos still represents great value for money, retailing from $29,500 plus on-road costs in base form, or $44,900 in top-spec GT-Line AWD (tested).
Small SUV (under $45K) rivals include the GWM Haval Jolion ($28,490 drive-away), Hyundai Kona ($26,900 +ORC), Mazda CX-30 ($30,210 +ORC), Nissan Qashqai ($33,890 +ORC) and Toyota Corolla Cross ($33,000 +ORC).
Included in the recent refresh is a new look, enhanced safety and convenience features, including Kia’s recently introduced telematics system known as Kia Connect.
Up front, the range is powered by a choice of a carryover 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle and multipoint injected petrol engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and driving the front wheels, or an updated 130kW/265Nm Smartstream 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Four trim grades are available – S, Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line – with external finishings now characterised by a new headlight graphic, larger, bolder grille, and reprofiled front bumper with prominent ‘skid plate’ garnish. The front lighting design on the GT-Line tested here is different again, featuring Kia’s new ‘Star-map’ signature design.
Further back, the updated Seltos is identified by what Kia says is a “subtly tweaked” and “more athletic” design with improvements to the rear bumper profile and taillight graphic to compliment the frontal changes.
Further, alloy wheels are now offered as standard across the entire Seltos line-up, featuring a machine-finished appearance.
Inside the cabin, Kia has introduced a digital instrument panel in place of analogue gauges on all grades. The base Seltos S features a 4.2-inch multi-function LCD cluster while Sport+ and GT-Line variants gain a dual 10.25-inch setup and redesigned climate control panel reminiscent of that found in the larger Sportage SUV.
Comfort and convenience features introduced with the update include rear-seat air vents, USB-C charging ports and a full-size spare wheel. Kia will also introduce its Connect service in Sport trim and above, while GT-Line grades gain powered driver’s seat adjustment with two-position memory and a handsfree powered tailgate.
On the safety front, the Kia Seltos S now includes intelligent speed limit assist, lane following assist, rear cross-traffic avoidance assist and blind spot collision avoidance assistance as standard.
The updated Seltos is available in a choice of seven paint colours including Mars Orange, Snow White Pearl, Steel Grey, Gravity Grey, Fusion Black, Neptune Blue and the new Pluton Blue.
GT-Line variants are available exclusively with the choice of two dual-tone paint schemes: Clear White with a Fusion Black roof and Pluton Blue with a Fusion Black roof.
All variants are backed by Kia’s fully transferable seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with seven years’ capped price servicing and up to eight years’ roadside assistance. Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 10,000km for the turbocharged GT-Line variant tested with pricing over the seven-year period tallying $3479.
THE first thing about the updated Seltos to jump out at you is just how well packaged the vehicle is. It might slot into the Small SUV category, but the TARDIS-like Seltos is almost the same size as the generation-before-last Sportage, meaning it offers excellent passenger accommodation across two rows, and a whopping 433 litres of cargo space.
Kia’s Seltos measures 4385mm in length, 1800mm in width, 1635mm in height, 2630mm between the axles and 170mm off the ground. Kerb weight is listed at 1495kg and braked towing capacity 1250kg. The model’s turning circle is measured at 10.6m.
Inside, the seating is supportive and with electric adjustment (with memory) provides a good relationship between the driver and the primary controls. However, the faux leather upholstery can get a little sticky on longer drives, where use of the standard-issue seat ventilation comes in handy.
Front seat passengers benefit from a high seating position that offers a good view out, the thicker A and D pillars only a minor blight on what is otherwise excellent outward visibility. The rear seat passengers score enough shoulder-room for three, a two-stage adjustable backrest, air vents and USB-C charging.
That said, it’s not the prettiest cabin in the segment. The Kia features a lot of hard, monotone plastics in the composition of its décor, and the carpeting is rather cheap and nasty (not that Kia is alone there). The use of varied materials and textures attempts to break the black-on-black feel of the cab, but there are rivals who do this better.
The overall dashboard and console design is, however, quite clean and logical, retaining hard buttons for commonly used features like the climate control, parking assistants, and seat ventilation and heating (hallelujah). We found the dual 10.25-inch screens (for instrumentation and infotainment) easy to read and the ambient lighting a nice touch at night.
We also appreciated the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, head-up display – with vehicle proximity information – and eight-speaker Bose audio system a stand-out, but would have appreciated wireless connection for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
But there are a few niggles that we found more difficult to live with. The Intelligent Speed Limit Assist technology is activated each time you turn on the car and chimes in the moment you exceed the posted speed limit by even 1km/h, even with the adaptive cruise control activated. It takes seven inputs to switch off but will return each time you switch off the ignition.
We also found it peculiar that the extendable sunblind is too heavy for the mechanism that supports it, swinging to strike you in the head as you take a corner.
But perhaps most annoying is the intrusive tyre rumble on coarse chip surfaces. It is not something you notice around town or on well-kept roads, but on more abrasive surfaces the roar from the 235/45R18 Kumho Ecsta rubber is such that you do have to raise your voice to converse with passengers – and this in spite Kia’s inclusion of a quieter exhaust and additional sound-deadening material under the carpet, in the door cards and wheel guards, inside the C-pillars.
Otherwise – and for the most part – the Seltos is a decent drive. It corners with agility and offers accurate and consistently weighted steering with appropriate levels of assistance.
The Australian-tuned suspension arrangement is carried over from the previous generation, giving the Seltos GT-Line a firmer road feel than many of its rivals. Unusually, we did find the setup challenged by lumpier sections of tarmac, becoming almost unsettled when tackling multiple inputs at the same time. Stick to urban settings and freeways, and we’re sure most drivers won’t notice.
On the performance front, the 1.6-litre turbo unit is a clear winner. The engine is responsive from low in the rev range and feels far better suited to the eight-speed auto than it did to the former seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It bristles away from the lights smoothly and reaches highway speeds without fuss, with enough in reserve for hill climbing and overtaking.
Kia quotes a 0-100km/h time of 9.6 seconds, which feels about right, and says the unit should average 7.4 litres per 100km. On test we managed 8.0L/100km, or enough to drive 625km from a fill of the 50-litre tank. The Seltos will run happily on 91 RON unleaded petrol.
Overall, the Kia Seltos is a decent vehicle with acceptable road manners and segment-appropriate performance and economy. It is a reliable option that is spacious, offers generous aftersales support and comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect for the money. But it is also an SUV that is in many ways entirely forgettable…
Would we recommend one? Perhaps. But only after we suggest trying several rivals first. For as good as the Seltos is, there are others out there that are far more enjoyable to live with.
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