What is it?
Why would I buy one:
Quality, equipment, space, feel-good factor
Why would I avoid one:
Notchy gearshifts, inconsistent ride quality
The Kia Seltos is the Korean carmaker’s first product for India. It’s a five-seater SUV that goes head-on against the Hyundai Creta and the Renault Duster. And honestly, it makes both these SUVs feel dated; and in the Duster’s case, majorly under-equipped as well.
The overall silhouette of the Seltos is that of a conventional SUV. It has a high bonnet, a squared-out cabin, and slightly longer overhangs to give it the air of a larger SUV. It does have some modern touches as well. The headlamps are all LED and dominate the front. The tail lamps are full-LED units as well, and along with the central chrome strip that across the lamps, these give the Seltos a rich and upmarket feel.
If there’s one thing the Seltos could do with, they are bigger wheels. The current ones on this top-spec version are 17-inchers. But, thanks to the Seltos’ long overhangs and large wheel arches, even these look a tad small on the SUV.
How is it on the inside?
If the Seltos follows convention on the outside, it’s quite the opposite when it comes to its interiors. It’s a modern tech fest inside! But, we will get to that in a bit.
First up – the quality, the fit and finish, and the choice and finish of materials, are all top-notch, especially for its class. The various buttons, toggles, stalks, and dials have a nice tactile feel to them. And everything inside the Seltos seems to have been designed and engineered with a lot of thought.
It has large, cushy, and comfortable seats. The ones at the front offer more than ample support for the thigh and back, while the rear row also offers a two-step recline function. And the space on offer is fantastic too.
The rear knee or legroom, in particular, is probably the best in class; but we will have to wait until we test it to confirm that. And even the head and shoulder room is ample. And lest we forget, the boot is big too. Plus, the 60:40 split for the rear seats and the flat loading bay, makes the boot both flexible and practical.
The star of the show when it comes to the Seltos’ interiors though, is the central touchscreen system. It instantly reminds you of screens modern BMWs use. Which is high praise, of course. The touch sensitivity is good, the display is crisp, and there’s so much info in there, it took us the better part of a half-hour to explore it all. Okay, maybe half an hour is an exaggeration, but it did take us a while.
This multimedia system also allows one to choose between various settings from different disco lighting for the front door pads to connectivity options to navigation settings, and driving info as well. The latter is all about how the driver chose to use the accelerator and brake pedals during his or her last outing. Then there’s a whole lot more under just the ‘settings’ menu. One can customise the assistance systems, the light settings, lock and unlock settings for the doors and outside rearview mirrors, and much more.
Additionally, the Seltos comes with an air purifier – a first in the world. It gets HUD, a first in this segment and easily in some segments above as well. There’s a high-def 7-inch colour screen as part of the driver information system, which also doubles up as the display for the blind spot recognition camera.
The driver’s seat is 8-way adjustable, electrically; the multifunctional steering adjusts for reach and rake; it gets auto headlamps and wiper; there’s wireless phone charging; cooled seats; a single zone climate control system with rear AC vents; a 360 degree camera; parking sensors; ambient lighting; many stowage options; and of course, UVO.
UVO for the uninitiated is Kia speak for its voice-activated butler service. And Kia says it uses artificial intelligence to better learn the accent and commands of its user. So, after spending some time with the Seltos, we could make it call anyone from our phone book, set up navigation, find a restaurant, change the aircon temperature, and get weather info. And if that weren’t enough, there’s also a button on the inside rear review mirror with UVO written on it. Press it and you can interact with a human who will help you with your needs; much like royalty if you ask me. What’s more, Kia has also thrown in one-touch SOS and RSA services into the mix.
As far as safety equipment goes, this top-spec version gets six airbags, ABS, traction control, stability program, and blind-spot recognition.
How is it to drive?
The Seltos comes with many drivetrain options. Two petrol engines that can be had with a manual or an automatic, and a diesel, which again can be bought with a manual or an automatic gearbox.
This here is the 1.4-litre, turbocharged, direct-injection petrol. It makes almost 140bhp and a little over 240Nm of peak torque. And all of this torque is available from 1,500rpm, which makes the 1.4 very tractable indeed. Our unit is mated to a 6-speed manual. But even then, it rarely felt bogged down; even under 1500rpm.
Above this threshold though, the 1.4 is very likeable indeed. It feels peppy with good mid-range grunt and its throttle response is both alert and linear. It’s free-revving and refined to boot. Not surprisingly, it brings alive the driving enthusiast in you. And more often than not, I found myself keeping it between 4,000 and 5,000rpm for no reason at all! It wasn’t required and it would have destroyed the fuel efficiency, but who cares, it was fun!
The Seltos can also be fun around corners. Now, it’s not as sharp or connected or agile as a proper fun to drive car should be, but it’s also no slouch around corners. Turning into corners does require a little more steering lock than we would consider being good. And, the steering itself isn’t brimming with feedback.
But, once the Seltos is turned in, it settles nicely on its springs, and the grip levels too are surprisingly good. One does have to be gentle with throttle inputs while exiting corners though, because that 1.4’s grunt can very easily overwhelm the front tyres.
The ride quality, meanwhile, is a mixed bag. The Seltos handles mildly broken roads and undulations well, no matter what speed. It’s also quiet in the way it rides. And the initial bit of the suspension travel feels really well-calibrated. But, over sharp bumps, the SUV does struggle. It feels choppy and inconsistent and not the most pampering.
Should I buy one?
Kia Motors India is promising an aggressive price tag for the Seltos. We expect it to be priced between Rs 11 to Rs 17 lakhs. If this indicative pricing is ‘on-the-road’, you can buy this car with your eyes closed! Given the space, the equipment, the engine, and the feel-good features it packs in, it’s fantastic value for this price.
Even if it were ex-showroom (which should push the on-road price up by up to Rs 3 lakhs), it is still worth considering. After all, apart from the pluses mentioned above, it also packs in many firsts, which are definitely worth bragging about.
Where does it fit in?
Like we mentioned at the start, the Kia Seltos will go head-on against the Hyundai Creta. But, it will also draw in prospects from the Renault Duster and Renault Captur, the Nissan Kicks, the Mahindra XUV (300 and 500), and the MG Hector.
Pictures by Kapil Angane