What is it?
The Kia Seltos is finally here and after an official unveiling, we got to drive the pre-production prototypes at their test track in Anantapur. Now we’ve already spoken about the car at the unveil so I’ll be brief about the design. First up Kia has done a fantastic job to keep the production car’s design so similar to the prototype that was unveiled at the Auto Expo. It’s the front that garners most attention thanks to the width. Then there’s the tiger nose grille as Kia calls it which gives it a very aggressive look. But the real party piece are the two layer crown jewel headlamps and the very interesting DRL’s.
On the sides it’s the 17-inch alloys that stand out, especially the crystal cut alloys with the red calipers on the GT line variant. The rear follows the sporty theme with the heartbeat LED tail lamps and nicely designed twin faux exhaust outlets. Overall, the Seltos looks fantastic and Kia have got it spot on with the sporty theme.
How is it on the inside?
The sporty theme follows on the inside as well. Kia wanted to follow three important parameters for the interiors namely, elegant, premium and hi-tech. And they have pretty much got it spot on. The all-black theme with silver inserts look great with the 10.25-inch HD touchscreen infotainment system being the silver lining. Let me just add while we are on the topic of the infotainment system that it looks and works great with crisp colours and being very responsive at the same time. Depending on the variant you get either an Arkamys sound system or the brilliant Bose unit.
The Seltos also gets Kia’s UVO connect which is a Bluetooth based remote control mobile app to control the AVNT system. This helps with car tacking, car location sharing, remote start stop, remote aircon control, tyre pressure monitoring and then some.
Even the climate control layout with its wide display looks fantastic. The chunky steering gets a flat bottom to add to the sporty nature and looks and feels great. What is also a first in India is the 8-inch heads-up display which pops up in a very cool manner. The Seltos also gets a world’s first Smart pure air purifier located ahead of the centre armrest.
Getting in the drivers seats feels great thanks to the ell contoured seats. They will provide adequate support for long drives and keep you in place when you decide to get a little enthusiastic. We did manage to sample the rear seats for a bit too and again it’s pretty comfortable. There’s adequate legroom and the wide stance of the car means seating three abreast should not be a problem at all.
Overall, even though the interiors have a familiar ‘Korean’ feel to it, they look and feel great for a car in this segment and just like the exteriors, Kia have hit bulls-eye when it comes to the interiors.
How does it drive?
The Seltos gets a multitude of engine options to choose from. First up you get a 1.5-litre petrol engine that belts out 115 bhp and 144Nm of torque. This engine gets the choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox or an IVT (CVT in Kia speak) transmission. Considering the restricted nature of the track, we couldn’t exploit any of the engines fully but got an idea about what they are going to be like. We got to drive the manual version of this engine and it felt pretty good. Linear acceleration and refined until of course you take the needle towards the redline.
Then it was the GT line’s turn with the very promising 1.4 T-GDi engine. With 140bhp on tap and 242 Nm of torque coupled a twin-clutch 7-speed DCT gearbox, this variant could be an enthusiasts delight. If you choose the DCT gearbox, you also get driving modes to choose from along with three traction modes. Driving the car, the difference in performance is immediately noticeable compared to the 1.5. Acceleration is crisp and the engine is also very free revving. The twin-clutch gearbox isn’t as responsive as a VW DSG gearbox but still better than all other automatic options available. The difference in driving modes is also apparent with sport mode increasing the urgency. The few corners on the track, the Seltos handled well with controlled body-roll and more than decent flickability. The steering doesn’t have too much to offer in terms of feel but weighs up well once you activate sport mode.
We also tried the manual gearbox version of this engine and this thing was the bomb. Acceleration feels even more energetic and with the positive shifts, one can really exploit the engine and have a ball while at it. It’s a pity that the manual version does not get the driving modes and as a result the steering feels a little too disconnected for a car boasting this level of performance.
Now it was the diesels turn. Powering the diesel variant is a 1.5 litre CRDi VGT engine with 115bhp and 250Nm of torque. Again this engine can be had with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed torque converter automatic. The diesel engine is very refined too and with torque available from low rpm’s, performance is more than adequate. Even in 5th gear, the Seltos diesel pulled cleanly from as low as 50 kmph which speaks volumes about its drivability.
The test track did have a rough road section so we did get an idea about the ride quality. Both the petrol variants are set up slightly on the stiffer side as compared to say, the Creta. We think that’s more to do with the Seltos’ more sporty intent. In comparison the diesel, with a heavier engine (with revised spring rates) boasts better damping and rides better than the petrol’s. But only a drive in real conditions will provide an accurate answer.
Should I buy one?
Like I mentioned in the beginning, the cars we drove were pre-production prototypes and still had a few rough edges. The intent of the drive was to give us an idea of what’s in store. So were we impressed? Indeed. Kia has extremely strong plans for India and they are making sure their plans are executed with the right products. With smashing looks, premium interiors, a bucket load of features and excellent powertrain options to choose from, the Seltos feels like the ideal product for Kia to kickstart its Indian innings. And with prices expected to be between Rs. 11 -17 lakh, the competition better be worried.