Kia knows SUVs—just look at the company’s latest Soul subcompact or the all-new mid-size Telluride—and it’s adding the rugged-looking Seltos to its lineup for 2021. Based on the same platform as the excellent Hyundai Kona, the Seltos offers sharp handling similar to that SUV but pairs it with a taller ride height, a roomier cabin, and even more technology. Two engines are offered—a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder—as is either front- or all-wheel drive. A host of driver-assistance features are optional, including an adaptive cruise control system with lane-centering assist and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Infotainment, too, is cutting edge with a large 10.3-inch touchscreen gracing well-equipped examples. From what we can tell so far, Kia has yet another fantastic SUV on its hands. You may have seen the Seltos in a Super Bowl LIV commercial. Check out all of the Super Bowl car commercials HERE.
What’s New for 2021?
Everything. Seltos is an all-new SUV for the Kia brand and, despite being on sale in global markets for 2020, is launching in the North American market for the 2021 model year.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Kia offers two different four-cylinder engines in the Seltos: a 2.0-liter that makes 146 horsepower or a turbocharged 1.6-liter that pumps out 175. We were able to sample the Seltos with the turbocharged 1.6-liter in Korea and found its power to be more than adequate. While the base engine is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the turbo comes with a seven-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is optional with both engines. The Seltos offers a firm but mostly smooth ride and handling is sharp for an SUV—it’s far more entertaining and composed than rivals such as the Jeep Compass and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates that the Seltos will deliver fairly efficient MPG figures, which is unsurprising since it shares mechanicals with the Kona. Highway fuel economy is estimated to be as high as 34 mpg for front-wheel-drive models with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. On our 200-mile highway fuel economy test route, an all-wheel-drive Kona with the 2.0-liter returned 33 mpg; a front-wheel-drive model with the 1.6-liter managed 34 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the Seltos offers noticeably more space for people and cargo than the Kona and the materials used throughout the cabin are well-chosen and refined enough to seem right at home in the showroom next to the brand’s excellent Telluride SUV. Interior ambient lighting is standard on the upscale SX model and can be set to pulse along with the music like the system Kia offers in the smaller Soul SUV. We haven’t had a Seltos for testing, but during our test drive in Korea, the cargo area easily swallowed our suitcases, backpacks, and photo bag.
Infotainment and Connectivity
All Seltos models will have a touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, but the optional 10.3-inch unit is the one to get. It offers navigation and the capability to split the screen so you can view the map and directions at the same time you’re making changes to the radio station. Depending on which model you choose, the Seltos can also be equipped with a wireless smartphone-charging pad, up to three USB ports, a head-up display, and a 7.0-inch color display in the gauge cluster. An eight-speaker Bose audio system will also be optional and features fractal-textured speaker grilles.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Seltos a four-star safety rating and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has reported that the Kia provided good results in its battery of crash tests. Kia is offering a comprehensive suite of driver-assistance tech on the Seltos, but it appears to be an optional package rather than a standard set of features as with rivals such as the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Available blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Available lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist