The auto industry runs, more less or less but mostly more, on the axiom that you can’t have too much of a good thing so it’s no real surprise that Kia has brought out the Seltos, a compact crossover vehicle.
After all, a different compact crossover, the Kia Soul, was instrumental in helping to transform the South Korean carmaker’s image a decade ago, morphing it from an also ran into a hip alternative to better-established brands.
Overview: The 2021 Kia Seltos enters the segment, the most dynamic in the business, with an artful grip on its identity and a complex blend of features, space, utility and performance that customers shopping for a vehicle in this segment seem desire.
Complicating it is the fact Kia faces a raft of competitors that aim to deliver those same things, albeit with varying degrees of success.
Exterior: Unlike the aforementioned Soul, the Seltos utilizes the basic two-box design of a traditional utility vehicle though the company’s designers have worked to apply the elements, such as the Tiger grille, that have emerged as part of Kia’s identity in recent years.
The silhouette is clear and crisp, and the lift gate and D-pillar also are nicely styled to give the vehicle a more singular appearance that stands out when the Seltos is approached from the rear.
The Seltos’ overall appearance also is enhanced by the 7.2 inches of ground clearance, setting it apart from the competition in this crowded segment.
Interior: The inside of the 2021 Kia Seltos is compact, but offers plenty of space and comfort for a full-sized adult driver and passenger.
The visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent and the controls for everything from entertainment system, HVAC and lighting are all within easy reach. The steering wheel is equipped with controls for the radio and cruise controls.
The interior lighting scheme for night driving is unobtrusive while the navigation and entertainments screen in the center stack is easy to read day or night. The quality of materials throughout the cabin help enhance the comfort of the interior and its passengers, which helps lessen the stress that can come with commuting.
Powertrain: Kia is offering two distinct powertrains on the 2021 Seltos, including a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder MPI engine producing 145 horsepower and 132 foot-pounds of torque with an intelligent variable transmission.
The SX model used for the weeklong test was equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo GDI, four-cylinder engine producing 175 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque and a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Both powertrains come with three modes of operation: normal, eco and sport, although an on-demand, all-wheel-drive system is optional.
Technology and Safety: The 2021 Seltos comes with Bluetooth and features such as 10.5-inch touch screen for entertainment and navigation can be had. In addition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as wireless charging and three USB ports are available on the Seltos.
On the safety side, Kia has made a full range of driver assistance feature available, including blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alerts, collision warning, emergency braking and smart cruise control.
The Seltos also is equipped with multiple air bags to protect the driver and passengers against frontal and side-impact collisions.
Drive Impressions: The Seltos is a vehicle that does that seems to address a lot of the different facets of everyday driving. The version I drove with the 1.6-liter engine had plenty of power from pulling away from a traffic light in normal, everyday traffic as well as passing or maneuvering through traffic on the freeway or perhaps more importantly, providing the zip needed to get down the ramp into the flow of freeway traffic.
The seven-speed transmission seemed to hold second a bit long, but really didn’t miss a beat other than that during our test. The brakes were adequate, the steering responded quickly though it didn’t offer a lot of feedback.
The suspension seems to be one of Seltos strong points as it is nice and stiff and quite capable of handling the variety of road surfaces the state of Michigan has devised to test vehicles every day. Overall, the Seltos left a good impression after seven days.
Wrap Up: The 2021 Seltos is a smart, capable vehicle that fits into the Goldilocks frame of reference, not to big but not too small, for which many consumers are hunting now. It is a versatile vehicle that can fill most of the needs of customers looking for a vehicle that can fit into challenging environments while also handling a varied set of uses from everyday commuting to weekend errands and chores and even to longer road trips. In addition, the price for the Seltos is relatively affordable given the impressive range of features available even in a most competitive segment.