2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD
Class: Subcompact Crossover
Miles driven: 183
Fuel used: 6.6 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A|
|Power and Performance||B-|
|Fit and Finish||B-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||175-hp 1.6-liter|
|Engine Type||Turbo 4-cyl|
Real-world fuel economy: 27.7 mpg
Driving mix: 40% city, 60% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 25/30/27 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $27,890 (not including $1120 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Starbright Yellow/Cherry Black roof paint ($345); carpeted floor mats ($130)
Price as tested: $29,485
The great: Excellent cabin/cargo space within tidy overall dimensions; ride and handling balance
The good: Good selection of comfort and convenience features; distinctive styling personality
The not so good: Occasionally quirky transmission behavior; some so-so cabin materials
More Kia price and availability information
Who needs another subcompact crossover? Anyone? Let’s rephrase that. Who needs a subcompact crossover that’s roomy, rides well, and is brimming with features?
Ah, we see more hands in the air.
One way to look at the Kia Seltos that makes its debut as a 2021 model is as one more subcompact crossover. The South Korean automaker is slipping it in its lineup between the somewhat unconventional Soul, another subcompact, and the compact Sportage because there’s a rule somewhere (there must be, right?) that every possible SUV permutation must be addressed. Another way to look at it is as a practical, solid value that Kia would almost be negligent not to offer.
With a wheelbase of 103.5 inches and a total length of 172 inches, the Seltos has an extra inch of wheelbase and eight more inches bumper to bumper than a Hyundai Kona, so this is no incidence of intracorporate badge-swapping. While they do have one powerteam in common, the Seltos comes off as being its own vehicle, available in five models. Consumer Guide’s first exposure to one was in the form of the top-level SX Turbo.
Test Drive: 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate
As its name implies, the SX comes standard with a turbocharged engine, a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder paired with a 7-speed automated-manual transmission. (This is the engine/trans combination shared with the Kona.) Its starting price, with delivery, comes to $29,010, and includes enough upgrades from the $26,610 S Turbo to stock a decent vehicle all by itself. They include LED headlights and fog lights, voice-enabled navigation, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, Bose premium audio system with a sound-connected “mood lighting” (the same basic setup as in the 2020 Kia Soul), satellite radio, 7-inch color instrument display, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, “Highway Driving Assist” that can automatically adjust cruising speed to match a vehicle ahead as well as changing speed limits, an electronic parking brake, full leatherette seat upholstery, 10-way power driver’s seat adjustment with power lumbar adjuster, “Smart Key” entry, keyless and remote starting, wireless charging, automatic climate control, autodimming rearview mirror, illuminated visor mirror, LED interior lighting, rear USB charge port and air vents, a cargo cover, and “Safe Exit Assist” that prevents passenger exits into traffic.
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Other more general standard-equipment items of note are Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, and heated power-adjustable external mirrors. Kia’s “Drivewise” safety suite consists of forward-collision avoidance, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warnings and collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning, driver-attention warning, and automatic headlight high-beam control. With only a Cherry Black roof over citrusy Starbright Yellow paint and carpeted floor mats added, the test vehicle topped out at $29,485.
The 1.6-liter turbo is an adequate—albeit never thrilling—engine for both around-town and highway driving. It makes 175 horsepower and just 195 lb-ft of torque—at least the latter is fully mustered as soon as 1500 rpm, which helps get things going. The powertrain seems happiest set in “Normal” mode, especially on the street. Using “Sport” just brings up heightened engine drone as the double-clutch automatic holds out longer between shifts, and then when it does shift, it is with an undisguised bucking. Picking through traffic in Sport, the turbo Seltos can feel confused and out of sorts. But get it out on an expressway and select a time to pick up the pace, and it seems a little more with it. There’s also a “Smart” mode for the efficiency-conscious.
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Turbo models have EPA fuel-mileage ratings of 25 mpg in the city, 30 mpg in highway driving, and 27 combined. This reviewer’s short test of 48 miles—45 percent of which was in city-style driving—logged 22.8 mpg.
All versions but the nonturbo S come standard with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, and even there it is an option. (The system includes a selectable lock setting for extra low-speed traction in poor road conditions.) Suspension is fully independent, with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink arrangement in back. The Seltos rides well for a subcompact crossover, with good resistance to bumps and fairly sound body control around corners. Its easy handling felt a smidgen crisper in Sport, which tightened up the steering. On the highway, some road and wind noise intrude on the cabin.
Perhaps the new little ute’s best quality is interior roominess. Four average-sized adults will find comfortable legroom, to say nothing of all the headroom they could want. Rear seat backs recline. Doors open wide for easy entry and exit, and driver vision is generally unimpeded save for the rear corners, where the bodywork does the de rigueur small-SUV-kickup thing.
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The leather and leatherette touches in the SX inject a whiff of plushness into a cabin that otherwise doesn’t have much of it. Soft-surface areas are limited, and only lightly padded. At least the expansive plastic surfaces on the dash and doors are attractively grained. Controls are convenient. Audio inputs are directly made on the big touchscreen with the help of tuning knobs, and the climate system features handy temperature and fan-speed dials. Sport mode changes the virtual instrument display, with reddish highlights and the appearance of a rudimentary boost indicator—the number of segmented lights activated in two pincerlike streams rises and falls with the level of acceleration.
Passengers can stash bring-along incidentals in a large glove box, a square console box that makes up in depth what it lacks in length and width, door pockets (with bottle holders in back), a pouch on the back of the front passenger seat, and cup holders in the console and pull-down rear armrest. Rear cargo space is very good. The rear 60/40-split seats fold at a slight rise, but they are flush with the cargo floor. When retracted, they make an expansive 62.8 cubic feet of load space available.
Kia may have come out with what seems like the 9 millionth small crossover, but it did do a pretty good job of it, with prices that start at $23,110. We’ll guess that there are a quite a few people who need something like that.
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