Kia’s Seltos made quite an impact when it burst onto the scene last year.
It looked good, drove nicely, was well-equipped, had impressive cabin space and was reasonably priced. Kia’s seven year-warranty was the icing.
Our family tested the popular mid-range Sport+ variant to see what the fuss was about.
Iain: When I first drove the Seltos I called it a dead cert. The right car at the right time.
Jules: Guess you were right. I see loads on the road. I’m not surprised, they’re chunkily styled and look just the right size.
Iain: Well marketed too. Kia tapped into the youthful SUV-buying market by using Billie Eilish’s addictive Bad Guy tune over its TV advert. It was on every 30 seconds during the Australian Open tennis.
Jules: It appealed to we middle-age parents too. Twinkling LED headlights, mood lighting that changed with the music beat and pumping Bose sounds.
Iain: Reign it in. The Seltos in the ad was the range-topping GT-Line at $42,990 drive away. Not many youngsters can afford that.
Jules: Oh. Don’t the others get this cool stuff?
Iain: Afraid not. All in the Seltos range are well-equipped, but the range topper lands all those goodies plus 18-inch alloys, faux leather, electrically adjustable heated and ventilated seats and wireless phone charging.
Jules: What’s our version?
Iain: The front-wheel-drive Sport+ with 2.0-litre petrol engine, costing $33,990: $9000 less than your Bad Guy one. An extra $3500 buys the same model with more powerful 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, dual-clutch auto gearbox and all-wheel-drive.
Jules: Lots of choices for most budgets then.
Iain: Cheapest is an ‘S’ for $26,990 on the road. Rivals include the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, Mitsubishi ASX and Toyota C-HR.
THE LIVING SPACE
Jules: Small SUVs are often not big enough for a family. This Seltos feels vast. Really good head room front and back, the kids have impressive leg room and the boot’s bigger than I was expecting. Good start.
Iain: Well configured cockpit too. There’s a mighty 10.25-inch wide-screen with multi-screen functionality, showing your navigation, audio and trip information at the same time. That’s prestige car stuff.
Jules: I like the big vents, chunky gear shifter and clear buttons, plus there’s a big space to chuck a couple of smartphones.
Iain: The faux leather trim on the cloth seats adds a dash more luxe, but while most cabin plastics are soft, they’re a bit hard and scratchy on the dash and door tops.
Jules: There’s kind of smashed honeycomb-angled plastic trim in places. Funky.
Iain: This will help fire the ambient lighting off in different directions. Except our model doesn’t have it. All we get is bad reflections on the windscreen.
Jules: It’s not got much poke, but for cruising through town, dropping the kids off or hitting the highway, it’s hard to fault.
Iain: Ideally sized, really. Small enough to manoeuvre in city traffic, but large enough to feel solid and well-insulated at 110km/h.
Jules: Loads of active safety kit, which can make things a bit beepy.
Iain: Yep. The lane departure warning kept moaning at me; I prefer it when it just subtly moves you back into your lane.
Jules: It does that too. Very smart how it feels like it’s steering itself.
Iain: Radar cruise control’s a huge bonus for my commute, but the sound system’s just ordinary. They teased me with Bose, but this one misses out.
Jules: Small SUV boots can be next to useless, but this one’s excellent for the shop. The tailgate’s a bit awkward to pull down though; call me spoiled but I’d have liked an auto tailgate.
Iain: Spoiled. You get a full-size spare wheel and 433 litres cargo space. The entry-level Seltos has a space-saver and giant 498-litre boot — larger than Kia’s bigger Sportage SUV.
Jules: It couldn’t excel at everything. It’s no sporting SUV.
Iain: It has a Sport button. Doesn’t do much though. The 110kW non-turbo engine’s adequate, but if you want sporty you’ll need to spend that extra $3500 on the turbo model.
Jules: I’d rather have the mood lighting that changes with the music, thanks.
Iain: You’re such a wannabe Millennial. Kia’s done its usual excellent work setting the Seltos up for a balance of handling and comfort, so it actually corners really well. The single-speed CVT gearbox doesn’t add much driving joy, but that’s not really the point of this SUV.
Jules: It’s loaded with safety and the rear seats are very spacious so both mum and kids are happy. But why, oh why, aren’t there rear air vents or rear USB points?
Iain: It is an oversight. You only get rear vents in the range-topper. Petrol use during our test was only 7.2L/100km which keeps bills down, while services total less than $2000 for the first five years.
Iain: When people ask me which SUV they should buy, Seltos is usually the first name out of my mouth. Why? Value, size and that reassuring seven-year warranty. You need the range-topping GT-Line for all the fun stuff, but all models are decent value.
Jules: I naively expected every Seltos would be a disco on wheels, so feel a bit hoodwinked by the adverts. But it’s still a great SUV. Safe, nice to drive, a good size and good value. The small SUV class leader in my eyes.