The Kia Seltos has made a quick march to the sharp end of the small SUV sales chart since its 2019 debut, and a good many buyers have gravitated to the flagship GT-Line here on test.
It’s not difficult to see why. The premier variant embodies all the core Seltos draw cards, such as its mature design and contemporary styling outside and in, roomy size amongst contemporary rivals – particularly the Hyundai Kona – and a keen technical bent. Atop these, the GT-Line brings turbocharged power and on-demand all-wheel drive with top-shelf equipment.
We’ve already had the GT-Line through CarExpert garage last year – spoiler alert, it rated an exceptional 8.2 out of 10 – though Kia has since given the Seltos range a small rolling update and bit of pricing alignment throughout.
Are we still as warm to the GT-Line given its increased familiarity and in light of a bit of minor range fettling? Let’s find out.
The list price for the tree-topper 2021 Kia Seltos GT-Line is currently $42,200 before on-road costs. That’s $1100 higher than when we drove the MY20 version last year and higher still than adjusted MY21 pricing ($41,700 list) at the beginning of the year.
Further, using Kia’s online configurator, a clean-skin GT-Line in standard no-cost paintwork now works out to $44,290 drive-away on offer, which negates some of on-road contribution (Kia has it as a touch under $4300 for on roads).
That’s $1300 up on the $42,990 drive-away offer buyers took advantage of for MY20. Not a huge jump, mind, and very much in line with the car industry’s price rises across the board, but an increase nonetheless.
The alternative? You can drop down one variant to the Sport+ DCT ($36,790), which maintains the same turbo AWD powertrain as GT-Line in the slightly lower-grade package while saving a considerable $5410 chunk – that’s a lot of coin at this price point.
The same Sport+ grade as a ‘CVT’, or with 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated power, CVT transmission and front drive, lowers the outlay to $33,290 before on-roads. Again, all pricing is current at the time of review but best to check the Kia public website for the most current figures and drive-away calculations.
As we’ve observed in the past, the GT-Line is right up there in price for a small non-premium SUV: it’s currently pricier, in list at least, than tip in for an Audi Q2 35 TFSI ($41,950) and you need to peek around Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina ($43,690) or Peugeot 2008 GT Sport ($43,990) to spend more from a mainstream marque.
Options are nonexistent outside of premium paint, which adds $520 in any of the six colours outside of the signature (of sorts) Starbright Yellow metallic, two-tone Starbright Yellow with black roof as demonstrated on our tester, or two-tone white with black roof. Both dual-colour schemes are exclusive to GT-Line.
Unsurprisingly, the GT-Line fits all of the bells and whistles available on the Seltos menu.
Outside, you get exclusives such as 18-inch wheels with 235mm rubber – 20mm wider than the Sport+ below it – as well as LED headlights, tail lights, fog lights and daytime running lights.
The top tier also brings with it rain-sensing wipers and a sunroof, though the glass ceiling is omitted if you opt for the contrast black roof. Common with the grade below are a full-sized alloy spare wheel, parking sensors at each end, auto high-beam, follow-me-home lighting, roof rails, electric folding side mirrors and rear privacy glass.
Inside, the GT-Line offers perforated leatherette seats with 10-way driver and eight-way passenger electric adjustment, heated and ventilated front seats, a head-up display – which annoyingly omits any driver’s screen digital speed readout – as well as wireless phone charging, colour-changing nightclub-like mood lighting, rear air vents, a rear USB outlet and an eight-speaker Bose-branded audio system.
Non-exclusive kit shared further downstream in the Seltos range includes adaptive cruise control, a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with proprietary sat-nav, real-time traffic updates, a reversing camera and DAB+. The cabin also features dual front USB ports and LED cabin lighting.
The GT-Line is the only variant in range to offer active lane centring – that’s more of a convenience than strictly safety augmentation per se – and the only real MY21 update of note is the addition of junction assist in the AEB safety system.
Not much new, but it’s still an impressively fulsome fit-out, as you’d expect for the GT-Line’s asking price.
The Seltos scored a full five stars in ANCAP assessment conducted in 2019.
Adult occupant protection was rated 85 per cent with child occupant protection at 83 per cent. Vulnerable road user protection scored 68 per cent while safety assist returned a 78 per cent result, which are higher scores than those for lower-grade Seltos variants due to the all-speed camera and radar-based AEB application.
Safety equipment includes six airbags, the aforementioned all-speed AEB with junction assist and pedestrian/cyclist detection, blind-spot monitoring and collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, active lane keeping, an auto-dimming mirror and a driver attention monitor.
ISOFIX mounting points are fitted to the outboard rear seating positions, while downhill brake assist and hill-holding functionality are also included in its safety and assistance suite.
Perception is a big deal. Against key rival Hyundai Kona, the Seltos is a little longer in both overall length and in wheelbase. And if client feedback from the floor of the CarExpert Experience Centre is anything to go by, tyre-kickers and potential customers alike perceive the Seltos as a larger SUV, and by enough of a margin of opinion to be either drawn to or dissuaded from either Korean option.
The cabin design is contemporary and somewhat mature, save for the fussy Bose speaker covers and the disco effect of the Sound Mood Lighting that is, thankfully, fairly subtle.
Typical of the Seltos breed is that it looks and feels solidly built and has a nice roomy ambience in both rows of seating. The quality of the leather-look trim is decent enough and there’s ample adjustment in the driver (and passenger) seat to tailor-fit support and comfort.
From the driver’s seat, the controls are located nicely and the wheel, transmission controller and other touch points are suitably upmarket. The instrumentation is clear and legible – moreso than the pokey head-up display – and the inclusion of super-bright LED overheads, that you switch on and off via touching the lenses, is pretty slick.
Like the Sport+ I reviewed recently, the plastic vibe is fairly conspicuous and the storage cubbies are in desperate need for some rubber matting to prevent personal items from rattling about. It’s about the only area of the cabin that feels a little cost-cut and unfinished.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen system is the familiar unit rolled out across Kia and Hyundai’s high-grade offerings and it does a lot of things right. It’s large, clearly legible, pretty easy to navigate and has a fast processing speed.
And, unlike a good many rival systems on the market, this one fits a slew of physical short-cut buttons below the screen as well as handy volume and tuning dials. The Bluetooth audio, too, is very quick at booting up wireless media sources such as Spotify if you can’t be bothered tethering CarPlay.
The second row is exceptional for the small SUV segment, offering a good amount of head, shoulder and knee room that’s more than ideal for four adults or three youngsters. And if creature comforts are a priority, you really need this GT-Line grade as it fits rear air vents and a USB port in the back, neither of which are offered in lower grade Seltos variants.
At 433 litres, its boot space is decent enough, though the full-sized alloy spare wheel under the floor eats into the space somewhat– the base S version, with its slimmer space-saver spare, offers a slightly larger 468 litres. With the rear 60:40-split seat backs folded, luggage space expands to an excellent 1393 litres.
Does the cabin fit the (pricey) bill? You bet. In fact, it would nitpicking to unearth features the GT-Line might otherwise omits for where the Korean SUV sits in the motoring universe in terms of positioning and outlay.
Understandably, the top-shelf GT-Line exclusively fits the flagship turbocharged powertrain of what’s essentially two vastly difference configurations offered in the Seltos line up.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol four cylinder produces 130kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm in a band stretching from 1500rpm through to 4500pm. That’s a decent hike in energy over the 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four used further down the range offering 20kW and 85Nm less, the latter torque figure in a less-favourable high-rpm (4500rpm) peak point.
Torque feeds through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic rather than the CVT transmission on the more affordable 2.0-litre configuration, and the GT-Line piles drive through an on-demand all-wheel system that brings the option to lock the front and rear axles together when need be. Elsewhere in the range, 2.0L Seltos models adopt a front-wheel drivetrain only.
It’s no slouch. There are three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – available via a rotary dial on the console, and the latter setting returns acceleration of around 8.0 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, which is generally accepted to be about two seconds swifter than par for the small SUV course.
It runs happily on regular 91 RON fuel or E10 in its 50-litre tank, though its quoted combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres is thirstier than the 2.0-litre FWD’s best of 6.8L/100kms for the same cycle. Not a huge disparity, but that extra turbo performance does come at a price at the bowser.
It’s a fair claim, too. With testing largely kept in the Sydney metro area, including motorway use, the GT-Line returned real-world consumption in the eights and nines.
Unlike the front-drivers, AWD Seltos versions – GT-Line and some Sport+ variants – fit independent rear suspension rather than a torsion beam. Turbocharged models also fit larger 305mm front and 284mm rear disc brakes rather than the 280mm/262mm combination found on S and Sport without the Safety Pack.
The electrically-assisted power steering offers a concise 10.6-metre turning circle, while braked towing is a reasonable 1250kg, which is 150kg higher than the front drivers.
In a segment rife with make-do motivation, the 1.6 turbo/dual-clutch/all-paw combination of the GT-Line ticks a lot of positive boxes.
The obvious one is power and performance, though the engine is also keenly responsive and satisfyingly linear – at least in Normal mode – which is nicely rounded and flexible, or in Sport where the powertrain adds a noticeable kick up the backside.
Eco mode, though, really does the take wind out of the Seltos’ sails, to a point where you’ll probably never find a need to activate it short of milking a touch more range on the open road when using cruise control.
Sonically, it’s hardly a delightful package, but the trade-off is that the thick torque band makes the engine’s sweet spot easy to pluck in almost every situation.
The dual-clutch transmission returns the rewards the design sets out to achieve: crisp and assertive gear changes, here in an intuitive calibration that doesn’t want for any manual override much even with the most enthusiastic driving. However, it’s not perfect.
At low speed, the clutch mechanism judders faintly, complete with a slightly annoying whirling sound.
An isolated case? Seems not. The GT-Line demonstrator at our CarExpert Experience Centre returned a similar trait, a small foible not evident in the 2.0L Seltos testers I’ve personally sampled or the turbocharged Hyundai Kona that adopts similar hardware.
It’s small blot on an otherwise clean copybook. The Seltos GT-Line really is a great thing to drive, its lusty powertrain backed by a chassis with tuning leaning conspicuously towards the sporty side but not really to the detriment of comfort and on-road refinement.
There’s just enough compliance in the ride and quite a bit of assertive body control, culminating in a middling default that’s generally rewarding across a broad array of driving conditions.
Overall, the Normal drive mode is the best all-round fit, if only because Sport mode tends to hang onto gear ratios a little too enthusiastically for commuting around town and causes the steering to become a little under-assisted. No foul: both modes do what’s claimed on their figurative boxes.
At 1470kg, the turbo AWD versions are 115kg heavier than the Seltos front-drivers, though the extra poke smothers any perceivable disadvantage the extra weight might otherwise bring. In the corners or out on the open the road, it remains solid and planted, returning a sense of substance you won’t find in some corners of the small SUV segment.
Outward visibility is decent and it’s easy to place on the road and judge when parking, though the reversing camera could be a little less grainy.
Shortcomings? The big one is the speed camera warning system. It’s loud, it’s overbearing and there’s no way to defeat its function in any settings sub-menu buried deep in the infotainment.
This will be a deal-breaker for some shoppers, or cause for regular annoyance with some buyers. A comparatively minor gripe is that the digital speedo in the somewhat faint head-up system means that there’s no clearer and more quick-glance-legible alternative in the driver’s screen.
As an on-road experience the GT-Line offers a commendable showing, if with one or two points of contention not easily ignored or overlooked by the user.
The Seltos is covered by Kia’s excellent seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with seven years of capped-price servicing and roadside assistance if servicing is maintained through the company’s dealer network.
Servicing intervals are a typical 12 months or 10,000km, which is 5000km shorter than that of the naturally-aspirated Seltos.
At the time of review, the MY21 models capped price intervals cost $275, $466, $339, $600 and $309 for the first four visits, which is actually a little cheaper per visit than when we tested the MY20 version last year.
There are plenty of angles from which to view the Seltos GT-Line.
The range is a relative newcomer to the small SUV fray and it’s become one of its most popular with buyers very quickly. And last we looked, there was a bit of a wait for the flagship version, such is demand for what’s ostensibly one of the segment’s most expensive offerings.
Why? Because it’s good. So good and so wanting for little, in fact, that it can be considered a genuine segment benchmark. It’s got almost Euro-esque styling, it embodies maturity, and it offers a kind of plus-sized appeal against key big-selling rivals in the Hyundai Kona and Mitsubishi ASX that appeals to a good many buyers.
It’s arguably not the sweet spot of the range – you can save a huge chunk dropping down to the excellent Sport+ – though its fulsome feature and equipment suite does stack up to what does appear to be genuine value if you look beyond the mainstream and consider the value pitches around with premium European badges.
It’s not perfect. But, jeez, didn’t Kia get this particularly package oh-so right in so many of the important areas.
Click the images for the full gallery
MORE: Everything Kia Seltos