While it may not be the absolute sales leader according to VFACTS, the 2021 Kia Seltos is seriously hot property.
CarExpert has heard of wait times stretching out beyond six months, and if our Experience Centre is anything to go by we wouldn’t be surprised if backorders are already flowing into 2022.
Our coverage of the mildly-updated 2021 range already includes the Sport+ FWD, and we have a review of the flagship GT-Line coming soon, but our test subject today is the 2021 Kia Seltos Sport with Safety Pack.
Smack bang in the middle of the line-up with the basics covered and then some, is this the true Goldilocks variant and does it uphold the strengths of better-specified Seltos models?
On test we have the 2021 Kia Seltos Sport w/ Safety Pack, which starts at $30,790 before on-road costs.
At the time of writing this model is being advertised from $32,790 drive-away using a Melbourne postcode (3000).
The Mars Orange exterior paint seen here adds $520. Other colour options include Starlight Yellow ($NCO), Neptune Blue, Steel Grey, Gravity Grey, Cherry Black and Snow White Pearl (all $520).
The full 2021 Kia Seltos price list is as follows:
- 2021 Kia Seltos S: $26,290
- 2021 Kia Seltos S w/ Safety Pack: $27,290
- 2021 Kia Seltos Sport: $29,290
- 2021 Kia Seltos Sport w/ Safety Pack: $30,290
- 2021 Kia Seltos Sport+ 2.0 FWD: $32,790
- 2021 Kia Seltos Sport+ 1.6T AWD: $36,290
- 2021 Kia Seltos GT-Line AWD: $41,700
All prices exclude on-road costs
In this guise, the Seltos is priced in the vicinity of a dizzying amount of light and small SUV competitors.
Key rivals include:
- 2021 Haval Jolion Ultra: $30,990 D/A
- 2021 Honda HR-V VTi-S: $31,200
- 2021 Hyundai Kona Elite: $31,600
- 2021 Mazda CX-30 G20 Evolve: $31,590
- 2021 MG ZST Essence: $32,990 D/A
- 2021 Mitsubishi ASX Exceed: $33,490
- 2021 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross LS FWD: $32,590
- 2021 Nissan Qashqai ST-L: $34,600
- 2021 Skoda Kamiq 110TSI Monte Carlo: $36,990 D/A
- 2021 Subaru XV 2.0i Premium: $34,590
- 2021 Toyota C-HR GXL: $30,915
- 2021 Volkswagen T-Roc 110TSI Style: $33,990
All prices exclude on-road costs unless specified (D/A)
The Kia Seltos Sport gets the following equipment over the base S:
- 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (wired)
- DAB digital radio
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Full-size spare
- Front fog lights
- Premium steering wheel and shift knob
- Full-size spare wheel
- Climate control air-conditioning (single zone)
The optional Safety Pack (available on S and Sport) adds the following:
- AEB with cyclist detection/Junction Assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Electronic parking brake
- 15-inch rear disc brakes
Standard equipment carried over from the Seltos S includes:
- Reversing camera with rear parking sensors
- Six-speaker sound system
- Space-saver spare wheel
- Tilt-and-telescopic adjustable steering column
- Automatic headlights (halogen projector type)
- Auto high-beam
The Kia Seltos wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted in 2019.
All models received an adult occupant protection score of 85 per cent, child occupant protection score of 83 per cent, vulnerable road user protection score of 61 per cent, and a safety assist score of 70 per cent.
The following safety features are standard across the range:
- AEB with pedestrian detection
- Forward collision warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Front, front side and curtain airbags
- Driver attention monitoring
The S and Sport are available with an optional Safety Pack, which adds the following:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection and Junction Assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Driver Attention Alert+ (enhanced system)
- 15-inch rear disc brakes
Sport+ and GT-Line grades also add:
- Blind-spot assist
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Lane Following Assist (GT-Line only)
What the Kia lacks in tactility and material quality it makes up for by being something of a class leader in terms of practicality and infotainment.
The cloth trim looks basic but feels of a high quality, and while the front seats are wide and could use more bolstering they’re quite supportive under thigh.
‘Premium’ trim adorns the steering wheel and shift knob, clearly indicating it’s not real leather used here, but the smooth, supple material feels good in the hand. Ditto all the switchgear which is well-damped, offering a sense of quality and tactility.
What really impresses, though, is the 10.25-inch touchscreen, running inbuilt satellite navigation and offering wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – as opposed to the wireless smartphone tech and no nav in the base model’s 8.0-inch touchscreen.
It may not be as standout as it was at launch, but the widescreen layout, crisp resolution and handy set of features keep it as a benchmark in the segment – though the wireless smartphone mirroring offered with factory navigation from the 9.2-inch system in the Skoda Kamiq would be a good addition.
The Seltos Sport otherwise feels quite basic and spartan, with a grey-on-grey colour scheme that’s far from exciting. As noted before there’s next to no soft-touch surfaces other than where your elbows rest on the doors and between the front seats.
Storage is decent, with a shelf and cubby under the centre stack large enough to store phones, wallets and keys, adequately-sized cupholders between the front seats, and a fairly deep console bin. The door bins are on the shallower side.
If you thought the first row was a little bare, the second row is even more so.
Yes, there’s acres of space for the class with good head-, knee- and legroom even for taller passengers, while the ISOFIX points and wide-opening rear doors make this a good entry-level SUV for families.
With that said, there’s no fold-down centre armrest, no rear air vents, no rear power outlet, and no map pockets behind the front seats like you’ll find in a litany of competitors.
It’s even more frustrating these features are available within the Seltos line-up but require further spend on a higher model grade.
Storage or amenities in the rear are limited to bottle holders in the doors, and the hard plastics on the rear doors are less jarring since the fronts are the same.
Behind the second row is a 433-litre boot area that expands to 1393L with the rear seats folded. Both measurements are to the VDA standard.
It’s worth noting Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line variants quote slightly less than the base S due to the full-size spare wheels higher grades store under the floor. For reference, the S quotes a more accommodating 468L/1428L.
The full-size spare is a welcome and relatively unique feature in the segment, and the load area itself is wide and square. The Seltos’ boxy shape means loading items above the window line is easy as well.
Even with 433L as opposed to 468L, the Seltos Sport (and higher grades) offers one of the largest boots in the class. The Nissan Qashqai quotes 430L/1598L and the Honda HR-V offers 437L/1462L.
All front-wheel drive Kia Seltos models are powered by a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels via a CVT automatic.
Outputs are quoted at 110kW (6200rpm) and 180Nm (4500rpm) which, while meek on paper, is about par for the segment and price point.
Fuel use is a claimed 6.8L/100km on the combined cycle, and the Seltos 2.0-litre is happy running on cheaper 91RON unleaded. The fuel tank measures 50L.
An extra $3500 will get you a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with all-wheel drive and a quicker-shifting dual-clutch automatic. The smaller capacity, boosted petrol quotes outputs of 130kW (6000rpm) and 265Nm (1500-4500rpm).
In addition to the extra traction of on-demand all-wheel drive, the turbocharged Seltos will offer better low-down shove and adds a dash of sportiness with its DCT.
The 1.6T AWD does increase claimed fuel use to 7.6L/100km (claimed), though it’s still able to run on 91RON.
Nothing has changed mechanically from when I drove the Kia Seltos S in 2020, so the core strengths and weaknesses of the vehicle’s driveline remain.
The 2.0-litre atmo petrol and CVT (or IVT in Kia-speak) combination may look uninspiring on paper but in the real world for most real buyers this is the layout that makes the most sense with the Kia Seltos.
With 110kW and 180Nm, you’re rarely going to be winning the traffic light drag race, but the CVT gets the best out of the base engine.
Performance is surprisingly smooth and linear, with the transmission rarely flaring revs in typical CVT fashion. Provided you don’t nail the accelerator to the firewall, it behaves very much like a normal auto, though the changes between ‘steps’ is a touch slurry.
It’s also a fairly refined motor on the move, again provided you don’t try to thrash it. Even at freeway speeds, revs drop below 2000rpm and the engine is only heard up hills or on overtakes – it’s surprisingly well rounded.
What it won’t do is set your heart racing. In all fairness though, neither does the turbo even with the added grunt and snappier DCT.
The Seltos runs a less sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension setup as opposed to the multi-link rear of AWD models. Again though, it won’t ruin the experience in everyday driving.
Regardless of whether you’re in town or on the highway, the Seltos is comfortable and inspires confidence with good road holding and body control. The local tuning program has seen Kia Australia go for a setup that errs on the side of firm sportiness, so there’s a touch of athleticism there.
This isn’t a Cerato GT or a Stinger, but the Seltos can more than hold its own up a winding road and offers accurate, predictable steering that inspires confidence. It hits a happy balance between comfort and dynamics for the target buyer.
The safety net afforded by the optional package also brings handy assistance items that would lead us to label the Safety Pack as a no-brainer for both S and Sport models.
Adaptive cruise control makes highway driving a cinch when there’s a bit of traffic, plus the cyclist and Junction Assist functions for the AEB bring added peace of mind that you have an extra set of eyes.
We can’t comment on the performance of the larger rear brakes compared to the non-Safety Pack-equipped Seltos Sport, though we can say there’s predictable pedal feel and good stopping power on offer.
The standard lane-keep assist works fine and the absence of Lane Follow Assist as seen in the Seltos GT-Line and across the related Hyundai Kona line-up means that’s one less thing to wrestle if you’re not a fan of such systems, but the standard halogen projector headlights are a bit naff.
If you remember our headlight comparison, you’ll remember the Seltos Sport+ used on that test with the same arrangement offered below-average performance in that respect. Should you frequent regional areas often at night, you might want something with a brighter set of lights up front.
The Seltos is covered by Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance coverage for the same period.
In 2.0L FWD guise, scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first. Turbo AWD models have 10,000km intervals.
For the first five visits, the Seltos will cost $261, $452, $324, $584 and $293. That’s $1914 for over 60 months/75,000km, which isn’t that cheap when a Toyota C-HR is $200 a pop for the first five years, or basically half the price.
The turbo is more expensive again and with shorter intervals, so if you do more than 10,000km per annum that’s something to consider.
I saw an indicated 8.0L/100km over 320km during my week of testing, with a mix of city and highway driving. A bit up on Kia’s 6.8L/100km claim, but not bad considered there was a week’s worth of peak-hour commuting in there and no idle stop/start tech.
The Seltos is a clear case of ‘giving the people what they want’. It’s an affordable, spacious, well-featured and attractive SUV that drives well and is relatively affordable to run.
Plus, many are drawn to its ‘not-too-big/not-too-small’ dimensions, adult-friendly back seat and family-friendly boot.
It doesn’t do much wrong, and in Sport with Safety Pack trim it offers all the safety and convenience features you really need with a sprinkle of nicer items on top – namely that excellent 10.25-inch infotainment system.
I feel the Seltos Sport+ offers the best value with respect to the features and equipment the Seltos has to offer, but at near-$36,000 drive-away in 2.0L FWD configuration it’s likely still too expensive for a lot of buyers – which is why the Sport w/ Safety Pack makes the most sense for most people.
I should know, one of my best friends bought this spec and I know of many more that have either done the same or are looking to do so.
Click the images for the full gallery by Wesley Loh (@garagetribe on Instagram)