Driven - Feb 2020

The Surprise that is Kia Seltos

The subcompact SUV and its incredible popularity with respects to the South African Market is honestly rather astounding. Simply put manufactures are chomping at the bit to get in on the action, with Kia not wishing to be late to the party, the Seltos rather quietly joined our markets in November. The VW T-Cross formula proving in December, with 632 units finding new homes that Kia South Africa would be silly not to jump in the deep end. 

So the new Seltos, think of it as a smaller Sportage and (Kia’s now best seller). Compact dimensions that make it compact enough to be a B-segment SUV to take the fight to the likes of VW, Ford Ecosport and its cousin the Hyundai Creta. 510 units found homes in its first retail month and the fight has almost been concluded to an outright brawl given its brilliance. The new model range is powered by a choice of the familiar 1.6litre 90kW and 151Nm engine with the choice of either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed Auto, in the entry and mid-spec Ex and Ex+, good for an 11.2 second 0-100 time and a 175km/h top chat. The top-spec GT-line gains a 1.4Litre Turbocharged motor that produces a healthy 103kW and 242Nm. The turbo mill is paired exclusively to a 7-speed DCT transmission and all models drive the front wheels with the latter making use of a 2WD “Terrain mode”, that makes use of the traction control system to create 3 low grip driving options namely; sand, snow and a normal road use mode. The healthy power and torque figures result in a swifter 9.7 second acceleration time and a 187km/h top speed. Standard specification is the highlight of cars of this segment and the notion that is the power of Kia’s impressionable sales presence in our market.

The entry-level Seltos offers An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with Apple Carplay and android auto, Bluetooth with voice recognition and linked to a 6-speaker system with USB charging ports front and rear. The entire range is equipped with automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights and front fog lights incorporated into a muscular and athletic front end with the signature Kia ‘Tiger Nose’. Steering mounted controls, electric mirrors and windows tops of the list of standard spec rather well. All models come with 6 airbags, 2 front, 2 side and 2 full-length curtains for the rest of the vehicle. The EX+ adds leather on both the seats and the doors, electrically folding mirrors, a centre console with a storage bin in the centre console and an extra inch to make 17 on the alloy wheel option. 

The Top Spec GT-line adds an extra level of specification to the range, with the GT-Line Exclusive features and touches like satin, gloss black and red trim, 17-inch crystal cut alloys that hide red brake callipers, full LED lighting up front and 3D dimensioned indicators. A Bespoke leather interior with red accents and mood lighting with 6 different colours and D-shaped leather steering wheel featuring cruise control. Keyless entry and start concludes the extensive list of standard trimmings. 

What is the Seltos like to drive?

On launch both the 1.6 in EX+ auto and the GT-line were available to sample; beginning with the later the GT-line, one finds themself in a cabin, that is a very nice space to be. Standard spec and value for money equation coming up and the only thing I felt myself wanting for was automatic climate control and a panoramic roof. With the connectivity elements coming into fruition tenfold. The large leather wheel, supportive leather seats and the sporty vibe are played through rather well and the cabin feels like it would be at home in a larger vehicle or more premium segment. The keyless entry and start make for swift and rapid entry and getaway. The GT-line is rather dynamic for a car of its class, weight and stature, with the engine and transmission parring making for such an effortless integration of the overall driving experience. There a strange connection that builds between you and a car that does as its told, and this Kia Suv does that incredibly effortlessly. The sharp and twisty Franschhoek pass proved to be not enough to unsettle the Kia and the 242Nm’s and slick gearbox proved rather fantastic at the overtake and pass and when driven hard it responded rather well with good grip and the Drive mode dial by the gear leaver changing the driver characteristics enough to make the car very engaging. The swiftness and ease of the drive that the GT-Line provides are very hard to rival in this class and the only comparable vehicle is the VW T-Cross, but the options list expansiveness makes that a rather pricey affair. Sadly the drive of the rest of the range is not as dynamic or engaging but the average consumer will be far more concerned with the value aspect that the car offers. The steering weight and body roll is nothing that one needs to write home about. The biggest let down is the 1.6 90Kw motor, it feels very underpowered and makes the driving experience far more demanding through having to really work the revs to get the car moving which happens rather leisurely even at the coast, as gingerly as the 11.2 acceleration suggests

Verdict

With such competitive pricing, it’s really hard to fault the Seltos, sure the 1.6 Motor is not well suited to the vehicle and maybe if one is reaching the option for Automatic climate control would be nice but its a brilliant thing and the numbers suggest the market knows this too.