CHATHAM, Mass. – Kia keeps ramping up the pressure in the mega-competitive sport utility/crossover utility vehicle (SUV/CUV) market with each product launch. Its Telluride garnered virtually every major “of the Year” award for 2020 setting new standards for value (not to mention comfort, convenience and technology) in the large-vehicle portion of the mid-size SUV segment.
This year the Korean manufacturer introduced its latest member at the other end of the SUV world with the launch of the all-new 2021 Seltos. Filled with many of the features introduced on the Telluride, it is a subcompact package which can exceed 30 miles per gallon in every-day driving.
That mileage – actually 32.5 mpg – is what we saw during our week in a top-of-the-line Seltos SX Turbo AWD (all-wheel drive) without any effort to milk better fuel-economy numbers from the pint-sized five door.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the Seltos at 25 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 27 combined.
The other basic numbers: a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 175 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque which is efficiently turned into motive power through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive and electronic stability control system.
The Seltos is no sports car, but its performance is “real-world” reassuring – easily meeting the challenges of making left turns onto the busy roads of a crowded Cape Cod in July. True to its SUV intentions, the Seltos is geared to going off the pavement thanks to 7.3-inches of ground clearance; a locking center differential, a front-end sculpted for sharper approach and departure angles as well as front and rear skid plates to protect the underside from potential off-road obstacles.
The rest of the vehicle’s underpinnings include independent suspension front and rear; 235/45R18 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels; four-wheel disc brakes (16-inch vented in front;15-inch solid in the rear) backed up by an anti-lock system (ABS). The ride is a bit stiff with potholes and ruts making themselves known, but not unpleasant.
Comprehensive Kia Wise Drive Wise advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)
This Seltos featured the complete Kia Wise Drive Wise ADAS, much like a fully equipped Telluride. The package brings:
o Blind Spot Collision Warning (BCW): When a vehicle is detected in the blind spot, an icon flashes in the mirror. A chime will sound if the turn signal is on.
o Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA): Builds on BCW by applying brakes to the outer wheel under certain conditions to return the vehicle to its lane.
o Driver Attention Warning (DAW): Senses inattentive driving patterns and sends an audible/visual warning to alert the driver.
o Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with pedestrian detection (FCA): Assists the driver in braking (automatic-emergency braking – AEB) to help prevent a collision or lessen the effects in certain conditions if a vehicle or pedestrian is detected in front.
o Highway Driving Assist (HDA): Uses federal highway speed limit information from the navigation system and, under certain conditions, will automatically adjust speed to be within the posted speed limit and maintain distance with the vehicle detected in front.
o Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS): Designed to alert the driver if the system detects that the vehicle is about to depart from its current lane without a turn signal.
o Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS): Builds on LDWS by applying slight steering inputs in certain circumstances to help bring the vehicle back into the lane.
o Lane Following Assist (LFA): Builds on LKAS. Follows lane markings that the system detects and provides steering inputs to help maintain the vehicle in the center of the lane.
o Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCCA): Uses BCW technology to help detect approaching cross traffic when in reverse. When approaching cross traffic is detected, the system alerts the driver and applies brakes.
o Rear Occupant Alert: Designed to provide a message in the instrument cluster for the driver to “Check rear seats” in order to help prevent leaving the vehicle with a rear passenger left inside; the message appears when the driver door is opened after a rear passenger door has been opened and closed.
o Smart Cruise Control with stop & go (SCC w/S&G): Designed to adapt to the driving environment by automatically applying the brakes, or accelerator, to help maintain a predetermined distance from a vehicle it detects in front. Can bring the vehicle to a full stop and resumes when traffic resumes within three seconds of stopping.
o Safe Exist Assist (SEA): Can alert the driver or passengers opening their door not to exit the vehicle when the system detects approaching traffic. When detected, a chime sounds.
A lot of helpful information and actions to keep the Seltos driver both alert to surrounding conditions and operating the SUV in a safe manner. These features plus the dynamic qualities of the chassis and power train provide a spunky, fun driving experience.
Kia makes living with the Seltos SX Turbo an easy, enjoyable pastime due to the broad range of amenities. Finding a comfortable driving position is easy thanks to the placement of the controls plus the power adjustments for the seat (which, like the front passenger’s) is heated and the steering wheel which can be adjusted for reach and height.
The rear seats recline and fold (60/40 split) to allow maximum use of interior space. And all passengers have plenty of room in a cabin which feels much bigger than the outside dimensions would lead you to believe. Large windows all around contribute to this impression and provide excellent visibility in all directions.
Kia has continuously improved and increased the technology in its vehicles, evident in this Seltos. In front of the driver is a customizable seven-inch LCD instrument panel controlled by buttons on the steering wheel.
At the dash’s center sits a 10.25-inch color touch screen capable of displaying one, two or three different infotainment categories including audio (AM/FM/HD radio/SiriusXM satellite radio/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/streaming media), climate control, navigation, traffic, travel information (including weather) and direction of travel. And all the sound comes through an eight-speaker Bose Premium Audio system.
Steering-wheel and voice-activation controls supplement dials and buttons in controlling the infotainment functions.
As is often the case, I’ve barely covered the complete list of features comprising the 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD. Korean vehicles tend to be value-packed and the Seltos continues the tradition. This version topped out at $29,485 (including $1,120 for freight and handling), but you can build just the Seltos you want as the range begins at $21,990 – and if you are judicious, you should have the right small SUV for all of your needs.