Kia’s not averse to automakers’ ongoing trend of inserting all-new SUVs and crossovers into stacked lineups. The latest model to grace showrooms for the first time will be the all-new 2021 Kia Seltos, which is built on the Kona powertrain. Our Seltos tester, in a SX Turbo AWD trim, came in the intriguing Starbright Yellow. With a black roof and swooping curves, the Seltos has a sportier appearance than the South Korean automaker’s other formidable crossovers and sedans.
Seltos front grille has a rugged look, as the narrow horizontal daytime running lights symmetrically align across the SUV’s nose. The distinctive appearance is attractive and stands out similarly to European SUVs and the Toyota RAV4 grille. The Seltos may seem taller in part because the vertical fog lights sit low on the front bumper.
The Seltos’ dazzles from the side view, with chrome touches under windows and a “floating” roof grabbing attention. The flair is a definitive improvement on the Kona’s somewhat bland posture, and the Seltos design language is closer to European crossovers and SUVs.
The Seltos is less than stellar viewed from the back, with the oddity being a chrome strip between the rear tailights. Plastic chrome wraps situated on the rear bumper’s lower end are made to resemble dual exhaust ports — which is not the case, as the SUV has one tailpipe, out of view under the bumper.
The Seltos’ interior is not unlike what Kia is known for. With a mix of plastics and soft-touch vinyl, the driver-oriented cockpit also features a sprinkle of chrome and high-gloss surface, including on the steering wheel.
The 2021 Kia Seltos has run-of-the-mill EPA figures for fuel efficiency, registering 25 city, 30 highway and 27 combined average. Our 200 miles test drive yielded around 26.4 mpg, according to the Seltos’ onboard reader.
The Seltos’ MPGs lag a bit behind rival crossovers, such as the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek, which gets 30 mpg combined. The Honda HR-V yields 29 mpg combined, per the EPA, and SUVs such as Hyundai Venue are also more fuel-efficient, sans all-wheel drive.
The Seltos offers two engine options, with the base being the naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) in the S, LX and EX trims. The S 1.6T trim and our AWD tester was equipped with the turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas engine, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT).
The turbo engine is unquestionably the more robust one, with 175 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque compared to 146 hp and 132 lb.-ft. of torque output from the 2.0-liter engine. The DCT is very capable for daily driving, assuredly rotating through gears.
The all-wheel drive is standard on all Seltos’ save the base S trim, and it’s a great thing to have even if most of your driving is confined to urban streets. This latest Kia SUV gets up and down pretty well, although after a prolonged drive, the driver’s seat is somewhat stiff. But that’s nitpicking for an otherwise awesome handling and overall ride.
The base price of the 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD is $27,890, and with not many options to hike the price — the car paint color ($345) and floor mats ($130) notwithstanding — its price is just under 30K, $29,485.
Photo Credit: Kia