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Review: New Kia Seltos

S Muralidhar | Updated on August 09, 2019 Published on August 09, 2019

The new Kia Seltos

New Kia Seltos

The new Kia Seltos

New Kia Seltos

The new Kia Seltos

With excellent material and build quality, wide choice of sporty powertrains and an appealing design, the Seltos promises to be a cracker in a damp market

There hasn’t been as much anticipation and excitement surrounding a late entrant brand as has been the case with Kia Motors and its upcoming compact SUV Seltos. Initial interest in the Seltos has even overtaken that which was witnessed for the Renault Duster, the SUV which had seen such frenzied interest from prospective buyers. Also pertinent now because, in a lacklustre market which has been gripped by a whole lot of negative sentiments such as the one we are witnessing, the Seltos has the potential to revive some positivity.

Though Kia has no history or associations here, the surge in interest comes from buyers of today who are very aware and educated. Kia has had a curiously interesting Ad campaign, but the key differentiator is going to be its product. There is a lot that is common in its run up to the Seltos’ launch. It is also planning to go with an introductory pricing strategy, when the Seltos shall be officially launched on August 22. But going by the feedback from Kia Motors India officials, the pricing for the Seltos is likely to remain extremely competitive even after the end of the introductory pricing.

Design

I travelled to Goa earlier this week to test drive the Seltos and from the first impressions I feel that pricing may be the only factor that could mess up its prospects. The Seltos’ biggest USPs will be its design and build quality, wide choice of sporty powertrains and fantastic ride quality.

The new Kia Seltos

 

Like I had mentioned after driving the Seltos’ final production prototype, its design is one of the most proportionate and purposeful for its SUV body style. Capturing that upright stance, the front design with its dominating tiger nose grille (a Kia design signature) is an aggressive, but good fit for the Seltos’ sporty positioning. To the designers’ credit, the final design of the Seltos manages to look very close to the SP2 concept that was showcased at the Auto Expo in 2018. The design also has no resemblance whatsoever to the Hyundai Creta, which shares the same platform.

Read: Will the Kia Seltos lord it over the competition?

A mild clamshell design bonnet, a premium looking, LED heavy headlamp configuration and the chiseled front fender contribute to a premium looking face for the Seltos. In fact, the extensive use of LEDs contributes much to its appeal with features like the DRLs, the sweeping LED light bar with its tiny LEDs and the ice-cube fog lamps. Even the turn indicators at the front look like curved LEDs. The trim variants that I test drove sported elegant bits of chrome for the door handles and the grille frame. The Seltos is being launched in two broad versions - Tech Line and GT Line. There will be three trim variants (HTX/ ZTX, HTK/ ZTK, HTE/ ZTE) under each version and together with the three engines and four different transmission options including one manual and one dual clutch automatic, there will be a total of 18 different combinations to choose from! Mind you that doesn’t even include other possible variations like body colour or contrast roof.

The new Kia Seltos

 

The rear design brings up a similar impression of premiumness with its LED heavy tail-lamps that give it a different daytime and nighttime design signature. The tail-lamps, which are split by the tailgate, sit right on the Seltos’ haunches and are also connected by a chrome bar. This visually extends the vehicle’s width, while also delivering an message about its build quality. The rear fender features faux dual exhausts and a faux aluminium skid plates; both of which, however, have been constructed very convincingly. In fact, all around the Seltos, the shut lines are tight, material quality comes across as being very good and even the plastic panels for the side cladding sit flush and accurately. Viewing the Seltos from the side, shows off its simple, tall and upright construction with parallel waist and shoulder lines and a roof line that is mildly tapered at the rear.

Cabin

The Seltos’ cabin gives off a similarly premium, European vibe. The most dominant feature of the cabin is the large, rectangular combination binacle at the top of the dashboard that houses the. 10.25-inch infotainment screen and the 7-inch digital colour instrument cluster. It almost seemed over done when I first saw it, but it has since grown on me. The shiny plastic panels have also managed to just escape seeming tacky. The interior of my test mule sported a combination of perforated leatherette seat upholstery, matt aluminium elements like the door handles, and black-dark grey panels. The multi-function, flat-bottomed steering wheel looks classy and feels chunky to hold. Other trim variants get the regular circular steering wheel. Like the red accents on some of the exterior features like the skid plates, the GT Line trim variant’s cabin also gets some sporty additions.

The new Kia Seltos

The cabin offers very good space; Kia claims that the Seltos’ legroom and shoulder room both at the front and rear are better than the segment leader. The rear seat backrest can also be reclined in two stages by 25 and 32 degrees. The other segment-busting feature is the 8-inch head-up display positioned right behind the instrument cluster along the line of sight of the driver, which offers navigation and other vehicle related information. In fact, the Seltos offers a number of features that really give it a significant lead against the competitors in the segment, including a 8-speaker Bose audio system, cooled seats, auto headlamps, sunroof, an in-built air purifier and perfume diffuser, and of course, access to a number of connected car features through the UVO service and app. But, the simplest, but most likeable bits were the full range of adjustments for the seat and the steering wheel in the Seltos. In my view they go a long way in improving comfort and ensuring the safety of the driver and occupants.

Performance

The Seltos is offered with three engine options - a 1.4-litre Turbocharged GDI petrol, a 1.5-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre VGT Diesel engine. All the three engines meet BS VI emission norms and are offered with a 6-speed manual transmission option, but each one of them also get their own automatic transmission. The 1.4T GDI petrol is the most nimble footed and it also gets one of the most high tech automatics in it’s 7-speed DCT (dual-clutch). This engine produces 140PS of peak power and 242Nm of torque. It is quick and makes light work of reaching up to an eager sprint. The manual gearbox is slick and offers crisp, clean shifts. The stick is also ergonomically positioned at the right spot.

New Kia Seltos

 

The 1.5 Petrol offers a CVT gearbox, in addition to the manual. This powertrain is not as quick as the DCT combo; also because the engine generates a lower 115PS of peak power and 144Nm of torque. The third engine is the 1.5 VGT that puts out 115PS of power and 250Nm of torque. As the name suggests, the engine gets a variable geometry turbocharger; and in addition to the manual, there is also the choice of a 6-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. My test mule with this engine and the manual gearbox felt much less agile compared to the 1.4-petrol DCT. The turbo spools up a little later and there is a lot of torque that is loaded onto the mid and top end of the rev range. But there is still no sluggishness in low speed performance. This powertrain also offers the highest mileage at 21kmpl (claimed). The two petrol engine and their three gearbox combos offer mileages ranging from 16.1kmpl to 16.8kmpl (claimed).

The Seltos also gets three different drive modes - Normal, Eco and Sport, and three traction modes - Mud, Snow/ wet and Sand. Goa was a wet mess during my test drive of the Seltos and In the narrow, flooded streets there was hardly any room or opportunities for trying out the various options. I will need a longer test drive routine to comment on the performance variations that these modes bring to the drive.

New Kia Seltos

 

The Seltos takes one more top spot in the ride and handling department. The suspension is likely to be a segment benchmark after the Seltos hits the roads; the crown was once held by the Renault Duster and the Hyundai Creta. The Seltos suspension is at a sweet spot offering a confident ride over bad roads. Some of the rain-spoilt, pothole riddled roads of north Goa were perfect for testing the Seltos’ suspension. It sailed over speed breakers and held its chin up over large broken patches with no signs of a thud or crash. With no rattling or shake at the wheel, the suspension also manages to convince about the Seltos’ build quality.

Read: Kia Seltos garners over 6,000 bookings on day one

Bottom line

From an overall perspective, the Seltos seems like an excellent package, one that has been thought through and possibly one that is also a culmination of the application of lessons learnt from other people’s mistakes.

One of the outcomes from the Seltos’ launch is also going to be a reluctant change in attitudes amongst competing brands regarding build quality of their vehicles. The Seltos shows what is possible and that too while sourcing from local vendors. I think buyers’ expectations have raced ahead and manufacturers have lagged behind in their attempts at matching them. With its most popular cars, Hyundai India managed to redefine the concept of good value-for-money, if the Seltos is to be the first of many, Kia’s cars may well reset quality parameters.

Kia is attempting a slight balancing of prices by cutting some of the premium features in the more expensive powertrain variants. But, fully loaded versions of these too will make it to market by September this year. I expect prices to range from Rs 13 lakh to Rs 19 lakh.

Published on August 09, 2019
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