Kia has some of the best designers in the business, and if you don’t believe me, go look at the Telluride crossover, K5 sedan, and Stinger performance car. Its vehicles look equal parts German and Asian, which is appropriate since its vehicles are created in Korea by a healthy cadre of Europeans. Channeling the Telluride, designers created a talented little crossover in the 2021 Seltos.
Handsome German-Asian Design
You can see the German-Asian influence in the design. The front is dominated by Kia’s tiger tooth grille, but textured grille surround, lower headlamps, and accent lighting that nearly reaches across the entire front paint a distinctive face. There are many other details too. Check the chrome chislet in the rear windowline, 18” wheels with red center caps, stylized roof rails, and rear spoiler. Twin faux exhaust outlets and rear diffuser promise more than the Seltos delivers, but look cool nonetheless.
I would have to say the interior is my favorite part or the Seltos. There’s a lot of plastic if you tap around, but it all looks good. Check the blue swath on the dash, blue stitching on the armrests and console, and piano black finish on the doors and dash. Satin aluminumish trim blends doorhandles into the doors. I especially like the gray sweatshirt-like cloth and leatherette seats – especially given firm bolsters and heated cushions. Grip the leather-wrapped steering wheel for further enjoyment.
Technology is served up via 8” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth. Climate control is manual, but simple to use. Proper volume and tuning knobs work with swipescreen control to find your favorite stations and songs. Safety is enhanced with forward collision warning with auto brake, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection system. A rear seat sensor keeps kids from being left behind.
Peppy Turbo, AWD Powertrain
The Seltos is no sports car, but there’s also no crime in the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that whips up 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque – all routed through a seven-speed automatic transmission to torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive. A drive mode knob in the console lets drivers adjust the throttle sensitivity and steering heft to their liking. It creates no additional horsepower, but makes the vehicle more engaging. Driven reasonably, the Seltos achieves 25/30-MPG city/highway. A few more MPGs would be great, but that’s pretty good for an AWD crossover.
It won’t challenge Jeeps, but the Seltos is pretty capable off-road. Beyond the powerful engine, it also features a locking center differential, hill descent control to modulate speed on steep slopes, and hill start assist to keep the vehicle from moving while drivers lift from brake to throttle. It feels solid, too. Perhaps only the Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade offer so much capability in this class.
It’s hard not to like the Seltos. It is elegantly styled, amply powered, and a joy to be within. Sure, the interior could use a little less plastic, but it still looks pretty nice. And, it is actually capable of pretty serious off-roading. Best of all, it is really affordable. A $21,990 base price rises to just $26,740 all-in. Beyond the Subaru and Jeep, competitors include the Fiat 500X, Nissan Rogue Sport, Chevy Trailblazer, and upcoming Ford Bronco Sport.
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2021 Kia Seltos
Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: 1.6-liter T4, 7-spd trans
Output: 175hp/195 lb.-ft. torque
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Driving
Fuel economy: 25/30 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Gwangju, Korea
Base/As-tested price: $21,990/$26,740