Car Reviews

2019 Kia Seltos Review Australia

Stephen Ottley’s Kia Seltos Review 2019 With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Interior, Ownership, Verdict And Score.

IN A NUTSHELL: Kia finally gets a compact SUV, the only ‘problem’ is, it’s not that compact. While borrowing elements of Hyundai’s Kona the Seltos is noticeably bigger, which blurs the line between it and the Sportage mid-size SUV.

2019 Kia Seltos review

It has been a long, painful wait for Kia Australia without a small SUV to offer. The South Korean brand has had to sit by and watch as its rivals cashed in on the boom of Australians flocking to the likes of the Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Qashqai.

Finally their prayers have been answered in the form of the new Seltos (named for Hercules’ son in Greek mythology, in case you were wondering), which slots beneath the Sportage in the range. Or at least it’s meant to.

The Seltos is based on the same underpinnings as the Hyundai Kona, however, whereas that model is noticeably diminutive the Seltos feels significantly bigger than your average compact SUV. It’s 205mm longer than the Kona but only 105mm shorter than the Sportage, which may not technically fill the role Kia was hoping. But it does make for a roomy small SUV.

What Does The Kia Seltos Cost And What Do You Get?

There’s no shortage of choice with the range stretching from mid-$20k to low-$40k across four trim levels. There are two powertrain options – 2.0-litre petrol with CVT and front-wheel drive and 1.6-litre turbo petrol with seven-speed dual-clutch and all-wheel drive.

All models get drive-away pricing that is expected to be permanent throughout the current model’s life, which adds to its value equation.

Kia Seltos S

The line-up begins at $25,990 (driveaway) for the Seltos S FWD, which comes with 16-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, cruise control, a six-speaker stereo, auto headlights, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. It also gets low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) but if you want a more comprehensive suite of active safety features you need to get the $1000 optional Safety Pack on the S and Sport; but more on that later.

Stepping up to the Sport FWD costs $29,490 but brings with it 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation with live traffic, single-zone climate control, electric folding mirrors, an electric park brake and a full-size spare.

Kia Seltos Sport+

Sport+ is available in 2.0 FWD ($32,990) or 1.6 AWD ($36,490). It gets cloth and artificial leather-trimmed seats, keyless entry and ignition and front parking sensors. It also brings extra safety features that are optional on the lower grades, including more advanced AEB, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Kia Seltos GT-Line

Finally, the range is topped by the GT-Line AWD, which is priced at $41,990. For the extra spend you get 18-inch alloys, a sunroof (or the option of a two-tone roof), eight-speaker Bose sound system, wireless smartphone charger, artificial leather seats that are both heated and ventilated, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and fog lights, auto wipers and a head-up display.

It’s worth noting that, like most cars, the Seltos comes in a range of premium paint options that add $520 to those prices. However, unlike most cars that offer a simple white, black or grey colour for no-extra cost, the base colour of the Seltos is the polarising Starbright yellow (mostly pictured here and in base S specification).

The Seltos will officially go on sale October 25.

What’s The Kia Seltos Interior Like?

In a word: stylish. Kia can point to design as one of its biggest areas of improvement in the last decade – both exterior and interior. The Seltos arguably steps it up another level, with a fresh twist on Kia’s already good looking and practical layout.

The most notable touch is to the speakers, which feature a 3D pattern on the top of the dashboard and in the doors. It adds a level of premium finish not found in its rivals. The other striking new element is the 10.2-inch touchscreen on the higher-grade models, which also adds to that prestige feeling.

It’s not all good news, though. While the cloth trimmed seats in the S, Sport and Sport+ are nice and comfortable, the faux-leather chairs in the GT-Line are too firm and get tiresome over a long journey.

The other blot on the Seltos interior is the hard plastics on key touchpoints, most notably the armrests on the front doors on the S and Sport models. It may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it only takes a minute of leaning on the armrest for your elbow to feel sore. A little bit of padding can go a long way.

But overall it’s hard not to be impressed when you’re sitting in the Seltos.

How Much Space Is There In The Kia Seltos?

The good news about Kia stretching the Seltos longer than the Kona (with which it shares much of its underpinnings) is a dramatic improvement in interior space. The wheelbase is 30mm longer than the Kona which primarily liberates more space for those in the back.

Whereas most small SUVs are cramped in the rear seats, the Seltos is surprisingly roomy and comfortable enough for adults thanks to an extra 95mm of legroom over the Kona, and the high roofline means there’s plenty of headroom.

Another benefit of the longer body is more room for luggage. In fact, the Seltos S with its temporary spare tyre actually has a bigger boot than the Sportage – 498L v 466. However, for the models with the full-size spare luggage capacity drops to 433L.

What’s The Kia Seltos Infotainment Like?

The brand’s latest-generation system comes standard, even on the entry-level S model. That means a really intuitive interface and excellent functionality, thanks to the combination of touchscreen icons and physical buttons on the side. All models also receive Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, something some prestige brands should take note of. 

But, as mentioned earlier, it’s the wider 10.2-inch system of the Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line that really stands out. The widescreen allows for more information to be displayed at any particular time, whilst still using the same user-friendly menu.

Only a year ago this type of display was the domain of far more expensive luxury cars, so to see it in a sub-$30k small SUV is very impressive.

What’s The Kia Seltos Engine Like?

The S, Sport and Sport+ are available with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque. It’s paired to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is unique to the Seltos in the Kia range (a byproduct of American tastes) and sends drive to the front wheels.

The Sport+ and GT-Line can be had with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that makes 130kW and 265Nm. It’s matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and an all-wheel drive system.

On paper then the 1.6 is the pick, but in the real world the 2.0-litre isn’t the lesser choice. In fact, it impresses with the performance it has and the CVT does an above-average job of working quietly and efficiently. No, it’s not a fast SUV, but for commuting around town the 2.0 does a commendable job.

The 1.6-litre turbo offers more grunt and does feel sportier, especially on the open road. The dual-clutch gearbox offers fasts shifts but does have a mild case of trademark low-speed hesitation synonymous with the twin-clutch set-up.

Another benefit of the 2.0-litre (and the reason the American’s prefer it) is lower fuel economy. It uses a claimed 6.8-litres per 100km on the combined urban/highway cycle, compared to 7.6L/100km for the turbocharged engine.

What’s The Kia Seltos Like To Drive?

As impressive as the 2.0-litre variants are, the 1.6-litre turbo models do have an ace up their sleeve – multi-link rear suspension.

As is the case with the Kia Cerato, Hyundai Kona and Hyundai i30 (all of which share the same platform) the turbocharged engine gets a more sophisticated suspension set-up in the rear. The 2.0-litre models get a  simpler torsion beam rear end, which does an adequate job but lacks the same ride comfort.

The ride on the torsion beam models can feel a little busy at times, even on a freeway, but overall the package feels well suited to our patchwork roads.

The problem for the GT-Line and its larger 18-inch wheel and tyre package is it’s noticeably louder on all surfaces, which does detract slightly from its premium feel.

Like all Australian-sold Kias the Seltos had a local ride and handling program carried out, to tune the suspension and steering to our conditions. The benefit of this is the Seltos feels controlled and responsive behind the wheel, certainly near the top of the small SUV class.

How Safe Is The Kia Seltos?

The crash test results for the Seltos haven’t been released by ANCAP yet, but it’s likely the lower grade S and Sport models will have a four-star rating, but the Sport+ and GT-Line will get a full five-star score.

That’s largely down to the active safety included as standard on the higher grades but optional on the other two trim lines. It is not an indication of differences in the physical structure of the models.

The good news is even the cheapest Seltos S gets AEB as standard and it features pedestrian detection, but it only operates below 65km/h. If you want Kia’s system that works up to 85km/h and can also detect cyclists then you’ll need the $1000 optional Safety Package. That pack also includes adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, electronic park brake, electric folding mirrors and rear disc brakes. All those features are included on the Sport+ and GT-Line as standard.

The reason Kia didn’t include the more advanced suite of safety across the range was simply driven by a desire to keep the entry-grade price around the $25k, while still giving customers the option to add more if they want it.

What Are The Kia Seltos Alternatives?

It straddles the line between small and mid-size SUVs, so it arguably competes against a broader range of rivals. At the more compact end are the likes of the Hyundai Kona (and arguably the higher grade Venue) ASX, CX-3 and Toyota C-HR. But the larger Qashqai, Suzuki Vitara and even the Sportage are more likely to be cross-shopped against the Seltos.

2019 Kia Seltos Pricing And Specifications Australia

Price From $25,990 drive-away

Warranty 7 years/unlimited km

Engine 2.0L petrol; 1.6L turbo petrol

Power 110kW at 6200rpm; 130kW at 6000rpm

Torque 180Nm at 4500rpm; 265Nm at 1500-4500rpm

Transmission CVT auto; 7-speed dual-clutch auto

Drive front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive

Body 4370mm (l); 1800mm (w); 1615mm (h)

Kerb weight 13555kg; 1470kg

Seats 5

Thirst 6.8L/100km; 7.6L/100km

Fuel tank 50 litres

Spare Space saver (S)/full-size (Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line)

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Stephen Ottley

Stephen Ottley