Seltos is Kia’s answer to the Hyundai Kona, but it’s bigger — significantly bigger.
The story goes that car is named after Celtos, the son of mythological strong man Hercules.
Kia decided to replace the ‘C’ with an “S” because it sounds sportier and because its SUVs all start with the letter S . . . Sportage . . . Sorento . . . Telluride.
Hang on a minute, that’s a ‘T’. Yes, but we don’t get that model here so it doesn’t count — at least that’s how the logic goes.
Based on the same underpinnings as the Hyundai Kona, it slots into the Kia lineup beneath the Sportage in terms of size — but we wouldn’t describe Seltos as compact.
What’s it cost?
There’s four models: S, Sport, Sport + and GT Line, in front- and all-wheel drive.
Front-wheel drive S, Sport and Sport + are powered by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder petrol engine.
All-wheel drive Sport + and GT Line get a 1.6-litre turbo.
Prices start from $25,990 driveaway for the front-wheel drive S, $29,490 for the Sport, $32,990 for the Sport +, $36,490 for the Sport + with all-wheel drive and $41,990 for the top of the line, all-wheel drive GT Line with all the fruit.
There’s also a $1000 safety pack available for S and Sport that adds some of the safety features of more expensive models — not that they’re not well equipped to start with.
Our test vehicle was the 2.0-litre, front-wheel drive Sport with safety pack added at $30,490 driveaway.
It is in a word impressive value for the money.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is standard, as is an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Lane Keeping Assist, Cruise Control, Driver Attention Alert, halogen Daytime Running Lights, reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, six airbags, six speakers and auto headlights.
The optional safety pack adds full AEB (car, pedestrian, cyclist detection) that works up to 85km/h, plus Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Driver Attention Alert+, electronic parking brake, electric folding mirrors, auto up and down driver’s window and larger rear disc brakes.
Not sure why it misses out on blind spot alert?
Our Sport also features 17-inch alloy wheels, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation with SUNA traffic and 10-year MapCare updates, single zone climate control, electric folding mirrors, auto up and down driver’s window, auto window defogger, front halogen fog lights, solar windows and full size alloy spare.
What’s it go like?
Better than expected, much better in fact.
The 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle engine is actually quite towy, uses less fuel than the turbo and doesn’t require servicing as often — with 15,000km intervals instead of 10K for the turbo.
It’s a good looking bus, a veritable movie star compared to Hyundai’s visually-challenged Venue, and arguably more attractive than Kona (bigger than both too).
Seltos shares a platform with Kona, but at 4370mm long and with a wheelbase of 2630mm, it’s 205mm longer than Kona with a 30mm longer wheelbase, which translates to more room in the back and a bigger boot.
In fact, there’s an extra 95mm rear legroom compared to Kona and — get this — it’s only 105mm shorter than the Sportage.
And, in case you’re wondering, it’s 330mm longer than the Accent-based Venue.
Seltos also shares a platform with Cerato and the Hyundai i30.
Entry level models ride on 16 inch steel wheels with wheel covers. (We used to call then hubcaps back in the day, because they only covered the wheel hub).
Our Sport rides on 17 inch alloys with 215/55 series Kumho rubber. The GT Line gets larger 18s and lower profile tyres — but they’re likely to generate more tyre noise and a harsher ride.
On the downside, turbo models get a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, that promises a better ride — while 2.0-litre models make do with a simpler torsion beam setup.
Not a deal breaker, but worth noting.
The 2.0-litre engine is good for 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque at 4500 revs, compared to the turbo’s 130kW and 265Nm — the latter from 1500 revs.
Its hooked up to a CVT style auto that actually does a pretty good job of harnessing the engine’s limited torque and managed not to offend us for the duration of our drive.
It offers Sport and Economy modes, but alas no gear change paddles.
You can however change manually with the transmission lever, and in this mode offers eight steps or simulated gears.
While Sport mode is more responsive, it generates some surge and backlash at times which can be annoying.
Changing gears manually is smoother and more satisfying.
Like all Kia models, it benefits from Australian-tuned suspension and as a result sits securely and reasonably smoothly on our bumpy excuse for roads.
Pushed hard the Sport corners impressively flat, but does dance from side to side a bit as the suspension loads and unloads, and the steering could be a little sharper.
The cabin is inviting, with a leather-clad wheel that is both reach and height adjustable, and comfortable cloth-trimmed seats, a transmission lever that fit snugly in your hand, single-zone climate air and good all round vision.
But none of the touch points within reach are soft to the touch, including the front seat armrests which lack any sort of padding.
I tend to grip the wheel lightly with my right hand while resting my elbow on the armrest for support when cruising.
But this becomes uncomfortable soon enough and is something of an oversight, because no one grips the wheel like a robot 100 per cent of the time.
The cabin is dominated by the large 10.0 inch plus touchscreen, with standard satnav, speed limit reminder and speed camera warnings.
There’s also digital radio, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mobile phone connectivity.
Six-speaker audio features funky, prismatic door-mounted speaker grilles.
The phone is easy to hook up, but just like our current Kia spends ages trying to connect to the phone that isn’t present and does not connect automatically to the phone that is.
Get a call and suddenly you discover you’re not connected.