seltosWhat is it?

Okay, allow me to be blunt . . . 

I dislike SUVs. Compared with hatches and sedans, they are clumsy and clunky and often unnecessary in the cities.

They drink too much fuel, and tyres and servicing costs more than normal vehicles.

The benefits of a high seating position are a fallacy; the reality is your line-of-sight is blocked by the huge mirrors and high door and bonnet line.

When my children were babies, we got by with smallish sedans. A generation on, when my older daughter had her first child, she succumbed to the SUV bait. 

Ben and Lauren bought a Hyundai Tucson FWD. She loves the ease in which she can plonk Knox into his baby seat. The only things Lauren dislikes about her SUV are the fuel consumption and the way the transmission holds low gears too long.

Hyundai’s sibling Kia has been aching for ages for a compact, crossover all-rounder to combat the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Qashqai, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX and new Renault Kadjar.

It has finally made it here, where it has very smartly hit the spot with reviewers and consumers.

Now, after some time in the 2020 Seltos Sport+ 1.6 Turbo AWD — I can understand the fuss.

I see its appeal. And, consequently, I now have an open mind on the compact SUV as an alternative to a small hatch/sedan.

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What’s it cost?

The model reviewed sits a fair way up the pecking order, but I wouldn’t dismiss the cheaper front-wheel-drive variants, unless you have a steep driveway or dirt track to negotiate regularly.

The cheaper, more economical FWD variants, starting from $26,490 driveaway, are proving to be the most popular with budget-conscious buyers.

All three are powered by a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine sending a fair 110kW and 180Nm to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The top variants are Sport+ AWD and GT Line AWD, and they get a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that is hooked up to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) producing 130kW and 265Nm.

The claimed combined fuel number is 7.6L/100km.

With the Sport+ AWD, priced at $36,990 driveaway, you get a swag of inclusions along with that livelier turbo engine/dual-clutch transmission coupling.  

The Sport + AWD Seltos comes standard with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which can help keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.

Included too are lane-keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, and suite of airbags.

There are three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFX mounts across the rear row to secure kids.

It also gets a multi-adjustable driver’s seat (and yes I appreciate that higher SUV hip line), adaptive cruise control, giant touchscreen, satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, climate control, and rear privacy glass.

The five-seat Seltos cabin looks stylish and feels comfortable — except I find the cloth and leather-like seat cushion a little flat for my nether regions. 

I’m impressed that all but the entry variant gets the class-leading 10.25-inch infotainment screen of stunning clarity.

Intuitive and fast acting to use, it is also easy to decipher in the sun’s glare. Maybe the easiest satnav I’ve ever used.

Phone pairing is a breeze too and the split-screen feature is most useful if you need to stay abreast of stuff other than navigation.   

There are full-size wine bottle pockets in all four doors, cupholders in front and rear, a handy console bin and big glovebox. 

A larger front console space also has two USB and one 12V outlet.   

While it appears quite compact externally and is easy to park, the 4370mm long /1800mm wide Seltos is surprisingly roomy. 

It feels spacious and it does give good knee, elbow and head room. A couple of tall people can sit in the rear behind a couple of other tall people. 

There’s space for a baby seat, plus gear.

There is 433 litres of boot area with the rear seats in place. With the versatile 60/40 rear seats flipped flat, the cargo space expands to 1393 litres.

I love the large, wide opening rear doors which make it easy dropping in and retrieving a child. 

Shame there is no directional vents or USB outlet for the rear-seat occupants.

2020 Kia Seltos pricing – all driveaway (from March 1):

Seltos S2.0-litre$26,490
Seltos Sport2.0-litre$29,990
Seltos Sport+2.0-litre$33,940
Seltos Sport+ AWD1.6-litre turbo$36,990
Seltos GT-Line AWD1.6-litre turbo$42,490

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What’s it go like?

The small capacity turbo is a little powerhouse. All the urge any small family would want.

Against some of the sluggish powertrains in other crossovers this is a standout.

Response is good from low in the rev range, the mid-range is strong, and there’s a bit of joy to be found in revving it all the way out to redline.

It’s just nice to drive a compact crossover that doesn’t need to be thrashed to deliver something approaching acceptable performance.

Dual-clutch transmissions are not as smooth as most regular autos but I got used to is characteristics after a few drives around town.

The ride/handling settings arrived at by an Australian suspension team is rather good. 

Riding on smallish but sensible 215/55-series 17-inch Kumhos the package is good enough to ease the Seltos over Sydney’s battered rain-affected roads without jarring its occupants.

Auto fashion victims may prefer bigger wheels and low-profile tyres. I’ll opt for comfort over looks.

The smooth ride comfort hasn’t been achieved by detracting from the Seltos’s overall dynamics.

It brakes assuredly and turns into corners briskly without any significant weight transfer or adjustment in poise.

It’s also quiet, with little wind noise.

At the wheel, visibility is excellent every which way, even though the driver sits low in the cabin (for an SUV) in an environment easily adjustable to suit most shapes. 

Though the bonnet disappears out of view, the front sensors tell you when it is moving close to danger.

The steering feel suits me as I always like a firm, sporty tuning which offers an unadulterated flow of communication between the road surface and hands.

I also liked the security of knowing the Seltos has a full-sized spare on standby under the rear floor.

Owners must also feel protected by the Kia seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and five-star ANCAP Safety Rating that applies to all the Seltos range.

Servicing is recommended at 12 month/10,000km intervals and is cheaper than some rivals — but not Toyota. Ttotal cost for the first three services is $1101.  

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What we like?

  • Responsive turbo engine
  • Smart looks
  • Standout ride and handling 
  • Spacious, contemporary cabin
  • Up to the moment infotainment offerings
  • Great safety gear and ANCAP five-star rating
  • Seven-year warranty

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What we don’t like?

  • No power tailgate (on any of the range)
  • No rear air vents 
  • Seat cushion a little firm

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The bottom line?

Classy affordable crossover with useful versatility and strong reliability reputation.

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CHECKOUT: Hey, Kia! What about a ute?

CHECKOUT: Grown-up Seltos firms as late favourite

 

Kia Seltos Sport+ AWD, priced from $36,990 driveaway
  • Looks - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Performance - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Safety - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
    8/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
    8/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Tech - 9/10
    9/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10
8.3/10
Kia Seltos: Let me be blunt

Shazz

Sharyn McKay has driven most (maybe all) of the 2000 or so press cars that her partner Peter has tested over the 44 years they’ve been together. In the past she was a Wheels Car of the Year judge for many years and a grand prix celebrity race instructor. These days she’s a doting grandmother.
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