The Kia Seltos has joined a crowded compact family SUV segment. This top-of-the-range Seltos 1.4T-GDI GT Line's exterior execution may divide opinion, but its performance, spacious interior and practicality are certainly big drawcards. Can it justify its R445k asking price, however? Let's find out.
We Like: Punchy engine, comfortable ride quality, practicality
We Don’t Like: Pricey, divisive styling, inconsistent interior quality, sensitive throttle, notchy shifts
- Price: R444 995 (March 2020)
- Engine: 1.4-litre turbopetrol
- Power/Torque: 103 kW / 242 Nm
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
- Fuel Economy: 6.3 L/100km
- Load Capacity: 433 litres
Serious About Buying?
Where does it fit in?
Another day, another new SUV. This is the new Kia Seltos!
The Seltos is produced in India and slots in below the Sportage in Kia’s local product offering. It’s considered to be a compact family SUV (but it's larger than most models in its segment) and it competes with a wide range of rivals such as the Volkswagen T-Cross, Renault Duster, Nissan Qashqai, Suzuki Vitara, Mahindra XUV300, Honda HR-V and Hyundai’s Creta, to name just a few…
The eye-catching newcomer was Kia’s best-selling model in February 2020 (when 377 units were sold) and there’s little reason to think that it won't continue to sell strongly. However, the mid-spec 1.6 EX and EX+ derivatives are bound to constitute the volume of Seltos sales. Could the turbocharged 1.4T GDI GT Line, which offers appreciably more kerb appeal, be worth the extra outlay?
How it performs in terms of…
Not everyone will like the look of the Seltos, but it should still sell very well in South Africa.
The Seltos certainly injects bold styling into a segment filled with inoffensive-looking offerings, but in GT Line trim, the Korean compact family car's looks are so expressive that they might not be to everyone's taste. A few of our testers didn’t like the "busy design" and some onlookers even used words such as "kitsch" to describe the vehicle's cartoonish front-end styling. The plethora of lines and bulges do catch the eye, however – the design is far from boring and Kia deserves some credit for that. This particular test unit came dressed in the vibrant Intelligence Blue body colour, which is complemented by red detailing and -GT Line badging on the tiger-nose grille and tailgate. It rides on 17-inch alloys accented with red brake callipers, which add a dash of sportiness to the package.
Interior execution and features
The Seltos is solidly-built but some of the interior finishes could be of better quality.
Prospective buyers will be happy to know that the Seltos' perceived interior build quality is generally quite good. The GT Line gains a few more nice-to-have features over its lesser siblings, such as leather upholstery, a flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel, stainless steel-finished pedals and interior mood lighting. The angular speaker-cover design in the doors is also rather interesting...
Perhaps the most prominent (and controversial) cabin feature is the bolt-upright instrument binnacle, which houses the instrument cluster (with analogue dials) and the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The menus are easy to read and operate, while Android Auto- and Apple CarPlay compatibility is a welcome feature. The binnacle, however, has a shiny piano-black plastic surround that not only attracts dust and fingerprints, but cheapens the overall interior look and feel of the fascia – in our opinion. The same material is used lower down in the console, which doesn't help matters.
Moreover, the lack of dual-zone climate control (or a wireless charging pad) is glaring in this top-spec derivative and the humdrum heating-, ventilation- and aircon dials look as if they were hastily sourced from Kia’s budget-car parts bin. Cruise control and rear park distance control with a reverse-view camera are standard, but the image quality delivered to the screen is disappointingly poor.
On the safety front, the 1.4T-GDI GT Line is suitably equipped with a total of 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist and electronic stability control.
Practicality and space are core strengths of the Seltos – it's larger inside than most offerings in the compact family segment.
The Seltos is larger than most of its direct rivals and its roominess is immediately apparent when you slide into the driver’s seat. It's as if you've stepped into a bigger family car; it feels that substantial. The seat cushions (fore and aft) are very comfortable and the height-adjustable driver’s seat and rake- and reach-adjustable steering column should make it easy to find your preferred driving position.
Rear passengers are afforded more than adequate head-, shoulder- and legroom, as well as a USB port to charge their devices. We took the Seltos on a camping trip up the West Coast... not only is its load bay (claimed to offer a 433-litre capacity) generous, the rear seatback splits in a 60:40 configuration and can fold completely flat, which opens up the rear area for loading longer or bulkier items.
There are 2 cupholders up front and ample storage in the door mouldings to store bottles and other goods. You can also stow valuables in the centre bin and we like that it has a sliding bin lid that doubles up as a comfortable armrest. In terms of practicality, the Seltos gets a thumbs up!
Performance and economy
Punchy performance and forgiving ride quality make for a pleasant drive.
The 1.4T-GDI GT Line is the only turbocharged derivative in the range (at least until a turbodiesel derivative arrives later in the year). The flagship's 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine develops peak outputs of 103 kW and 242 Nm of torque and directs those figures to front wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
It’s a punchy engine that has little trouble getting the Seltos up to highway speeds. There is some initial lag before purposeful acceleration ensues (such as when you need to execute quick overtaking manoeuvres), but for the most part, the Seltos performs spiritedly.
However, the transmission's shifts are perceptibly notchy and don't seem perfectly calibrated. Coupled with an overly-sensitive throttle, the Seltos can be a trifle lurchy in congested/stop-start traffic conditions or when driven with "a heavier right foot". The transmission tends to respond appreciably better to measured accelerator pedal inputs. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but quite noticeable.
Drive and traction modes are accessed using this dial...
The GT Line is further equipped with a dial drive mode selector that allows its driver to choose between Normal, Eco and Sport settings. Furthermore, there are 3 terrain modes to choose from: Snow, Mud and Sand. As an ostensibly urban-based front-wheel-drive car that will hardly ever traverse unsealed road surfaces, except perhaps on weekend excursions, these modes seem rather superfluous in the Seltos and we can’t imagine that they'd make much of a difference. To be fair, although we did drive the Seltos on a gravel route for a brief period, we didn’t strictly go off-road with this test unit.
In terms of fuel economy, Kia claims 6.3 L/100 km, which is ambitious, considering that we averaged around 8.5 L/100 km during our test.
It’s worth mentioning that the Seltos offers a pleasing ride quality, which buyers in this segment won't necessarily expect – but appreciate nonetheless. Its suspension is pliant and forgiving and copes well on various surfaces – yes, including gravel. Together with evenly-weighted steering and a commendably well-insulated cabin, the Seltos is perfectly suited for being a family runabout.
Price and warranty
The Kia Seltos 1.4T-GDi GT Line is priced at R444 995 and is sold with a 5-year/unlimited km warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.
This Seltos GT Line has a lot going for it but it's priced on the high end of its segment.
There’s much to like about the Kia Seltos and one of its most endearing traits is its big-car personality. It rides well and serenely enough and the 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine is punchy. The transmission could be more refined, but compact family car buyers should find it adequate for the purposes of commuting to work and running daily errands. As for the interior, it’s appreciably spacious for its class and generally well-made, but the inconsistent quality of the finishes and a lack of a few nice-to-have luxury features (most notably dual-zone climate control) is disappointing in a flagship offering.
As much as we appreciate its powerplant, the 1.4T-GDI GT Line is steeply-priced for a derivative that offers mostly cosmetic upgrades over its mid-spec siblings. We have yet to test the naturally aspirated Seltos 1.6 EX+ (R389 995), but we have reason to believe that it will offer better value overall as it's more competitively priced against other offerings in this segment.
For about the same money as the flagship Seltos (R445k), you can step into (albeit soberly-specced) derivatives of family cars such as the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5. And for about R70k less you can opt for the range-topping Volkswagen T-Cross Highline R-Line (R374 500), Suzuki Vitara Turbo (From R386 900) or, notably, this derivative's aforementioned 1.6 EX+ sibling.
So who should consider the Kia Seltos 1.4T-GDI GT Line? Buyers who can afford a mid- or entry-level family cars, but specifically want something more compact and stylish. Alternatively, if the look-at-me exterior execution of this range-topper really appeals to your discerning taste, you may well find it worthwhile to fork out the extra R55k to have one of the smartest small crossovers in your street.
We do, however, look forward to testing the Kia Seltos 1.6 EX+ in the near future. Hopefully, it will make a stronger case for itself than this flagship version. Stay tuned!