Kia’s new Seltos compact family car came to market earlier this year and while we found the range-topping GT Line derivative a bit pricey, we were keen to find out if the mid-spec, naturally-aspirated 1.6 EX+ represented a more attractive buying proposition. Gero Lilleike put it to the test to find some answers.
We like: Performance balance, space and practicality, value proposition
We don’t like: High fuel consumption, some interior finishes could be better
- Price: R394 995 (April 2020)
- Engine: Naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre petrol
- Power/Torque: 90 kW / 151 Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Fuel economy: 7.2 L/100 km
- Load space: 433 litres
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What is it?
The Seltos features divisive styling, but the looks have a tendency to grow on you the more you live with them.
In an effort to capitalise on the growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs, Kia has introduced the new Seltos into South Africa's bustling compact family-car segment, in which it does battle with a host of rivals such as the Volkswagen T-Cross, Hyundai Creta, Renault Duster and the Suzuki Vitara, to name just a few…
To date, the Seltos has been relatively well-received in the South African new-vehicle market and while its bold exterior styling may divide opinion (especially in range-topping 1.4T-GDI GT Line guise), the attractively packaged newcomer is likely to grow in popularity. We have already reviewed the turbocharged GT Line and while we found the flagship derivative a somewhat niche offering (considering its lofty price point in its segment), we suspect this 1.6 EX+ is a far better value proposition for buyers looking for a more soberly-specced car. Let’s see if that is indeed the case...
How it performs in terms of…
Performance and economy
This naturally-aspirated Seltos is capable enough for the daily grind, but it's not as punchy as its turbocharged sibling.
The EX-grade Seltos forgoes the 1.4-litre turbocharged mill of the top-spec GT Line; instead, it employs a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine that produces 90 kW and 151 Nm of torque.
That peak torque figure doesn't sound particularly awe-inspiring and we duly expected the performance of the 1.6 to feel less punchy due to its lack of a turbocharger, but in spite of this, we came away impressed with this Seltos' balanced performance. Acceleration might not be as urgent as in the 1.4T-GDI GT Line, but it offers a smooth, linear power delivery and, in conjunction with its 6-speed automatic transmission, the 1.6 EX+ not only offers adequate performance, but its transmission is smooth-shifting and well-calibrated to the characteristics of this engine.
What's more, whereas the aforementioned GT Line’s dual-clutch transmission felt notchy under harder acceleration, we found this torque converter automatic shifted in a more refined fashion.
We must concede, however, that this test was conducted at sea level; the overtaking performance of the 1.6 EX+ may feel a trifle more lethargic at the Reef (due to a dropoff in performance caused by the thinner air at high altitude) and this will be especially apparent when travelling with a full complement of passengers – and their luggage – on board.
Nonetheless, we found the little Kia's overall performance adequate in both city and highway driving situations. In terms of fuel consumption, however, the naturally-aspirated Seltos returned surprisingly high figures of around 10.9 L/100 km; Kia claims an average figure 7.2 L/100 km.
As we discovered in our previous test, the Seltos strikes a fine balance between handling prowess and ride quality. Even though this EX+ derivative rides on larger 17-inch alloy wheels shod with low profile tyres, the suspension setup is forgiving and subdues bigger road imperfections with ease. The steering has more heft to it than one may expect and delivers positive responses to inputs.
Interior execution and features
The Seltos EX+ represents the sweet spot in the range with a good dose of standard features at a competitive price.
Prospective buyers will be pleased to know that the Seltos' perceived interior quality is generally good, but we do have a few gripes... Firstly, we don’t particularly like the piano black finish that features on the instrument binnacle (which sits bolt upright and looks rather odd in itself) as well as the lower console, because it attracts dust and fingerprints; we anticipate one would have to keep a microfibre cloth in the car to wipe the panels down regularly. It’s also worth noting that the material quality of the heating, cooling and ventilation dials could be better, they look and feel marginal.
Nonetheless, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is fitted along with Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony, as well as voice control. The system is easy-to-use and its menus are simple to navigate. There’s also a USB port ahead of the transmission lever, as well as a 12V socket, should you need it.
Some other key standard features on this 1.6 EX+ derivative include leather upholstery (the seats are extremely comfortable), a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, electrically adjustable and automatic folding side mirrors, electric windows, rear park distance control and a reverse-view camera. The image quality of the camera could be better, but it’s still effective.
In terms of safety, the Seltos comes equipped with 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist and electronic stability control. ISOfix child-seat mounting points are also included.
The Seltos scores highly in terms of practicality. Its cabin is spacious!
The Seltos is slightly larger than the majority of compact family cars and it reflects in the practicality of the Kia's interior. Just before the national Covid-19 lockdown came into effect, we put the Seltos through its paces by packing it to the brim with a wide variety of items including gardening supplies and wood of different sizes and shapes.
The capacity of the load bay is claimed to be 433 litres, which is useful, and with the 60:40 split rear seatback folded down, there’s a sizable area available for loading bulky and longer items. We were truly amazed by how much stuff we could cram into the Seltos...
Passenger space and comfort is also impressive; the cabin may have dark upholstery but it feels spacious. Rear passengers have sufficient leg, head and shoulder room and the seat cushions provide high levels of comfort. There’s also a central rear armrest equipped with 2 cupholders (which is always welcome on longer journeys) and devices can be charged/connected using the rear USB port.
The driver and front passenger are availed a pair of cupholders and this 1.6 EX+ derivative is notably equipped with a central armrest, which can double up as a sizable storage bin. Additional storage space is located ahead of the transmission lever, in the glove box and in the door mouldings.
Price and warranty
The Kia Seltos 1.6 EX+ is priced from R394 995 and is sold with a 5-year/unlimited km warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.
The Seltos EX+ is definitely worth a closer look if you are in the market for a stylish, capable and spacious compact family SUV.
The Seltos has much to offer and, like so many contemporary Kia products, it's instantly likeable and has oodles of showroom appeal. Its styling may not be to everyone's taste, but it certainly stands out from the crowd. Beneath the stylish sheet metal is a practical and spacious interior, plus the Kia's road manners are impressive, considering what it's up against. The naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre offers adequate performance, but it didn’t quite strike the kind of performance/economy balance that we were hoping for, because its real-world fuel consumption was higher than expected.
With a keen price of just below R400k, the Seltos 1.6 EX+ makes a strong case for itself against naturally-aspirated rivals such as the Hyundai Creta 1.6 Executive and Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GLX, for example. However, there are turbocharged offerings in this price range too, such as the popular Volkswagen T-Cross and turbocharged Suzuki Vitara, which might entice buyers too...
Nonetheless, the Seltos 1.6 EX+ is, in our opinion, the sweet spot in the range as it appears to tick most of the essential boxes in the compact family car segment. We have every reason to believe that, buoyed by its 5-year warranty and service plan, it will satisfy the needs of many buyers in this segment. The Seltos 1.6 EX+ is definitely worth having on your shortlist!