The Seltos has proven a popular addition to the new-vehicle market; does a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine markedly improve the package of Kia's compact family car? We spent a few days putting the 1.5 CRDi EX+ through its paces.
We like: Diesel engine offers punch and fuel efficiency, good road manners, well-equipped.
We don’t like: Typical unruly diesel clutter upon startup, piano-black trim attracts fingerprints.
- Price: R446 995 (October 2020)
- Model tested: 1.5 CRDi EX+
- Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-litre diesel
- Power/Torque: 86 kW / 250 Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Fuel economy: 5.7 L/100 km
- Load space: 433 litres
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What is it?
The compact SUV market is booming right now and the Kia Seltos is right in the thick of it.
Kia is rolling out a slew of crossovers/SUVs. Its current products are either being updated or replaced by new-generation models, while brand-new offerings are being introduced into previously uncontested segments. The Kia Seltos and Kia Sonet are targeting the lower end of the market – the former arrived in Mzansi in February and the latter is due to get here before the end of 2020. The Seltos has been quite a hit for Kia, thanks to a combination of fresh, modern styling, a wide choice of engines and an extensive list of standard features. What's more, it's competitively priced.
A multitude of manufacturers offer products in the compact family-car segment and, as a result, competition in this sub-R500k segment is at an all-time high. There are at least 12 rivals to the Kia Seltos, including the Renault Duster, Opel Mokka X, Ford EcoSport, Volkswagen T-Cross, Suzuki Vitara, Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3, as well as the Venue and Creta from Kia's sibling brand, Hyundai and the H2 from Chinese upstarts Haval.
In an effort to snatch as much market share as possible, Kia has offered its Seltos with an array of trims, engines and transmissions. When the model was launched, its engine line-up comprised only petrol derivatives powered by naturally-aspirated 1.6- and a turbocharged 1.4-litre motors. But now the Korean brand has launched a turbodiesel version, with the choice of either a manual or automatic transmission, plus 2 trim grades.
Adopting the latest Kia design language, the Seltos is one of the best-looking models in the segment.
How it performs in terms of…
Performance and economy
The new 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine in the Kia Seltos produces peak outputs of 86 kW and 250 Nm and this derivative, the EX+, is exclusively available with a 6-speed automatic transmission. When you start the engine first thing in the morning, you're greeted with considerable diesel clatter (which is typical/expected of these engines), but although it's initially offputting, the rough idle settles once the motor's up to operating temperature.
The primary benefits of a diesel powerplant is economy and an abundance of torque (which is great for long-distance cruising and towing, to name 2 examples). In the Seltos' case, Kia claims an average fuel consumption figure 5.7 L/100 km and thanks to a 50-litre fuel tank, the EX+ has a theoretical range of 877 km. How accurate is that economy claim, though? After a few days of mixed driving, our trip computer registered a not-too-unreasonable 6.4 L/100 km. We suspect the higher number was due to the constant stop-start traffic, which is detrimental to fuel efficiency.
Ride and handling
These 17-inch alloys look good and there's enough profile on the tyre to soak up the bad roads
This is our 3rd test of a Seltos and to reiterate, the Indian-built crossover strikes a good balance between ride quality and handling. The EX+'s 17-inch alloy wheels (wrapped in low-profile rubber) fill those wheel arches nicely but don't seem to impinge on ride quality. The suspension setup is on the firm side, yes, but the vehicle is still capable of soaking up road imperfections with ease. Something we appreciated greatly was the steering: not only does it impart a "big-car feel", but it offers a modicum of feedback too, which makes the Kia a bit more engaging to drive than its rivals.
The turbodiesel engine ties it all together nicely. By virtue of a well-calibrated and smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain offers virtually lag-free performance. Granted it the 86 kW output doesn't seem ample, but with 250 Nm on tap, there's never a shortage of urge. The engine is fairly responsive and the 'box will quickly drop a gear if you require immediate performance. Kia claims a 0-100 kph of 11.5 seconds, for what that's worth. The engine's mid-range grunt is great, but it tapers off after 4000 rpm so there's no need to rev the engine hard. The key to smooth progress is to trust the transmission's shift points – it will change early (low in the rev range) to make the most of the available torque.
EX+ trim means you get all the bells and whistles the connected generation demands.
Features and cabin execution
Kia South Africa is offering the 1.5 CRDi in 2 levels of trim: EX and EX+. The price difference between them is just under R20k, but irrespective of your choice, the specification is either ample... or generous. The EX trim level incorporates air-conditioning, automatic headlight control, electrically adjustable side mirrors with integrated indicators, cloth upholstery, a multifunction steering wheel, electric windows and cruise control. An 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system is fitted and incorporates a radio with RDS, linked to 6 speakers. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone mirroring is part of the package, as well as Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and USB ports for front and rear occupants.
Android Auto/Apple Carplay connectivity is almost a prerequisite in a vehicle these days.
The EX+ grade, as featured on this test unit, adds in leather trim, electrically-folding side mirrors, as well as a central armrest with storage bin to the EX trim (as far as the interior's concerned). The key difference between the grades (for us) is that EX+ adds electronic stability control, as well as hill-start assist. All derivatives have 6 airbags and ABS with EBD and brake assist, as well as rear parking sensors and a reverse-view camera.
Suffice to say the Kia Seltos 1.5 CRDi EX+ has one great-looking cockpit. The leather-trimmed seats look smart with a quilted effect and the dashboard layout with its big screen is very contemporary. Build quality is good and fit and so is "fit and finish", but there's one big niggle. The shiny piano-black finish around the infotainment system and dashboard is a "fingerprint-magnet" and will need to be constantly wiped to look its best.
EX+ trim means you get these lovely-looking quilted pattern seats. Not only do they look great, they're also comfy.
The Kia Seltos has already won us over when it comes to luggage space and overall practicality. When compared with its direct rivals, the Korean contender appears larger in most (if not all) dimensions and, as a result, there's a bit more interior space on offer. With a load capacity of 433 litres, the Seltos outguns its rivals in terms of load-bay capacity. You can also fold the rear seats down in a 60:40 split to free up ample utility space.
Rear legroom is great and you can just see the centrally-located USB charging port.
Plus, by compact family-car standards, the rear bench is very comfortable. The Seltos avails sufficient head- and legroom for even the tallest of rear passengers, plus they are availed a pair of separate ventilation outlets and a USB charging port located behind the central front armrest.
Price and warranty
The Kia Seltos 1.5 CRDi EX+ costs R446 995, which includes a 5-year/unlimited km warranty and roadside assistance, plus a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.
With an assortment of engines, transmissions and trim levels, Kia has the segment covered. A deserving #CarsAwards semi-finalist.
The addition of turbodiesel derivatives to the Kia Seltos range has enhanced what was already a commendable offering, of that there is no question. Potential customers who may have been concerned about the marginal performance of the naturally-aspirated derivatives at Gauteng altitudes now have the option to get some "forced-induction punch and frugality" without having to fork out R471 995 for the range-topping 1.4T-GDI GT Line. If you can stretch your budget, aim for the EX+, as the additional benefits and features justify the price difference over the EX. Speaking of price, yes, this derivative is more expensive than its rivals in this segment, but the reality is you are getting a bigger and more spacious vehicle.
Just how good is the Kia Seltos? Well, we've nominated this derivative as a semi-finalist in the 2020/2021 #CarsAwards – powered by WesBank, where it goes up against its Korean sibling, the Hyundai Venue, the rugged Renault Duster, Suzuki's Vitara and the stylish Volkswagen T-Cross.