Easily among the most anticipated models of recent times, the Kia Seltos is the production version of the Kia SP Concept that awed the show-goers at Auto Expo 2018. The Seltos will spearhead Kia's charge into the very-lucrative-but-highly-competitive Indian market and lock horns with some hugely popular rivals, viz. Hyundai Creta and MG Hector. To this effect, the carmaker claims to have made some careful alterations to ensure its latest global SUV suits the demanding conditions of the local market to a T. Well, the upcoming compact SUV has already garnered over 23,000 bookings, with most customers seemingly impressed with the bold looks, the long equipment list and the high brand value that the carmaker enjoys in several international markets. Recently, we got behind the wheel of the Kia Seltos to figure out if it can become the next big thing in the premium small SUV segment in India.
Often, production models are a far cry from their concept avatars, but that's not the case when it comes to the Kia Seltos. It is very close to the Kia SP Signature concept, which was an evolution of the Kia SP Concept. The Seltos enjoys a great street presence due to its thoroughly modern looks and an unmistakably masculine stance.
Up front, the Kia Seltos is characterised by the signature 'Tiger Nose' grille but the bigger highlight here is the multi-tier all-LED lighting setup. The chunky front bumper, which features a brushed silver trim, adds to the sportiness. An LED strip that runs from each headlamp to the mid-section of the upper grille accentuates the width of the new SUV. The highlights of the profile include clean surfaces with crisp creases, plastic cladding on the wheel arches, a steeply rising beltline and a floating-type roof. Also, the colour palette comprises 8 single-tone and 5 dual-tone options. The posterior offers a visual connect with the front-end, with similarly sleek lighting elements and a stylish bumper with a faux scuff plate.
The Kia Seltos will be available in two grades - Tech Line and GT Line. While the former will be available with the 1.5-litre engine options, the latter will be exclusively on offer on the 1.4-litre Turbo-petrol engine variant. Among the two, the GT Line looks sportier, which is largely owing to the carefully positioned red accents, red-painted front brake callipers and dual-tone machined wheels.
You can find similar variations between interior setups of Tech Line and GT Line. The latter comes with various sporty bits, including an all-black colour theme, ribbed upholstery with contrast red stitching, flat-bottom steering wheel and several GT Line badges strewed across the cabin. The fit and finish, along with the overall quality of materials is top-notch and sets a new benchmark for the segment. The cabin scores even in terms of practicality. The bench seat at the rear can seat three in reasonable comfort but that said, the middle occupant might complain of lack of cushioning. Also, at 433 litres, the Seltos offers 33 litres more boot space than the Creta and around 8 litres more boot space capacity than the Harrier.
The Kia Seltos becomes the third Indian four-wheeler, after the MG Hector and the Hyundai venue, to get a connected apps suite. The interface of the company's UVO connect-system is similar to that of the Hyundai BlueLink package and comes with 37 features, which include some fantastic bits like geofencing, remote immobilization, remote aircon operation and speed limiter. Our favourite bit of this system is the multi-screen layout, which allows you to have a quick glance at as many as three applications.
Other highlights of the equipment list of the top-spec GTX+ grade include a 360-degree parking camera, a head-up display, wireless smartphone charging pod, air purifier with air quality index, ventilated front seats and an amazing 8-speaking Bose surround sound system.
Performance and Driving Dynamics
The Kia Seltos will be sold with three BS6-compliant engine options - 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol, 1.5-litre turbo-diesel and 1.4-litre turbo-petrol. A 6-speed manual transmission will be standard across the engine lineup. However, CVT, 6-speed torque-converter automatic and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic options will be available with the 1.5L petrol engine, the 1.5L diesel engine and the 1.4L petrol engine respectively.
We drove the automatic transmission-equipped 1.4-litre turbo-petrol and 1.5-litre turbo-diesel variants at the media test drive event that was recently held in the picturesque Goa. Of course, it's the 1.4-litre petrol unit that should be the pick of the lot if you're looking for the most involving drive. The turbocharged unit outputs a maximum power of 140 PS and a peak torque of 242 Nm, which, as per the company, is enough to help this car sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. The turbo-lag is well-controlled and the motor comes into its elements soon after 1,200 RPM. As expected, the dual-clutch transmission offers quick and seamless shifts and should be preferred over the manual unit to extract the most from the high-strung motor. That said, we did encounter a slight reluctance to downshift on suddenly flooring the gas pedal for a quick overtaking manoeuvre.
The 1.5-litre diesel motor produces 115 PS and 250 Nm and is likely to be on the wishlist of those with high monthly usage. This oil-burner is a refined unit and even impresses with the punch on offer. Even over here, the turbo lag is minimal and the engine comes across as a pretty free-revving unit, especially for an oil-burner. The NVH is well-controlled, too, but some diesel engine clatter does seep into the cabin, especially at idle. Overall, however, it's really tough to find a chink in the Seltos' armour.
Also, while there is no all-wheel drive on offer, one can choose from 3 driving modes - Normal, Eco and Sport - and three traction modes - Mud, Snow and Sand. Mostly, we drove in the 'Normal' mode but switching to 'Sport' did reward us with sharper throttle response and a more reassuring steering feel. The traction modes are similar in nature to those offered on the Harrier but what makes the difference here is that the Seltos even brings an automatic transmission option to the table. These modes work by fine-tuning the vehicle stability control, traction control and brake assist systems to optimise grip in varying terrains.
The Kia Seltos even impresses with the way it rides and handles. The suspension offers a pretty firm ride, which means the occupants are never isolated from the undulations that the SUV encounters. However, the Seltos exhibits the kind of demeanour that is generally associated with more premium vehicles. In spite of the slightly stiff ride, the SUV never loses its composure and the damping is such that the Seltos never bounces around too much. The steering feels a notch or two better than what we've experienced on the Creta. It has just the right amount of heft and offers good feedback. We pushed the SUV quite hard into some corners and it didn't disappoint us even once. Things get even better in the 'Sport' mode, which makes the entire experience of piloting this SUV through the ghats more involving. Finally, even the brakes are sharp and have a strong bite.
It's not often that there comes a new car that seems to tick all the boxes. The Kia Seltos, however, definitely falls into this category. It looks great, has a feature-laden cabin, offers multiple engine options to suit everyone's needs and even strikes a good balance between great ride quality and sporty handling.
While all the above should help the Kia Seltos set new benchmarks in its class, it's actually a great pricing strategy that will be imperative to help the new SUV set a strong foothold in the highly competitive segment. We believe that an introductory ex-showroom price of roughly INR 11 lakh is what would greatly work in its favour.