Kia Seltos SX AWD
As I’ve written – and other outlets have documented – the crossover segment has been sliced and diced to the point that there are almost no gaps in an OEM’s lineup. As just one example: Toyota builds a RAV4 and Highlander, but that’s not enough; a few years ago its product team added a RAV4-based Venza between the two, and more recently we have a larger 3-row Grand Highlander positioned above the suddenly less-grand Highlander. And over in the Kia showroom the automaker offers the Soul, Niro and Sportage, and no sooner have we adjusted to the various mutations of those three than we have the Seltos splitting the difference, with a host of its own variations. Of interest here is a Seltos that has been revised again, with multiple enhancements – inside and out – for the ’24 model year.
In what Kia itself describes as a refresh, the small crossover receives redesigned front and rear fasciae, along with an available ‘Smart’ power tailgate. Of more significance is the 20 horsepower bump of Kia’s 1.6 liter turbocharged four to 195 hp, along with the replacement of its DCT automatic with a more conventional 8-speed auto. Finally, an X-Line trim gives the Seltos a rough-and-ready ‘tude that probably overstates the Kia’s true off-road capability.
I missed Kia’s national press intro in May, where invited (the key descriptive here) journalists and sundry social influencers toured the shoreline in and around Newport, Rhode Island. Newport, of course, is intimately familiar with Kia products because (I’d guess…) most of those maintaining Newport’s housing inventory – you know, dusting and doing the windows – drive Kias. The good news regarding the Seltos refresh is that Kia’s design team didn’t screw it up; the Seltos started as an attractive two-box design, and it remains attractive, looking not unlike Volvo’s XC40 on a footprint of 103 inches and an overall length of just under 173 inches.
Inside, our SX Turbo AWD boasts comfortable front buckets covered in Kia’s leather-like SynTex material. Notably, the driver’s seat offers both power adjustment and a power lumbar, along with fast-acting heat – and that’s made significant by a loan date in early January. More newsworthy (if judged by the press release and window sticker) is the dual 10.25-inch panoramic display screen with Nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Kia Connect and SIRIUSXM with a free (FREE!) 3-month subscription.
All of that is quite good – especially at the SX AWD’s $30K price point – but in terms of day-to-day utility, I’d call out the crossover’s real room for four adults, the expansive visibility available to all four passengers, the 27 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seat, and 63 cubic feet when that rear seat is folded. If you need added stowage, Kia offers roof-mounted cargo boxes, cargo baskets and kayak/surfboard attachments; in short, you can be a hoarder and/or a boarder. This is a small sport utility that offers real ‘utility’, while the available 1.6 liter turbocharged four delivers what most will regard as ‘sport’.
Kia gives you two powertrain choices in its Seltos platform. Those that are too busy paying attention to their cellphones will probably be happy – if not entranced – with the standard 2.0 liter 4-cylinder’s 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque driving through the front wheels via a CVT transmission. That 146 horsepower is in line with other Kia and Hyundai offerings, and fully competitive with what Subaru fits to its base Crosstrek. If opting for the beefier 1.6 turbo you’ll spend at least $4K more, which translates to roughly $100/month on a 48-month loan. And if you can bridge that gap financially, an outlay of $3/day provides a huge payoff in the way the Seltos goes about its daily business.
In Car and Driver magazine’s testing, 60 miles per hour is reached in just under seven seconds, while the ¼ mile is traversed in 15.4 seconds, reaching a speed of 92 miles per hour. Those numbers are fully relevant if you find yourself in a zip code where freeway merging necessitates a run up to 80 if wanting to avoid that Super Duty (or RAM!) coming through your rear hatch. My testing was done in Northern Virginia, where the only vehicles doing 80 are Cabinet-level Suburbans, but we also spend time in Southern California, where the only vehicles NOT doing 80 are older Toyota hybrids driven by their original owners.
Beyond the acceleration is the Kia’s almost sublime way of going about its business. The steering is direct, cornering competent, and while the ride may not be Buick-like, if you want a Buick go buy one. Behind the wheel, at virtually any pace, I like the Seltos a lot.
If looking for a second car to supplement the bigger SUV, the Seltos nails the need. And if you’re searching for that one can-do-everything compact at an affordable price point, it will be that, too. Given a day with Kia’s product team I’d argue for a hybrid model with a 35 miles per gallon combined estimate (the 1.6 turbo delivers a 25 City/27 Highway/26 Combined) and similar acceleration; Jeep builds Grand Cherokees that will match this 1.6 liter turbo’s efficiency. But this Seltos is much easier to park than that Jeep, and certainly easier to own.
Except, maybe, in Newport…where, if driving a Kia, they’ll ask you to use the service entrance.