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What You Need to Know About the Kia Seltos

Chris Kaiser

Filling the gap in their line-up between the Soul and Sportage, Kia will be releasing the Seltos, a new compact crossover, in the US in 2020. Here’s a preview of what’s in store.

A New Take on a Familiar Formula

With more and more compact and subcompact crossovers on the market, few could imagine a need for yet another one. And yet, Kia has. Slotting in between the Soul and Sportage, the new Seltos (new in the US at least) aims to prevent buyers from being lured away from the Kia brand by the likes of the Honda HR-V or Toyota CH-R. And while the Seltos shares the same platform as its cousin the Hyundai Kona, this isn’t simply a case of swapping badges. The Seltos looks to distinguish itself with its own unique style and performance.

AWD on Tap

2021 Kia Seltos AWD
2021 Kia Seltos | @kia on Twitter

The Seltos will come with two engine options. The base is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine offering 146hp and 132 lb. ft. of torque and paired with a CVT. The upgraded engine is a 1.6-liter twin-turbo good for 179hp and 195 lb. ft. married to a 7-speed dual clutch automatic.

Unlike a lot of compact crossovers, the Seltos will have all-wheel drive on offer, giving it another leg up over the likes of the Nissan Kicks or even its little brother, the Soul. Add the 7.2 inches of ground clearance and the locking center differential and you’ve got one of the more off-road ready CUVs on the market.

Not Quite Radical, But Chic

Kia has been making great strides in upgrading the look of their vehicles both inside and out. From the Soul to the Stinger to the Telluride, modern Kias have plenty of personality, and the Seltos is no exception.

2021 Kia Seltos
2021 Kia Seltos | kia.com

The Seltos gets Kia’s signature “tiger-nose” grill along with plenty of sweeping lines up front. These, combining with the numerous LED lights (head lights, daytime running lights, and turn signals), produce a smart yet vaguely menacing front visage. The design cues for the Seltos appear to take more from the Telluride than the Soul. And that’s probably good, not just because it gives potential Kia buyers an out if they are put off by the boxy Soul, but because the Telluride is a great looking vehicle. A smaller version with the same design character is more than welcome.

Also Read: Kia Telluride vs Hyundai Palisade

2021 Kia Seltos driving

There’s a certain refreshing attention to detail going on with Kia design lately. A couple of nice touches on the exterior of the Seltos include the use of brushed aluminum around the bumpers, roof-rack, and door handles. These provide a nice contrast with the black cladding and the wide array of paint options (12 total). There are even four two-tone paint jobs available. Three of these (white, yellow, and blue) feature a black contrasting roof, cool enough. But our favorite is the fourth option, a blue paint job with a white contrasting roof.

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2021 Kia Seltos wheel

As nice as the paint options are, the hands down best bit of the unique Seltos design are the wheels. These feature five Y-shaped spokes with a burnished aluminum finish and center red cap boasting a Kia logo. For once, you won’t be bothered by the lack of upgradable wheel designs for your new whip.

The interior is another area where Kia’s excelling. As with the rest of the line-up, the Seltos combines a modern design language with quality materials a notch above the competition. The layout is intuitive, room is ample, and there are few hard plastics or other obvious cost-cutting measures. Again, the details matter, and the upgradeable Bose stereo features a unique geometric speaker cover which is a really nice touch.

2021 Kia Seltos Bose speakers
2021 Kia Seltos Bose Speakers | kia.com

All the Must-Haves Are Here

The list of available features on the Seltos mirror those of other Kias across their line-up. All the common safety and driver assistance technologies are here, blind spot collision avoidance, forward collision avoidance, highway driving assist (which maintains pre-set speeds or the speed limit and preserves lane orientation), and rear cross-traffic avoidance to name just a few.

2021 Kia Seltos Interior
2021 Kia Seltos Interior | kia.com

Among the optional interior features, the Seltos will offer heated and ventilated front seats, rear reclining seats, wireless phone charging, and a generous 10.3-inch touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will come standard on all trims. (This raises the question why luxury brands continue to upcharge for basic phone compatibility.)

A New Spin on a Winning Formula

In the abstract, does the automotive world need another compact crossover? Obviously not. The imagined “gaps” in OEM’s line-ups keep getting filled with more variations on this same basic theme. Having only heard and not yet seen Kia’s newest edition to its US offerings, I was confident it would be another homogenized, misshapen sedan killer.

But I had clearly forgotten that Kia’s got serious game nowadays, and that both the Soul and Telluride are genuinely great vehicles. After getting a good look at the Seltos, I welcome our new crossover overlords with open arms.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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