Our drive with the Kia Seltos in north Goa was a memorable one. Any excuse to go to Goa is usually welcome, but not when you are there to drive the year's most eagerly anticipated car - and you land in the midst of a cyclone bringing heavy rain and flooding in its wake. But luckily for me, Ameya who was with me, Kia and the Seltos - that is not the reason I will remember this drive. It is largely because Kia has more or less lived up to its promise of setting new benchmarks in the compact SUV space. Both Ameya and I have had the chance to drive the Kia Seltos in its prototype stage - in Anantapur and South Korea respectively. At the time we were both impressed, but the drives were heavily embargoed and rather limited. But now we have spent considerable time with the Kia Seltos 1.4 GDI and 1.5 VGT.
Also Read: Kia Seltos Prototype First Drive Review
The Kia Seltos is in many ways the perfect car for the company to begin its India innings. A compact SUV with the styling, features and tech to really hit the sweet spot as far as what customers are looking for. That becomes doubly important given how automobile sales have been falling off a cliff off late. The Seltos is getting here as Kia's first made in India car and will be available in multiple variants. There are two trims on offer - Tech Line and GT Line, and each of those will have 2 or 3 variants depending on the engine type. And that means a total of 16 variants on offer. The tech line is the more high-end, sophisticated trim if you will, while the GT Line is the sportier one. And so the latter gets embellishments in the form of red strips in the front and rear bumper, and along the sides; and also red hubcaps, front brake calipers, the GT Line badging on the grille and rear (as well as on the steering wheel) a faux scuff plate element on the front and rear bumpers, and a specific dual tone alloy wheel pattern.
The grille though with its textured chrome grille surround and glossy back mesh pattern grille, LED day time running lights (DRLs) and taillamps, and a full LED headlamp cluster at the top end are common to both. As is the LED strip that takes the DRLs further along the top of the front grille almost all the way to the centre - as the car's nightime signature. This only comes on when the parking or head lights are used. I am told the DRLs and LED taillights are standard across variants and both sport Kia's 'hearbeat' motif. The 1.4 petrol automatic gets huge '7 DCT' badging high on the right fender - almost like the MG Hector's 'Internet Inside' badge. To me both are kind of loud and tacky!
The other thing I have to point out to you is that all Seltos' will also carry a BS6 badge on the rear tailgate, And that is because unlike many other manufacturers who are claiming to be BS6 'ready', Kia says all Seltos engines are BS6 compliant from day one. Some variants get a sunroof and roof rails are also standard. It has 8 colour options with 5 dual tone variations added on. And the two-tone roof variants have either black or orange contrast options. So that means a total of 13 choices options overall.
The cabin on the Seltos is going to impress you for a couple of reasons. First, it brings in a fresh appeal in terms of styling, layout, features, functions and gadgets for sure. And second, it sets new benchmarks for this segment. You've got a good sense of materials and plastics here. There's a huge 10.2-inch screen in the top spec, which has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation with a full screen or split display. And then there are many more functions on the touchscreen. Going to the full menu, there is, of course, tonnes to take you through, but let me focus really on the one thing that's really impressed me - Smart Pure Air, an Inbuilt air purifier on this car, that's the world's first, says Kia. And it's definitely going to shake things up because right now I am in a great environment, but typically in most of our cities, that's really relevant. It shows you the AQI reading, also gives you a perfume option, so you can have ambient air, which is a really high-end car feature isn't it. And then you got the rear screen, so there is a little screen back here with a display, which tells you again what the AQI reading is and that's again nice for the people sitting in the back too to keep track of it.
Then you got the head-up display, well again that is something, that is a huge segment-first, not all variants will have it obviously, but it's nice to have and its bigger than the ones you get on, say Mini. Well, again it pops up, just like this one. You've also got a 7-inch screen here, which has excellent animation, good resolution and again sets a new benchmark in this segment. Because it is not only big, but the kind of animation you see, and the information you get. You can see torque and turbo outputs, there's a compass, tyre pressure, live readings and you've got the usual trip computer settings like fuel economy, driving range. You know what's happening with your car. The driver information for your trip, all of that information is there as well. Now, this is the GT line, this is the GTX, it is one below the GTX+, which means there are few things that you don't get on this one, like seat ventilation but we'll tell you about that a little later in the review. But having said that, because it's the GT line you get black interiors, looks quite nice and sporty, little red stitching elements all around, and the GT line badging on the seats as well, and the flat-bottom steering wheel with red stitching, GT line badge again. Some of the other common elements are the piano black and dull metal finishes that you see all around. So well put together, and like I said, something that's going to get a lot of attention and scare a lot of the rivals.
Yes do you now understand why we believe this car will establish new benchmarks in the segment? The Renault Duster and Captur, Mahindra XUV 500, Tata Harrier, MG Hector and even the darling of the segment - the Hyundai Creta - will all seem dated or inadequate by comparison. If looks and features weren't enough to floor you the drivetrain options will. The Seltos has 2 petrol and one diesel options from the word go. And as I told you already - they're all BS6 compliant.
Kia has brought in three different drivetrains, each with automatic or manual, and three different technologies on automatic as well, a game-changer? You bet! Outside of that, you also get a very advanced option with the 1.4 GDI. Turbo GDI, and it's coupled with the DCT transmission. Now, why is that a big deal? Because if you are one of those who wants slightly sportier driving (relatively speaking- on an SUV), that's the combination that's going to give it to you because not only is it THE most responsive, it's also the one that comes with different drive modes, so there's Normal, Eco and Sport. So it is only the DCT GDI combination that gives you these different drive modes, you also get different traction modes like Snow and Mud, but remember that's got nothing to do with the four-wheel-drive system, that's not an option.
Across the Seltos range, one big chink in the Seltos' armour and this is different from the car I drove as a prototype in Korea, is the steering. It's kind of softened up for India. In some senses I get that a lot of Indian drivers will actually like that, really smooth and soft. I personally would have liked it to be a little stiffer like the cars I had driven. Having said that, that's again where the advantage comes in on the GDI, with the DCT, with the drive modes again. So you get the sport mode, where things do stiffen up a bit, and I quite like the way the steering feels in sport mode. But the big USP that's going to stand out and set benchmarks for the Seltos - ride, and handling. The handling is not bad for a car of this size, shape and height. But it's the ride quality that's going to set new parameters of comfort in terms of what people will start to expect and what will impress a lot of buyers, including those who will sit at the back.
The 1.4 GDI has a claimed mileage of 16.5 kmpl for the auto and 16.1 kmpl for the manual. The Seltos also gets a 1.5 litre petrol too with 113 bhp. And this gets the option of the 6-Speed manual or a CVT auto gearbox. We have not tested this car, but this is a tried and tested motor from the Kia-Hyundai family. Claimed mileage comes in at 16.8 kmpl for the auto and 16.5 kmpl for the manual.
The car's diesel avatar next, and it's the 1.5-litre version. It makes 113 bhp and there is 215 Nm of torque on offer. Now that torque actually kicks in at around 1,750 rpm. There is a good amount of torque available at that rpm. And yes it does pick up pretty well too. But there's distinct noise coming out of the engine from say 3000 rpm, which can be a bit annoying. But you don't do that on city conditions now, do you? What is impressive is the way that power is available to you at that low an rpm. So it helps in city driving. What is of note here though is that clutch, though light, the travel is pretty long, that is why you don't enjoy driving this one really. But the light clutch really makes a difference. But the gearshifts are really nice, a flick of the wrist and gears change. Exceptionally good job done here by Kia.
The first big change is the upholstery - it's beige and leatherette, not black and it gets this beautiful honeycomb kind of pattern and of course, the perforation on the seats point out the fact that these are the ventilated seats and you know we love ventilated seats. It also gets a sunroof, wireless charging for mobiles and a Bose sound system (this is only available in the GTX+ trim) as well. There's also an electronically powered driver's seat and at the rear you have rear sunshades for the passengers. What it does not get is a heads-up display. We expect the 1.4 petrol and the 1.5 diesel to give us 3 variants each - for both auto and manual - while the 1.5 petrol is unlikely to get the top end GTX+ trim, and so will have only two variants each for manual and auto. But this one gets something more, and it's the mood lighting, so whatever song that's playing on your infotainment system, there will be lights right across the car just to bring in that additional fun element when it comes to driving and listening. So there might be those greens and reds to drive away your blues.
The rear seat space is good enough for a six-footer and there's enough knee, shoulder and headroom on offer. There are rear AC vents too for the comfort of the passengers. Additionally, the rear seat receives a 60:40 split which helps in providing some additional space if you use up all the 433 litres of boot space provided.
It doesn't come as a surprise that the Seltos SUV is a connected car and yes it gets UVO. Just like what we saw in the Hyundai Venue, you can start/stop your car, lock/unlock the car's doors and even operate the climate control system. Yes, it gets the embedded sim or E-Sim which gets the Vodafone-Idea network. Kia Motors provides a free subscription for three years after which the consumer has to pay for the data services.
Some of what you see is what you'd usually find on premium or luxury brand cars - so kudos to Kia for bringing this all in. Now the big question is - will all of that cost a lot? Well the launch is not so far away now, and we shall find out how Kia is pricing this car. There will be three considerations I reckon - the state of the market and pressure on sales, Kia's keenness to get off to a blockbuster start in India, and where sister company Hyundai will price its upcoming second generation Creta - that while rivalling the Seltos will also share a lot of its equipment, drivetrains and platform of course. The current Creta starts at ₹ 10 lakh and goes up to ₹ 15.65 lakh . I expect the Seltos to start at ₹ 11 lakh and top off at ₹ 16 lakh.