Kia Philippines has been on an absolute tear lately. After thoroughly impressing us with each of their new releases, it seems Kia is more determined than ever to offer a quality product in every segment possible. The B-Segment Subcompact SUV class has been lacking Kia’s local presence as of late, but they plan to change all that with the addition of the Kia Seltos. Admittedly, it’s one of the trickier segments in the industry to enter particularly because how the products are priced. Taking a look at Honda’s HR-V and Mazda’s CX-3, we see prices ranging from PhP 1.3-million to PhP 1.5-million, which takes them dangerously close to mid-sized 7-seater diesel SUV territory in terms of pricing. Hyundai tried to rectify this by offering the Kona below PhP 1.2-million, but the steps taken to keep the price down are apparent, lacking the gadgets, gizmos and tech toys that appeal to a youth-oriented market. Kia believes the key to cracking the code lies with their new Seltos, which they’ll be bringing in to local shores later this year. We took a trip to Korea just to see how it shapes up against the competition.
The Kia Seltos is undoubtedly an important product for the Korean manufacturer. With global sales of compact SUVs forecasted to expand from 6.5 million vehicles in 2018 to more than 8.2 million by the end of 2022, Kia wants to be sure that they’ve got a quality product ready to meet the rising demand. After spending a considerable amount of time with it and driving it ourselves for almost 200 kilometers, we can’t help but feel that Kia has a real winner on their hands.
We start off with the Seltos’ exterior styling. It’s immediately clear that Kia is going for a younger customer base, with strong character lines, a wide “tiger nose” grille, and interesting lighting implementations. Full LED headlamps sit above multi-layered turning indicators, for a three-dimensional effect.
LED “ice cube” fog lamps round out the car’s technical appearance, with wide body cladding and wheel arches, a chrome beltline, and blacked-out pillars provide some sporty flair while looking decidedly high-tech. With a wheelbase of 2,630mm, the Kia Seltos rides on a platform that’s significantly longer than the competition, allowing for more interior room and trunk space.
Despite its longer wheelbase, short overhangs measuring a mere 850mm means its 4,370mm length doesn’t make it much larger than its contemporaries, keeping its compact easy-to-drive characteristics intact.
With a choice of 16, 17, or 18-inch alloy wheels and a ground clearance of 170 to 179mm, the Seltos’ makes no claims about being an off-road conqueror, and we’re completely fine with that. Its overall height of 1,615mm gives it a lower stance meant for turning heads on the highway, something it does quite successfully.
There’s no doubt that Kia put a lot of effort into ensuring that the cabin reflects the exterior’s futuristic, high-tech theme. Immediately you’ll notice the attention to detail with regards to the variety of materials used. Each knob and switch returned excellent tactile feedback, with everything from the steering wheel to the shift knob feeling great to the touch. The highlight of the cabin, however, is the massive 10.25” touchscreen which is tilted slightly to the driver. The touchscreen features the widest screen ratio in the segment, and there’s a reason why Kia decided to go with an orientation like this. The Seltos’ infotainment system supports connectivity with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, meaning one device can be a dedicated navigation tool, while the other handles audio / DJ duties, and this is reflected on the screen by splitting the display to show both simultaneously. It’s a thoughtful innovation, and one of those things that people never knew they needed until they try it. There’s also an 8-inch option that matches the rest of the Kia lineup, and both power a Bose 8-speaker set up.
The fact that both screen variants seamlessly connect to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto means that Kia is on top of their game when it comes to interior tech. The instrument cluster is straightforward and highly-legible, with a 7-inch color display sandwiched between the two analog speedometer and tachometer for information on mileage, cruise control, range, and more. The seats are highly supportive and comfortable, featuring the ability to both cool and heat the front row passengers. Like we mentioned earlier, the longer-than-average wheelbase results in excellent gains in terms of interior space. The Seltos offers more head room, shoulder room, and leg room in both first and second rows compared to the competition, with the rear of the cabin in particular being the most accommodating in its class. As for luggage space, its 498 liters of room for cargo puts it at the top of its class. Passengers at the rear also benefit from reclining seats from 26 to 32 degrees, and rear vents for air-conditioning at the center console. It’s a great cabin to be in, and despite the use of some hard plastics on the door panels (I mean, we have to be realistic here pricing-wise), the Seltos does a great job of offering one of the most premium-feeling cabins in its class.
The unit we test drove was powered by the strongest engine option available to the Seltos – a turbocharged 1.6-liter T-GDi gasoline engine that produces 175 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 to 4,500 rpm paired to a 7-speed DCT double-clutch transmission capable of propelling the Seltos from 0 to 100 km/h in just 8 seconds. While we doubt that we’ll be seeing this engine configuration come to the Philippines (unless they package it under their GT line), we’re thoroughly impressed by its responsiveness throughout the rev range. City jaunts both through heavy traffic and long stretches of highway showcased the engine’s capabilities well, with power readily available whenever it was needed. We felt some extremely minor shift shock as the gears shifted from 2nd to 1st, which we’ve come to expect from dual-clutch transmissions, but other than that, the powertrain provided seamless shifts throughout the range.
Other powetrain options include a 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated engine which produces 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm paired to a CVT transmission, and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel producing 134 hp @ 4,000 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-2,250 rpm. Both all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive configurations are available, with the all-wheel drive variant receiving a multi-link independent suspension set up at the rear, and front-wheel drive versions getting a semi-independent torsion beam set up. While no confirmations have been made, the 2.0-liter, CVT, front-wheel drive version is what I’m betting to see in the local market, as it makes the most sense alongside what’s currently being offered in the segment.
The Kia Seltos also features an impressive safety suite with both active and passive systems ensuring the safety of all occupants. Its body is made with a blend of steel and aluminum, maximizing torsional rigidity while keeping its body weight low. The also comes with up to six airbags, working in conjunction with stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking, brake force assist, hill-start assist, parking sensors, a rearview camera, radar-assisted cruise control, blind spot indicators, and lane-keeping assistance. The radar-assisted cruise control paired with the lane-keep assist is so good, that it’s almost semi-autonomous in the sense that the car can practically drive itself even in stop-and-go-traffic. As always, it goes without saying that both hands should be at the wheel at all times, but it’s a great glimpse as to what the future brings.
And as for Kia’s future? They’ve shown that they can bring in quality products without having to compromise on price, as shown by their current offerings like the Soluto and even the genre-busting Stinger. If they can work the same magic when they bring in the Kia Seltos later this year, then it’ll be easy to say that they’ve got a segment winner just waiting to be appreciated.