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The 2021 Kia Seltos is a subcompact crossover, a vehicle that is joining Kia’s growing lineup of things that aren’t sedans, including the Niro, Sorento, Soul, Sportage, and North American Utility Vehicle of the Year winning Telluride. It is a vehicle that is targeted toward the millennial cohort, although there seems to be some bimodal distribution in that the company also thinks that Boomer empty nesters who are looking for something less expensive and smaller than their current vehicles may find to be attractive.

Kia Seltos off road

Yes, it has AWD and you can do this. But you probably wouldn’t. (All images: KMA)

Although it is available with Dynamax all-wheel-drive (sourced from Magna), with 7.3 inches of ground clearance it is not the sort of vehicle that is going to be taking on a Jeep Renegade (although the Seltos has a 28°approach angle, and only the Trailhawk version of the Renegade has a better one, 31.5°). It could win on styling points, but certainly not in any rock crawling. Still, the on-demand AWD system with a center-locking differential that splits power from front to rear, and also provides torque-vectoring cornering control, sending power to the wheel that is most likely to need it to go through a corner with stability, can provide levels of driving confidence that the two-wheel drive variant can’t match. Or as Michael Cole, president of Kia Motors America, describes it, “Everyday use but with the ability to do something more exciting.” Notably, the AWD comes as standard on four of the five trim packages.

The Seltos is manufactured at the Kia Motors Gwangju Plant in South Korea. The facility has a 600,000-vehicle annual capacity. Among the other vehicles built there are the Soul and the Sportage. (It also produces buses, trucks and military vehicles.)

Structurally, the Seltos is 61% high-strength steel and there are 374 feet of structural adhesive used for assembly.

The Packaging

This is probably one of the more impressive aspects of the Seltos.

Kia Seltos interior

Roomy and designed with notable attention to detail throughout.

There is a long list of vehicles that Kia cites as Seltos competitors in the entry CUV space, ranging from the Buick Encore to the Toyota C-HR, from the Fiat 500L (the large one) to the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

So let’s take two of them, the Ford EcoSport and the Nissan Kicks, to see the interior dimension differences.



Headroom front/rear:                              40/38.4 in.

Shoulder room front/rear:                       55.5/54.7 in.

Hip room front/rear:                                 53.5/52.8 in.

Leg room front/rear:                                 41.4/38 in.

Cargo volume rear seat up/folded:         26.6/62.8 cu. ft.


Headroom front/rear:                              39.6/37.5 in.

Shoulder room front/rear:                       53.3/51.3 in.

Hip room front/rear:                                51.6/50.9 in.

Leg room front/rear:                                42.9/36.7 in.

Cargo volume rear seat up/folded:           20.9/50 cu. ft.


Headroom front/rear:                              40.7/38.5 in.

Shoulder room front/rear:                      53/53.2 in.

Hip room front/rear:                                50.9/49.1 in.

Leg room front/rear:                                43.7/33.2 in.

Cargo volume rear seat up/folded:         25.3/53.1 cu. ft.

Seltos rear interior

A small vehicle with packaging so that there is plenty of cargo room.

Clearly, a packaging execution for people and things that allows some room in the Seltos.

The Powertrain

The Seltos is available with two engines and two transmissions. There is an all-aluminum 2.0-liter four that features multipoint fuel injection; it produces 146 hp @ 6,200 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm. This engine is standard on three of the five models. The remaining two models are equipped with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four that has a gasoline direct injection system. The turbo provides 175 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. All engines have “Idle Stop and Go,” or what’s more commonly referred to as a “stop-start” system.

Seltos turbo

The Seltos is available with a 1.6-liter turbo or a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine.

The models with the 2.0-liter engine are equipped with a continuously variable transmission. The models with the 1.6-liter turbo have a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.

And while not powertrain related but still in the mechanical space of things, the Seltos has a motor-assisted steering system and the suspension setup in MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink arrangement in the rear. The vehicles with the 2.0-liter have 17-in. wheels; the two with the turbo have 18s.

Driving & Safety Tech

All models come with a rear-camera display and rear occupancy alert. There is automatic control in four of the five models, with the top-of-the-line fifth (SX) equipped with smart cruise control with Idle Stop and Go.

Seltos IP

The Seltos is available with a 10.25-inch configurable touchscreen, the largest in segment.

With the exception of the base trim (LX), standard tech includes lane departure warning system, lane following assist, lane-keeping assist, and high-beam assist. Then the three higher trims (S1.6T, EX and SX) come standard with rear blind spot collision avoidance assist and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist. Then for the SX model there is safe exit assist (makes use of the rear cameras to detect if there is a car coming as the driver or passenger opens a door to exit the vehicle).

It is worth noting in the context of this available tech that the price bandwidth is a starting MSRP for the base LX of $21,990 to $27,980 for the SX.

Inside Edition

Standard across the lineup—with the exception of the SX—is an 8-in touchscreen offering AM/FM/MP3; it includes Bluetooth, Android Auto,

Seltos Bose

Note the attention to detail in the design of this speaker grille in the Seltos.

Apple CarPlay, and voice recognition functions. The SX model gets a 10.25-in touchscreen navigation system with AM/FM/Satellite, UVO telematics, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and voice recognition. The SX also gets a Bose audio system.



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