2021 Kia Seltos First Look Review: Big Style, Small Size

First Look / 11 Comments

Time to apply some SUV styling to a small crossover.

It wasn't too many years ago when Kias were considered cheap and basic transportation and not much more. It's amazing just how fast that perception has completely changed. The all-new 2020 Kia Seltos subcompact crossover is yet another example of the South Korean brand's bold styling inside and out, high value, and technology-packed strategy. What's interesting about the Seltos is that it was designed and engineered from the beginning to be a global model, meaning it'll be nearly identical no matter where it's sold. Kia was keen to blend some traditional SUV capabilities with a sporty and youthful design. Judging by the official images released by Kia, we'd say this certainly has been accomplished.

The big question is, however, whether consumers will respond in kind. The crossover segment, regardless of vehicle size, is more competitive than ever, leaving little to no room for Kia to make mistakes.

Front Angle View KIA
Side View KIA
Rear Angle View KIA

Exterior: Fusing Tradition With Style

What many consumers don't always realize is that crossovers and SUVs are not the same thing. While SUV's utilize pickup truck platforms, crossovers are based on traditional cars, meaning they come standard with front-wheel-drive, better fuel economy, and smoother rides. The new Kia Seltos, like its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Venue, is a crossover. Classified as a five-door subcompact, the Seltos features a long hood and very attractive LED headlights and taillights. Daytime running lights front and rear are also present.

Notice the vehicle's sharp lines throughout, as opposed to a more rounded look. Again, the goal here was to create a more rugged look and Kia has succeeded. To further augment that, the Kia Seltos can be equipped with 16-, 17-, or 18-inch premium wheels. And there's the "tiger nose" grille. Perhaps a bit wider than usual, this latest incarnation of Kia's signature styling continues to look great.

Front View KIA
Rear View KIA

Interior: Elegance Meets Millennial Tech

Kia has become known for going that extra mile regarding interior appointments. Not only is there tons of value, but the features themselves are aimed specifically at a vital market force: millennials. Because of that, the two-row, five-seat Seltos has a cabin that incorporates elegant shapes and advanced tech such as a large infotainment system featuring a 10.25-inch touchscreen. Some optional features typically found on more expensive vehicles is an 8.0-inch head-up display and a premium eight-speaker Bose audio system.

There's also the optional Sound Mood Lighting system, which has become a favorite feature for many Kia Soul owners, for example. What this system does is emit a soft light from door panels. This also creates a 3D-patterned surface on those panels. The system then synchronizes to the beat of the chosen music playing through the audio system. A total of eight customizable colors and six themes illuminate the cabin. Is this kind of gimmicky? Perhaps, but the system really does work well and helps to create a softer mood, something that comes in handy on extended road trips.

Dashboard KIA
Infotainment System KIA
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Power, Safety, And Handling

There are a range of engines available for the Seltos, depending on market. Although official details have yet to be announced, chances are the North American market Seltos will come with a standard 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder rated at 147 hp. An optional 1.6-liter T-GDI turbocharged four-cylinder with 175 hp will cost extra. Overseas markets, specifically Europe, are also set to have a 1.6-liter diesel engine option, with a total of 134 hp.

Like the engine options, the Seltos will not have just one transmission. Instead, a total of three automatic transmission choices are planned, though not every market will receive all three. A seven-speed dual-clutch, six-speed automatic, and a CVT (continuously variable transmission) are planned. Expect the Seltos to be front-wheel-drive only. Kia has yet to announce final engine and transmission market options. Drivers will also benefit from a Drive Mode Select system with 'Normal,' 'Eco,' and 'Sport' settings.

A total of six airbags will be standard, along with a suite of electronic safety systems. Examples include Kia's Vehicle Stability Management system that incorporates traction control and electronic stability control, Brake-force Assist and Hill-start Assist, and front and rear parking sensors all into one.

Top View KIA

Pricing And Competition

Official pricing and specific trim level information has yet to be announced, but Seltos sales are expected to get underway in South Korea by the end of this year. Other global markets will follow shortly thereafter.

Because the Kia Seltos shares a platform and various other mechanical bits with the Hyundai Venue, we can estimate the Seltos will carry a starting price of around $17,000. This will top off in the mid-$20,000 range. Aside from the Venue, the Seltos will face competition from the likes of the Nissan Kicks and Ford EcoSport. Given the increasing demand for crossovers of all sizes, the fact that Kia is jumping into the global subcompact segment should cause alarm for competitors. Kia has become an expert at identifying new trends and quickly becoming a formidable player. Expect the 2021 Kia Seltos to continue that momentum.

Headlamps KIA
Taillight KIA

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