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Kia Seltos 2019 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
A small SUV that's not actually that small, the Kia Seltos is the vehicle the brand has been crying out for to plug a huge gap in its Australian lineup. But does it live up to its promise? We put it to the test to find out.

Kia has more than 10,000 reasons to be excited about the potential of its all-new Seltos SUV - which just happens to be the number of pre-orders the brand had accrued before a single vehicle had even been driven.

What's more, that's just in India (where some versions of the Seltos are being built) and Korea (where Australian-spec cars will hail from). The global numbers will of course be much, much higher.

So to describe the Seltos as an important car for Kia is an understatement of huge proportions. It launches into a hotly contested small SUV segment destined only for growth, both in Australia and abroad, and one in which the Korean car maker was sorely lacking a credible contender.

The good news? The Seltos looks good inside and out, arrives well equipped, and with an estimated starting point of around $25k drive-away, the price is just about bang-on, too.

All that's left is to see how it drives. So let's get to that then, shall we?

kia Seltos 2020: (base)
Safety rating
Engine Type
Fuel Type
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating
Price fromPOA

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Kia is yet to confirm official Australian pricing for its Seltos, but the brand has given us some very solid hints. Namely that it's targeting a starting price of between $25k and $26k, and a top figure of less than $40k. And those figures are drive-away, too.

The Seltos will touch down as a four-trim family in October, stretching from the entry-level S to the Sport, then the Sport+, and finally the GT Line.

Happily, there is plenty of quality gear on offer, even in the cheapest S, which gets 16-inch alloys and automatic headlights with halogen DRLs outside, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen inside that's both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, so you can beam your smart phone right onto the multimedia screen.

Stepping up to the Sport adds a massive 10.25-inch touchscreen that sprouts from the top of the dash. Stepping up to the Sport adds a massive 10.25-inch touchscreen that sprouts from the top of the dash.

Stepping up to the Sport adds 17-inch alloys, fog lights and climate control, as well as a massive 10.25-inch touchscreen that sprouts from the top of the dash. You also get a better steering wheel and shifter, and the safety net of a full-size spare.

Keep climbing up the Seltos ladder and you'll bump into the Sport+, which adds push-button start, heated front seats and a self-warming steering wheel, as well as partial faux-leather seats, an electronic parking brake and heated mirrors.

Finally, the GT Line gets the best of the bunch, with big 18-inch alloys, LED headlights and DRLs, full faux-leather seats, wireless charging and what Kia calls it Sound Mood lighting; an interior lighting treatment that pulses along with the stereo.

There are also powered front seats, rain-sensing wipers and the front seats get a cooling function. Lots of stuff, then, and befitting its estimated $40k drive-away price point.

Kia is yet to confirm official Australian pricing for its Seltos, but the brand has given us some very solid hints. Kia is yet to confirm official Australian pricing for its Seltos, but the brand has given us some very solid hints.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Generally speaking, the smaller a car gets, the more cutesy the design becomes. The Mazda CX-3, for example, melts hearts with its sleek city styling, while the Fiat 500 looks less like a car and more like a fashion accessory with every passing generation.

So it's refreshing to find that the Kia Seltos - now the brand's smallest SUV in Australia - defies that convention entirely, looking less like a cutesy micro-machine and more like a large SUV that's been shrunk in the wash.

  • Is the Kia Seltos the right car, at the right time? Is the Kia Seltos the right car, at the right time?
  • Kia's design team has done a seriously good job of giving its new SUV a bold and strong road presence. Kia's design team has done a seriously good job of giving its new SUV a bold and strong road presence.
  • It looks less like a cutesy micro-machine and more like a large SUV that's been shrunk in the wash. It looks less like a cutesy micro-machine and more like a large SUV that's been shrunk in the wash.

It helps that the Seltos isn't actually that small, of course, but Kia's design team has done a seriously good job of giving its new SUV a bold and strong road presence, with a tall front-end dominated by its "Tiger" grille, but that's then offset by a raked windshield that delivers a vague sense of sportiness to the design.

There are some super-cool design flourishes, too, like the strip of lighting that runs along the top of the grill, giving the Seltos a unique nighttime look, and which is then framed by a diamond-effect strip that spans the width of the front end.

The Seltos still exudes a quality feel from every seat. The Seltos still exudes a quality feel from every seat.

The Seltos arrives in eight exterior colours, including black, white, a pair of greys, orange, blue, dark blue and yellow. You can then bump-up the personalisation options with two-tone choices, choosing a roof that's painted black, gold or white. We're not yet sure which of those options will make it to Australia, but our pick is a white car with a black roof. It looks brilliant in the metal.

Climb into the cabin and you'll find a tiered-style dash effect, utterly dominated in the more expensive models by the huge multimedia screen mounted above it. There's no shortage of hard-to-the-touch plastics on the centre console and the base of the dash, but the Seltos still exudes a quality feel from every seat.

The strip of lighting that runs along the top of the grill, gives the Seltos a unique nighttime look. The strip of lighting that runs along the top of the grill, gives the Seltos a unique nighttime look.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The most interesting thing about Kia's small SUV is that it isn't actually that small.

In fact, the Seltos measures 4370mm in length, 1800mm in width and 1615mm in height, and it rides on a 2630mm wheelbase. To put those numbers into perspective, it's both longer and wider than its segment competitors, including the Honda HR-V, the Toyota C-HR and the Mazda CX-3. Actually, the Seltos is only a handful of centimetres shorter than a Nissan Qashqai.

  • Kia claims a massive 498 litres of luggage space with the rear seat in place. Kia claims a massive 498 litres of luggage space with the rear seat in place.
  • Those rear seats also recline, and there are rear air vents and a USB charge point back there, too. Those rear seats also recline, and there are rear air vents and a USB charge point back there, too.
  • There are also a pair of cupholders hidden in a pulldown divider, and bottle storage in each rear door. There are also a pair of cupholders hidden in a pulldown divider, and bottle storage in each rear door.

So the stretched dimensions also stretch the definition of a small SUV, and the result is a boon for passenger and cargo space. Kia claims a massive 498 litres of luggage space with the rear seat in place. Those rear seats also recline, and there are rear air vents and a USB charge point back there, too, as well as a pair of cupholders hidden in a pulldown divider, and bottle storage in each rear door.

According to Kia, front-seat riders get 1051mm in legroom, 1409mm in shoulder space, and 1017mm in headroom. Backseat riders get what the brand is calling "the most accomodating cabin in the class", with 965mm in legroom, 975mm in headroom, and 1395mm in shoulder space.

The stretched dimensions also stretch the definition of a small SUV, and the result is a boon for passenger and cargo space. The stretched dimensions also stretch the definition of a small SUV, and the result is a boon for passenger and cargo space.

And yes, they are just numbers, but let me put it this way; this is a small SUV that you can actually fit three adults across the back row in something that, if you squint a little, looks a lot like comfort, and there really aren't many competitors that can claim the same.

More numbers? The Seltos tips the scales at around 1.4 tonnes, and offers up to 183mmm in ground clearance, meaning some light off-roading in AWD vehicles isn't off the cards.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Two drivetrain options here, with two petrol engine choices driving either the front or all four wheels.

The S, Sport and Sport+ models share a 2.0-litre petrol engine good for 110kW and 180Nm, with that power shuffled through a CVT automatic gearbox. That combination will produce a sprint to 100km/h of 9.6 seconds and a 194km/h top speed.

The Sport+ can also be had with the GT Line's turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, producing 130kW and 265Nm. The Sport+ can also be had with the GT Line's turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, producing 130kW and 265Nm.

The Sport+ can also be had with the GT Line's turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, producing 130kW and 265Nm, with grunt this time sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed DCT automatic. That power boost reduces the sprint to 100km/h to 8.0 seconds, and ups the top speed to 208km/h.

There are two different suspension options, too, While both use MacPherson struts up front, the FWD cars make use of a torsion beam at the rear, while AWD vehicles get a multi-link setup.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Kia is yet to release official fuel and C02 figures for the Seltos, but given it's a smaller vehicle than the Sportage, we'd expect some improvement on that model's 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

We're talking a car tailor-made for the city here, and the Seltos slips through urban traffic in smooth, quiet comfort, the gearbox going about its business seamlessly, and the engine responding best when treated gently.

The cabin is seriously quiet at city speeds, too, adding to the surprisingly premium feel of the higher-spec cars' cabin.

The Seltos slips through urban traffic in smooth, quiet comfort, the gearbox going about its business seamlessly. The Seltos slips through urban traffic in smooth, quiet comfort, the gearbox going about its business seamlessly.

Now it must be said, some of that calm evaporates when you get too rough with the accelerator. For one, the turbocharged engine/gearbox combination we tested makes plenty of noise when really pushed (like when you're overtaking at freeway speeds), and the seven-speed gearbox - smooth and easy at slower speeds - can occasionally feel a bit confused if you ask it to change down or up too quickly in fast bends.

But like the Korean suspension tune, which is always softer and more billowy than we'd enjoy here, these are quirks likely to be ironed out when the car is put through its comprehensive localisation program ahead of its on-sale date here.

It's a smooth, comfortable and premium-feeling experience. It's a smooth, comfortable and premium-feeling experience.

In fact, Kia in Australia has already set to work devising a bespoke suspension tune for our vehicles. And given their success in the past, we have high hopes for the Seltos.

While the Seltos doesn't look small, it happily doesn't drive small either. There's a heft and solidity to the drive experience which defies its small SUV ranking.

It's a smooth, comfortable and premium-feeling experience, though. Short answer? Kia wont; be able to build them fast enough.

Stepping up to the Sport adds 17-inch alloys. Stepping up to the Sport adds 17-inch alloys.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

Kia is gunning for a five-star ANCAP safety rating for its Seltos, and so AEB (with pedestrian detection) is standard from the base model on up. It's joined by six airbags, a reversing Camera with rear parking sensors, cruise control and Kia's Lane Keeping Assist system on the S and Sport cars.

The Sport+ and GT Line adds a more advanced AEB system with cyclist detection, as well as active cruise, blind-spot detection and front parking sensors.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Still the best in the business: a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assist throughout, as well as annual service intervals.

Kia is yet to release its capped-price servicing details, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will be an impressive package.

Kia is yet to confirm official Australian pricing for its Seltos, but the brand has given us some very solid hints. Kia is yet to confirm official Australian pricing for its Seltos, but the brand has given us some very solid hints.

Verdict

The Kia Seltos feels like the right car, at the right time, and what should be the right price. And we have a sneaking suspicion it will do big things for the brand here when it touches down in October.

Pricing Guides

$33,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$25,990
Highest Price
$41,990
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership9
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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