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Kia Seltos 2020 review

The Kia Seltos 2020 range consists of four models and the choice of two petrol powertrains.
EXPERT RATING
8
The Kia Seltos 2020 model range is important. It is going to be an important part of the brand's line-up, and there's a good chance Kia Australia won't be able to keep up with demand. Like it? Get to a Kia showroom on October 25, 2019, to lock in your order.

This the probably the most anticipated new car in Kia Australia’s history. It’s the 2020 Kia Seltos, the brand’s first proper go at making a small SUV, and it goes on sale on October 25.

There have been prior forays into this market space before by Kia - the Soul could have been considered a small SUV, though it was a big old flop. The original Sportage was small, too - but it moved up in size over the years.

For years we’ve been wondering when Kia Australia would be able to fill the gap below the Sportage - one that has probably seen customers settling for a Cerato hatch until a new high-riding model arrived.

Enter the Seltos, a small SUV with a point to prove. It’s on the bigger side of 'small', measuring up close to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Mitsubishi ASX

Can it deliver on expectations? Read on to find out.

Kia Seltos 2020: GT Line
Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$41,990

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

The Kia Seltos model line-up consists of four variants: the entry-level S grade (priced at $25,990 drive-away), the Sport variant ($29,490 drive-away), the Sport+ (from $32,990 drive-away) and the range-topping GT Line ($41,990 drive-away).

That's right - all models on the Seltos price list are drive-away deals. That means the national RRP or MSRP is the same, and you can be assured that you won't be stung by additional delivery and on-road costs.

Let’s run through them model by model.

The $25,990 S variant has an 8.0-inch touchscreen media unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, a six-speaker sound system, auto headlights, halogen headlights and daytime running lights, cruise control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors. It rides on 16-inch steel wheels with covers, and has a space-saver spare and roof rails.

  • The base model Seltos wears 16-inch steel wheels. (Seltos S model shown) The base model Seltos wears 16-inch steel wheels. (Seltos S model shown)
  • Inside the S you'll find a USB input, and a six-speaker sound system. (Seltos S model shown) Inside the S you'll find a USB input, and a six-speaker sound system. (Seltos S model shown)
  • The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Seltos S model shown) The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Seltos S model shown)

The $29,490 Sport adds a number of desirable features, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav (including SUNA live traffic and 10 years of map updates), a second USB port, single-zone climate control, folding side mirrors, halogen front fog-lights, a full-size spare, and auto up/down driver’s window, auto window defogging, and ‘solar windows’.

The Sport+ is available with front-wheel drive ($32,990) or with an up-rated engine and all-wheel drive ($36,490). This variant takes what’s in the Sport model and adds smart key entry and push-button start, heated side mirrors, cloth and faux-leather seating, LED interior lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front parking sensors, a cargo cover. It also adds safety spec - read the section below for more info.

The Sport model adds 17-inch alloys wheels. (Seltos Sport+ model shown) The Sport model adds 17-inch alloys wheels. (Seltos Sport+ model shown)

The top-end model is the $41,990 GT Line, which can be had with two-tone paint or a sunroof (but not both!), 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, LED front fog lights, LED tail-lights, LED daytime running lights, interior mood lighting, an eight-speaker Bose stereo, wireless phone charging, a 7.0-inch driver info display, head-up display, fake-leather seats, power adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, a heated steering wheel, auto wipers - and again, there’s additional safety spec. 

  • Behind the steering wheel is a 7.0-inch driver info display. (Seltos GT Line model shown) Behind the steering wheel is a 7.0-inch driver info display. (Seltos GT Line model shown)
  • The GT Line has 18-inch alloy wheels. (Seltos GT Line model shown) The GT Line has 18-inch alloy wheels. (Seltos GT Line model shown)

There are some likeable elements to the pricing and spec equation of the Seltos, but there are some rudimentary shortfalls, such as a cargo blind and LED daytime running lights on lower models.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

The beauty of the Seltos isn’t its aggressive but stylish front end, it’s sleek and not too boxy profile, or its “Oh my gosh, that looks a lot like a shrunken Holden Acadia - but heaps better!” rear-end design. 

It’s the way the designers have pieced this car together to work so well with the dimensions on offer that is the beautiful bit. It’s a compact SUV, but not as compact as many of the other cars in this part of the market. 

At 4370mm long (on a 2630mm wheelbase), 1800mm wide and 1615mm tall, the Seltos is among the biggest small SUVs in the mix. It’s not that much shorter than a Sportage (4485mm), and is markedly larger than its brother-from-another-mother, the Hyundai Kona (4165mm), with which it shares a platform. 

The big thing will be if it fits in with your lifestyle - an extra couple of centimetres of nose-to-tail length can be the difference between fitting in that tiny parking spot, or having to search the back streets for another 10 minutes. 

But there are big practicality benefits of being just a smidge longer than your rivals. And if you want to get to the big-name competitors, the Mitsubishi ASX is 4365mm, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is 4405mm, and the Nissan Qashqai is 4394mm. So the Seltos isn’t too big, and indeed could be the right size for the vast majority of people looking a compact high-rider.

Now, as for the rest of the design, I think it’s really good. It’s masculine but not macho. Stylish but not blingy. Funky, but not too funky. 

Though it’s not all roses. While I can deal with the steel wheels on the base car - there’s a good chance a lot of those versions will be snapped up by fleets, and that’s not such a big issue - my design concern comes down to illumination.

This may matter to you, or it may not. But for me, the biggest letdown of the design is that Kia Australia has specced three of the four variants with halogen headlights and halogen daytime running lights. Yellow. Yuck.

It really cheapens the look of this brand new car, and makes it look old before its time. 

As for the interior design? Take a look at the interior pictures below to make up your mind

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

This is a small SUV that’s going to be the right size for a lot of people because it isn’t so small. Weird, right? But the interior practicality of the Seltos is one of its biggest selling points - it’s among the best, if not the best, in the class for cabin space.

Let’s start at the back - the boot capacity is claimed at 433 litres for models with a full size spare wheel, where the entry-level version has an even bigger boot - 498 litres! - because the floor sits lower due to its space-saver spare. That’s phenomenal room, considering the size of the car - though what’s not so good is that the two lower grade models don’t get a cargo cover/parcel shelf (also known as a tonneau/cargo blind).

With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 433 litres. (Seltos GT Line model shown) With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 433 litres. (Seltos GT Line model shown)

That aside, the space is flexible - the rear seat can fold down in a 60:40 fashion to allow 1393L of space. It’s a big, big boot, and will fit the needs of a lot of customers.

The back seat is spacious, too. The room in the second row is beyond what many of its rivals offer, with easily enough knee room, head room and shoulder room for someone my size (182cm, or six foot in the old money) to slot in behind a similarly sized driver. It’s exceptionally good.

There are some issues with the back seat, though. The top spec model is the only one that gets rear air-vents, and the only one with a back seat USB port, too. And lower grade versions don’t get a fold-down armrest, and therefore no cup holders. And there’s only a map pocket on top grade models, too.

The room in the second row is beyond what many of its rivals offer. (Seltos GT Line model shown) The room in the second row is beyond what many of its rivals offer. (Seltos GT Line model shown)

Then there are the plastics: hard plastic backs to the front seats (good as it’ll stop your kids from kicking the fabric to threads), but a similar hard plastic is all over the doors in lower grade models, meaning you miss out on padded elbow rests front and rear unless you spend up on the dearer models. It may seem like nitpicking, but rest your elbow on a hard bit of plastic for a while and see if you come away thinking, “Yeah, that was nice!”.

Up front it’s the same - top models get padded elbow rests, the others don’t. The plastic on the dash is mostly hard, too, which is less of an issue unless you have a thing for touching the dashboard a lot. 

This is a small SUV that’s going to be the right size for a lot of people. (Seltos GT Line model shown) This is a small SUV that’s going to be the right size for a lot of people. (Seltos GT Line model shown)

There are cup holders between the seats, bottle holders in the doors, a decent storage area in front of the shifter for your phone and wallet, and the presentation is nice even if the materials could be nicer.

The big tick (for all but the base model) is that there’s a nice, big 10.25-inch touchscreen media system on top of the dash. It looks great and works really well, and even the base car (with the smaller 8.0-inch screen) gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity (1x USB in the base car, 2xUSB in the others, plus wireless phone charging in the top grade).

All models abve the base score the bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen. (Seltos GT Line model shown) All models abve the base score the bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen. (Seltos GT Line model shown)

All models get a digital driver information screen with trip computer and digital speedometer, and the instrumentation and ergonomics of the cabin are all spot on. 

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

There are two engines available in the Seltos - both are petrol, and both are teamed to automatic transmissions. That’s right - there is no manual gearbox option, and there is no hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric or diesel Seltos available. Not yet, anyway. 

The entry level engine in the 2020 Seltos range is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Atkinson cycle’ petrol engine producing 110kW of power (at 6200rpm) and 180Nm of torque (at 4500rpm).

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder makes 110kW/180Nm. (Seltos S model shown) The 2.0-litre four-cylinder makes 110kW/180Nm. (Seltos S model shown)

This engine is paired to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic, and is exclusively offered in front-wheel drive. 

The top engine is fitted to the all-wheel drive versions of the Seltos. It’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 130kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 265Nm of torque (from 1500-4500rpm), and is paired exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. 

The 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produces 130kW/265Nm. (Seltos GT Line model shown) The 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produces 130kW/265Nm. (Seltos GT Line model shown)

Towing capacity for the Seltos is 600 kilograms for an unbraked trailer for both 2WD and AWD models, while braked trailer capacity is 1100kg for the 2WD and 1250kg for the AWD.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The combined cycle fuel consumption claim for the 2.0-litre CVT FWD Seltos model is 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres, which is okay for the segment. For what it’s worth, on test at the launch in Noosa over a mix of driving, we saw an indicated 7.3L/100km for this powertrain.

The 1.6-litre DCT AWD model claims 7.6L/100km, which is - again - okay, but not class-leading. On test, we saw 8.4L/100km indicated on the dash.

Fuel tank capacity is 50 litres, and the Seltos can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol. 

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Seltos is one of the better compact SUVs to drive, all things considered. But let’s go through it in a bit of detail.

First off, let’s talk about the 2WD models, which have that 2.0-litre engine and CVT auto. Now, those three letters - CVT, which stands for continuously variable transmission - is often enough for some buyers to turn and run, but trust me, these transmissions are so much better than they used to be.

The engine is powerful enough for the vast majority of people’s needs - it revs nicely and gets moving from a standstill without fuss. The CVT is partly to thank for that, as it helps keep the engine in its sweet spot. And thankfully, it’s not too noisy or buzzy as it works. 

Being front-wheel drive, it’s not going to be for everyone - but as Kia Australia predicts 80 per cent of sales to be this 2.0-litre FWD model, it’s going to be fine for almost everyone.

The 2WD model is definitely the more comfort-focused on the road. (Seltos S model shown) The 2WD model is definitely the more comfort-focused on the road. (Seltos S model shown)

I found the steering to be sweetest in the 2WD model - lighter, more agile feeling than the AWD model, but still not quite perfect. It’s a touch heavy, especially when parking or negotiating roundabouts. The steering is a new system that includes a form of feedback and resistance when you return the steering wheel to the centre position, but it still doesn’t feel as natural or easy as some rivals.

The ride is mostly good, though still a bit firmer than some people might like at higher speeds on relatively smooth surfaces (smaller ripples on an otherwise smooth freeway upset the suspension more than they should have).

The 2WD model is definitely the more comfort-focused on the road, and that comes down the fact it is available either with the 16-inch steel wheels with 205/60 rubber or the 17-inch alloys, which have 215/55 low profile tyres, but not as low-pro as the 18s (235/45) on the top-spec GT Line. 

Speaking of, that model suffers more road noise as a result of the more aggressive tyres, and the ride is adversely affected. It can feel a little too hard at times, and Kia Australia admits it “maxed out the hard points” of the chassis to achieve the character the company wanted for the Seltos. 

The engine is powerful enough for the vast majority of people’s needs - it revs nicely and gets moving from a standstill without fuss. (Seltos Sport+ model shown) The engine is powerful enough for the vast majority of people’s needs - it revs nicely and gets moving from a standstill without fuss. (Seltos Sport+ model shown)

Don’t get me wrong - it’s not harsh or firm to the point of being uncomfortable, but it could be softened off, I reckon. To me, it seems Kia Australia’s chassis and steering tuning team is placing too much emphasis on making cars to please reviewers and rev heads - a lighter touch wouldn’t have gone astray here.

The 1.6-litre turbo engine is certainly peppier than the non-turbo engine, especially in the mid-range. And while the transmission shifts smoothly and quickly at higher speeds, and will apparently learn your driving style - but I think it might take some human learning too, as it can be sluggish from a standstill. 

The Seltos is one of the better compact SUVs to drive. (Seltos GT Line model shown) The Seltos is one of the better compact SUVs to drive. (Seltos GT Line model shown)

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

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

The Kia Seltos 2020 model range hasn’t yet been crash test rated by ANCAP - but based on the current stipulations around safety tech, you can expect a four-star rating on S and Sport models, and a five-star score for the Sport+ and GT Line variants. 

It’s a similar thing to what happened with the Cerato. The entry level models come with a form of camera-based low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with car and pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning.

Kia has once again chosen to offer optional safety equipment on the entry S and Sport grades, priced at $1000. It consists of upgraded AEB (high speed with car, pedestrian and cyclist detection), as well as adaptive cruise control, Driver Attention Alert+, an electronic parking brake, electric folding mirrors, auto up and down driver’s window and 15-inch rear disc brakes (to accommodate the electronic park brake).

The Sport+ variant also includes blind-spot monitoring with intervention to stop you from merging into someone if you don’t heed the warning, as well as rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking.

And the top-end GT Line further adds “Safe Exit Alert” (warns occupants if they’re about to open their door onto a hazard) and “Lane Following Assist” (which centres the car in the lane more actively than the standard lane-keep system).

All models have dual ISOFIX child seat anchors and three top-tether points for baby seats. It comes with six airbags - dual front, front side, and full length curtain.

Where is the Kia Seltos built? For Australia, it’s made in Korea. China has its own domestic market version, and so does India. 

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

As with all Kia models, the ownership program is hard to beat.

There’s a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which remains the best in the business. That plan is bolstered by a seven-year capped-price service plan with service intervals every 12 months (10,000km for the turbo, 15,000km for the non-turbo).

At the time of writing, Kia Australia hasn’t locked down its servicing costs yet. However, estimate about $380 per year on average for the 2.0-litre model, and $470 per year for the 1.6 turbo. That’s pretty high compared to other brands out there.

But you do get seven years of roadside assist included in the ownership plan, plus for models with sat nav there is 10 years of map updates, too.

Verdict

The Kia Seltos 2020 model range is packed full of surprises - the majority of them very nice, a few of them not so much.

The pick for me is the Sport+ 2WD model, which offers the stuff you want, the safety you should get, and all the drivetrain that most people will need. 

We can’t wait to see how the Seltos compares to some of its main rivals in a comparison test later this year. Stay tuned for that. 

Pricing Guides

$33,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$25,990
Highest Price
$41,990
EXPERT RATING
8
Price and features8
Design9
Practicality9
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership9
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

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