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Kia Seltos 2020 review: S

The Kia Seltos S is the entry grade into the range.
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Knocking back the Kia Seltos S because of its weird hubcaps is like not buying the perfect house because you don’t like the letterbox.

Guess what? As a special treat, I’m going to give you the verdict for the Kia Seltos S right now, because frankly I’m not going to risk you not reading all the way to the end of this review and then missing out on the good word on what I reckon is a game-changing SUV. So here goes.

The Seltos S has exceptional value in terms of its standard features. The Seltos S has exceptional value in terms of its standard features.

The Seltos S with the safety pack might be the entry grade into this small SUV model from Kia, but it’s the pick of the lot. Not only is it super safe, but you’re getting exceptional value in terms of its standard features and then there’s the warranty – seven years. That’s incredible. You could sell the Seltos in four years and be able to tell the next owner that they’ll still have three years of coverage left.

As for the engine, the S doesn’t have the most powerful unit in the range, but as it turns out, this grade is better to drive than then top-of-the-range Seltos. Need more convincing? Want to know what’s the only option you’ll need? Or why the skin on my elbow almost wore off after driving the Seltos for a week? Or how the back seat could be better? Read on.

Kia SELTOS 2020: S (FWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$25,490

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

There are some SUVs out there which have been around for years and look old and tired, despite updates that have attempted to spruce them up, but the Seltos is a brand-new SUV, having only arrived in 2019. And you can tell, thanks to its fresh, crisp, modern styling. It’s a premium-looking small SUV.

There are also some little details that provide me with way too much joy, like the bumpy texture to the metal eyebrows over the headlights, which fades into a smooth finish. Then there’s the way the taillights extend into the tailgate like pincers, which is also pleasing.

  • Modern styling makes the Seltos S look like a premium small SUV. Modern styling makes the Seltos S look like a premium small SUV.
  • The Seltos is 1800mm wide. The Seltos is 1800mm wide.
  • The Seltos S does not come with LED headlights. The Seltos S does not come with LED headlights.
  • The Seltos is a brand-new SUV, having only arrived in 2019. The Seltos is a brand-new SUV, having only arrived in 2019.
  • The bumpy texture to the metal eyebrows over the headlights fades into a smooth finish. The bumpy texture to the metal eyebrows over the headlights fades into a smooth finish.
  • The Seltos is 4370mm end-to-end. The Seltos is 4370mm end-to-end.
  • The Seltos sits at 1615mm tall. The Seltos sits at 1615mm tall.
  •  The taillights extend into the tailgate like pincers. The taillights extend into the tailgate like pincers.

Inside, there are the stylish touches you might not notice straight away, like the angular mesh over the stereo speakers, which looks far better than I can describe, so just take a look at the images.

What’s disappointing is that you have beautiful, clever touches like those speakers and the eyebrows, but then there are hard plastics in the cabin, which are forgivable as long as they aren’t in places you’d rest an elbow, like the armrest of the Seltos. Seriously, after a week of driving the Seltos S my right elbow was red raw. OK, I have the wingspan of an African Fish Eagle (191cm), so my elbows come in contact with the door armrest of every car I drive, but after an hour the Seltos’s hard, plastic armrests feel like they were made of concrete and if I owned this car I’d be forced cut up a stubby holder and make a little elbow pad. Sure, that would look terrible, but I’d still do it.

Inside, there are the stylish touches you might not notice straight away. Inside, there are the stylish touches you might not notice straight away.

Fortunately, the Sport + grade I tested last year does come with cushioned armrests.

How big is the Seltos? Let’s look at the dimensions. The Seltos is 4370mm end-to-end, 1800mm wide and 1615mm tall.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

You’ve seen the dimensions (above) now you might be wondering just how much room is inside this small SUV. Plenty is the answer. Plenty of room for somebody as tall as me (I’m 191cm) to sit behind their own driving position and plenty of headroom in the rear, which is also astoundingly good.

Up front, I had excellent head and shoulder room, too.

The rear doors are large and tall, making for an easy entry and exit.

The rear doors are large and tall, making for an easy entry and exit.

For the size of this SUV, those rear doors are large and tall, and open wide, too, making for an easy entry and exit.

Cabin storage is good with big bottle holders in all doors, and two cup holders in the front, and there’s also a medium-sized centre-console bin and a large, front-console area with two USB ports and a 12V outlet.  

  • There are two cup holders in the front. There are two cup holders in the front.
  • Cabin storage is good with big bottle holders in all doors. Cabin storage is good with big bottle holders in all doors.
  • There is a large, front-console area with two USB ports and a 12V outlet.  

There is a large, front-console area with two USB ports and a 12V outlet.

The Seltos’s boot has a cargo capacity of 433 litres – bigger than the Kadjar’s 408 litres and the 393-litre boot of the ASX.

  • The Seltos’s boot has a cargo capacity of 433 litres. The Seltos’s boot has a cargo capacity of 433 litres.
  • The Seltos S misses out on a parcel shelf in the boot. The Seltos S misses out on a parcel shelf in the boot.
  • The carsguide pram fits with room to spare. The carsguide pram fits with room to spare.
  • The carsguide luggage is a snug fit in the boot of the Seltos S. The carsguide luggage is a snug fit in the boot of the Seltos S.

The hard plastics were a reminder that this was the entry-grade Seltos, but so too was the absence of features in the second row. We’re talking no fold-down armrest or cupholders in the rear, no directional air-vents, nor USB ports, nor a storage tray. Also, this grade misses out on a parcel shelf in the boot and for these reasons I’m deducting practicality marks, but rest assured this is a very high seven out of 10.

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

Out of all the members of the Seltos family, the S wants the least amount of money from you with its list price of $25,490. Our car had the safety pack fitted and if you’re thinking of getting any options then it should be at the top of your list. Actually, even if you’re not planning on ticking any options you should consider the pack, which is only $1000, and well worth it. I’ll take you through what it adds in the safety section below.

The colour of our test car was the non-cost Starbright Yellow, a sort of gold, which might sound a bit over the top but even I became quite fond of the hue, and that’s coming from somebody who's only truly comfortable wearing black clothes.

The Seltos S comes standard with cloth seats, an eight-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and 16-inch steel wheels (with hubcaps) and a space-saver spare.

The Seltos S comes standard with an eight-inch touch screen. The Seltos S comes standard with an eight-inch touch screen.

You are missing out on a few features offered in the higher grades. You’re not getting privacy windows in the rear, nor the larger touch screen, the LED headlights, leather seats and, instead of alloy wheels, it has steel ones with hubcaps. Wait! Come back! Don’t be put off by the hubcaps – talk to the dealer and see what they can do. By the beard of Zeus, don’t be put off by the hubcaps. That’s like knocking back buying the perfect house because you don’t like the letterbox.

Instead of alloy wheels, the Seltos S has steel ones with hubcaps. Instead of alloy wheels, the Seltos S has steel ones with hubcaps.

At the time of writing, Kia was doing a driveaway deal of $27,490, which is unbeatable. The Mitsubishi ASX ES, for example, lists for $27,740 with the safety pack, the new Renault Kadjar Life is $29,990 and the Nissan Qashqai ST is $27,990.  

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

It's not often that I sing the praises of the engine and transmission in an entry-grade car, but get ready for an opera because in the case of the Seltos S the combination of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) makes driving far more enjoyable than the Sport + and GT-Line, which are available with a 1.6-litre turbo four and a dual-clutch auto.

That’s because the dual-clutch auto can be prone to causing the car to roll back on hills (yes, there is a hold function, but it brings its own issues, which I’ll get to in the driving section), while low-speed motion isn’t exactly smooth when it’s searching for a gear. So, while the dual clutch is superb for driving on fast and twisty country roads, low-speed commutes are a bit frustrating, which is why the smooth CVT and relaxed, naturally aspirated engine is perfect for city dwellers.

The S doesn’t have the most powerful engine in the range. The S doesn’t have the most powerful engine in the range.

On my Top 10 List of Things I Don’t Like, CVTs are equal fifth with stepping on a wet bathroom floor in socks. CVTs offer good fuel economy but in most cases kill the driving enjoyment with lacklustre acceleration. The CVT in the Seltos is different – it’s simply the best I’ve ever met. It's got  typical CVT smoothness, but with better acceleration and less of the “drone” that seems to accompany most of these transmissions when under load.

Yes, the 1.6-litre makes 130kW and 265Nm in the higher-spec versions of the Seltos,  which is a lot more than the 110kW and 180Nm of the 2.0-litre in our test car, but the day has come when I’ve finally said I’ll take the CVT over the dual-clutch.

The S is only available in front-wheel drive. If you’re looking for all-wheel drive then you’ll have to step up to the Sport + or the top-of the range GT-Line, and yes, you’ll have to have the dual clutch if you want AWD.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Kia says the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in the Seltos S we tested uses 6.8L/100km after a combination of open and urban driving, while the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol hits 7.6L/100km. My testing took in 230.7km of motorways and city commutes and my test car used 28.80 litres, which equates to 12.5L/100km.

My own fuel testing took in mainly suburban and city duties and I measured 11.8L/100km at the petrol pump after 180km. The fuel tank has a capacity of 50 litres and you’ll only need to fill up with regular unleaded, too.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

If you live in the city or the suburbs and most of your driving is going to be at lower speeds in traffic and car parks, then you’ll be happier with the 2.0-litre engine and the CVT that were in the Seltos S I tested. This CVT is excellent, the best I’ve experienced, with minimal drone and manages to send drive to the front wheels without the dopey acceleration that usually goes with these types of transmissions.

When I tested the Seltos Sport+ grade previously to the S, I was disappointed by how the dual-clutch automatic affected low-speed driving – the transmission fishing for the right gear leads to a jerky motion at times, and while the tendency for the vehicle to roll back on hills is mitigated by the auto-hold system this also created a ‘sticking’ feeling, which made driving even less smooth. To be fair, on a highway or a twisty bit of country road the dual clutch is brilliant, as is the more powerful engine.

The Seltos S is comfortable even on the concrete-and-bitumen patchwork of roads of Sydney. The Seltos S is comfortable even on the concrete-and-bitumen patchwork of roads of Sydney.

The 2.0-litre does feel a bit under powered at times, but for somebody like me who does most of his driving within 25km of the city, it’s a good trade-off.

As for the ride, the Seltos S is comfortable even on the concrete-and-bitumen patchwork of roads I drive on, while remaining composed, with good handling.

The steering felt heavier than it should be. The steering felt heavier than it should be.

The only area I think could be improved is the steering, which felt heavier than it should be, which is good for sporty driving but I noticed the weight the moment I pulled out of my car space on the first day I drove the Seltos. It’s not a deal breaker, but I think Kia needs to revise the tuning a touch.

Don’t be put off, though, the Seltos S is an easy car to drive.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

The Kia Seltos scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019. The Seltos S comes standard with advanced safety tech such as LKA (Lane Keeping Assistance) and AEB with pedestrian detection.

Our Seltos S was fitted with Kia’s Safety Pack, it’s a $1000 option but one I’d strongly recommend. The safety pack adds cyclist detection to the AEB system and adaptive cruise control, plus convenience features such as an electronic park brake, auto driver’s window and electric folding wing mirrors.

The safety pack includes electric folding wing mirrors. The safety pack includes electric folding wing mirrors.

The reversing camera is excellent and while you don’t get front parking sensors on the S grade, there are rear ones.

Bizarrely, the S is the only grade which comes with a temporary spare wheel, the rest all have full-sized spares.

The S comes with a temporary spare wheel.


The S comes with a temporary spare wheel.

For child seats you’ll find three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the rear row.

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

The Seltos is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12 month/10,000km intervals and is capped at $261 for the first service, $452 for the second, $324 for the third, $584 for the fourth, $293 for the fifth, $593 for the sixth and $311 for the seventh/70,000km visit.

The Seltos is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. The Seltos is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Verdict

I gave the verdict for this review in the introduction and I stand by it: the Seltos is a gamechanger for small SUVs, thanks to its price, features, safety, practicality and driveability. The S grade represents the best value in the range and, as it happens,  the engine-transmission combination is better for city driving than the higher-spec cars, with their turbo engines and dual-clutch autos.

Pricing guides

$33,195
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$25,490
Highest Price
$40,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT LINE (AWD) 1.6L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $40,900 2020 Kia Seltos 2020 GT LINE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
GT LINE (AWD) (TWO-TONE) 1.6L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $40,900 2020 Kia Seltos 2020 GT LINE (AWD) (TWO-TONE) Pricing and Specs
S (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $25,490 2020 Kia Seltos 2020 S (FWD) Pricing and Specs
S (FWD) WITH SAFETY PACK 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $26,490 2020 Kia Seltos 2020 S (FWD) WITH SAFETY PACK Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Design8
Practicality7
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership10
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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