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Kia Seltos 2020 review: S with Safety Pack

The Seltos is a very accomplished machine.
EXPERT RATING
7.6
After a long wait, Kia joins the compact SUV fray with the strikingly good looking Seltos. Can this take a chunk out of the Mitsubishi ASX's continuing dominance?

If you think about it, the Kia Seltos was a long, long time coming. The Korean company, the smaller partner of the giant Hyundai-Kia empire, must have been itching to get this car out the door while the Kona made off with the compact SUV dollars. 

Kia has made a good fist of an SUV range with the still-excellent Sportage and the evergreen Sorento.

Faces must have fallen when it became clear the Stonic wasn't coming, but one wonders if the consolation prize might actually be better. Like coming second in a televised talent show.

I always say it, but it's worth remembering - the compact SUV market is a war zone, with new entrants, old stagers and a constant stream of updates to everything else in between.

The Seltos also has to deliver on Kia's reputation for delivering all the goodies with a surprising sticker price to dangle in front of value-conscious buyers.

Kia Seltos 2020: S Safety Pack
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$26,990

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

At $25,990, the pricing looks okay. When it's $25,990 drive-away, it's looks like a bargain, throwing a decent punch at Mitsubishi's sharply priced  ASX, and the Kona Go.

At $25,990, plus $1,000 for the 'Safety Pack', the pricing looks okay. At $25,990, plus $1,000 for the 'Safety Pack', the pricing looks okay.

The Seltos S comes with a six-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, reversing camera, remote central locking, rear parking sensors, reasonable safety package, cruise control, auto headlights, cloth seats, power windows and a space-saver spare.

An 8.0-inch screen has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on top of the usual bluetooth and USB streaming. The mobile integration is a handy bonus as the S doesn't have sat nav. Kia's underlying media software is easy to use and easy on the eyes, which is a nice bonus.

This car had the only free colour, the divisive 'Starbright Yellow'. That's a clever trick - Kia is going to be selling a lot of the $520 optional colours to claw back a few bucks.

The S also has the 'Safety Pack' option (which this car had) for $1000 (see Safety section for details). That's a bit of a no-brainer.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The Seltos looks brilliant. Substantial but not chunky, everywhere you look it just seems right.

The little kick upwards at the rear quarter, the Euro-tastic headlight shapes, the funky grille treatment, the Seltos has catapaulted straight to the top of the class for looks.

The Seltos has catapaulted straight to the top of the class for looks. The Seltos has catapaulted straight to the top of the class for looks.

While the segment has plenty of good looking cars (and a couple you might generously term 'individual'), Kia has nailed the landing.

The only problems are the dodgy hubcaps on the S and the fact that the daytime running lights give off a wan yellow glow rather than a crisp LED twinkle. Same goes for the headlights, which is a terrible shame.

The cabin is similarly fine apart from the steering wheel, which is a cheap plastic that will not combine well with sweaty or damp hands.

Everything else looks great and I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of a passenger grab handle at the base of the centre stack. Looks cool.

It's a clean, uncluttered environment and the cloth interior is perfectly fine. Nice touches abound and even the speaker covers are a clever irregular pattern that looks premium.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Seltos occupies a bit more space than many in the segment and is pretty close to the Sportage in length, and not far off the Qashqai (4377mm) and ASX (4365mm). Like both its rivals, there's a ton of space inside.

You get a whopping 498 litres (VDA) of boot space. You get a whopping 498 litres (VDA) of boot space.

While the S gets by with a space-saver spare, it means you get a whopping 498 litres (VDA) of boot space (a Seltos with a full-size spare only has 433 litres) except you don't get a cargo blind to shield your loot.

Drop the 60/40 split-fold rear seat and you have a massive 1393 litres. The load space is a good one, too, wide and almost flat.

Drop the 60/40 split-fold rear seat and you have a massive 1393 litres. Drop the 60/40 split-fold rear seat and you have a massive 1393 litres.

The bargain S unfortunately only has two cupholders, both for the front seat, but all four doors have bottle holders.

Rear seat passengers have a lot of space for knees and feet and the headroom isn't shabby either, although not best in class. 

The bargain S unfortunately only has two cupholders, both for the front seat. The bargain S unfortunately only has two cupholders, both for the front seat.

The S has just one USB slot under the console where you can also fit larger size phones and the cupholders, when not in use, are joined by a little gap that will also keep a phone from sliding around.

Rear seat passengers have a lot of space for knees and feet and the headroom isn't shabby either. Rear seat passengers have a lot of space for knees and feet and the headroom isn't shabby either.

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

The Seltos, like the Kona, has two engine choices and here in the cheap seats, you score the base engine, a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder.

The base gets a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The base gets a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine.

With 110kW/180Nm, it falls into the same range as every other car at this level - around 100kW and around 200Nm, give or take. This engine is also in the Sport and Sport+.

In an interesting departure from its Kona sibling, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) drives the front wheels only. If you want all-wheel drive, you have to head up the range to the turbo version of the Sport+ and GT-Line.

Performance is reasonable and good enough to drag a trailer weighing 600kg (unbraked) or 1100kg (braked).

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Kia claims a combined cycle figure of 6.8L/100km which is pretty standard for the class.

A week of mostly suburban battling gave me an indicated 7.6L/100km, which is actually good when compared with the long-term Kona Active I ran last year, which only once dipped below 8.1L/100km.

With a 50-litre fuel tank, you'll be filling up every 600km or so, based on my real world figures.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Seltos leaves South Korea with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, camera-based AEB with pedestrian detection, driver attention alert, reversing camera and lane keep assist.

You also get two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points for fitting baby capsules/child restraints across the back seat.

The Seltos has not yet been tested by ANCAP. The Seltos has not yet been tested by ANCAP.

The Safety Pack ($1000) adds upgraded AEB (with added cyclist detection), adaptive cruise control, 'Driver Attention Alert+', electric parking brake, folding rear vision mirrors and bigger rear discs.

The Seltos has not yet been tested by ANCAP, but like the Cerato (and cousin Venue), Kia is expecting a four star result for the S and Sport version with the basic camera-based AEB aboard.

The Safety Pack with its more advanced AEB will likely push the car into five star territory.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Kia's class-leading after-sales package starts with a seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

On top of that, you get seven years of capped-price servicing and roadside assist as long as you keep servicing at Kia.

The 2.0-litre engine covers 15,000km (or 12 months) between services, in contrast to the turbo's 10,000km interval.

At some point soon (I hope), Kia will put the service pricing on its website - m'colleague Matt Campbell was told on the launch that this engine's yearly bill will be around $380.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

I am going to confess to having to double-check what type of transmission this car used. My memory told me the Kona had a six-speed auto (which it does) and the same 2.0-litre engine (ditto).

The steering and mostly settled ride are just about perfect for this car's likely role as suburban warrior. The steering and mostly settled ride are just about perfect for this car's likely role as suburban warrior.

I drove the Seltos without complaint, which is surprising because it doesn't feature the six-speed auto. It uses my least favourite form of transmission - a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Now, most people don't know or care, but I am relentless in my vocal displeasure when it comes to the rubber band. This one is good and it's good because a CVT is at its best when torque is at a premium.

While 180Nm is hardly deficient, it's not a lot, either. The CVT papers over the driveability gaps this figure might present and keeps the engine at its best to ensure decent progress.

I know. I'm as stunned as you are.

The steering and mostly settled ride are just about perfect for this car's likely role as suburban warrior. Even though the wheels look small, they're 16s with 205 eco-style tyres.

Even though the wheels look small, they're 16s with 205 eco-style tyres. Even though the wheels look small, they're 16s with 205 eco-style tyres.

That, obviously, means ultimate grip wasn't a high priority, but it steers really well and those high sidewalls knock the worst out of the ride afforded by crumbling urban roads.

There's only so much you can do with torsion beams, though, and a run down my favourite suspension-punishing street showed the best-laid plans of Kia's local ride and handling team can be foiled by genuinely gnarly stretches. It's not bad and never jumpy but can skip harshly over speed bumps.

Similarly, the steering can get a little heavy in certain conditions, something the Seltos shares with the Kona.

Above all, the Seltos is quiet and very comfortable for the vast majority of the work you can throw at it.

I drove the Seltos without complaint. I drove the Seltos without complaint.

While I don't mind that it's a bit on the firm side, some might. That might also mean that if you drive a Sport+ or GT-Line, try a car lower in the range if you've got your heart set on a Seltos and see if the taller tyres are better for you.

Verdict

Despite the Seltos S being the steel-wheeled, entry-level car, I didn't feel like it was missing much at all. The extra $1000 for the Safety Pack will cost you a few bucks a week over a multi-year loan so is absolutely worth the extra outlay.

The Seltos is a very accomplished machine, more than matching most of the segment while piling on a very long warranty, super-sharp pricing and it's a dead-set looker. Apart from those silly, unconvincing hubcaps...

Pricing Guides

$33,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$25,990
Highest Price
$41,990
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Safety7
Ownership8
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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