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Kia Seltos
$25,000 - $48,990
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Kia Seltos VS Lexus RC300

$57,900 - $64,990

Kia Seltos


Lexus RC300

Summary

Kia Seltos

Sometimes a new model arrives with one particular grade that seems to exceed the sum of its pricing as well as parts. Just such a model is the entry-level Kia Seltos, the S.

Launched in late 2019 as the company’s small SUV answer to the successful Mitsubishi ASX, the SP2-series Seltos is a lot like a Kia Cerato, but with a big and boxy body plonked on top for more space, extra utility, higher seating and greater ground clearance (at 177mm) – courtesy of the related Hyundai Kona DNA infused within.

Result? The cheapest version makes for an ideal value urban runabout. And here’s why.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Lexus RC300

By God, but hasn't Lexus come an awfully long way from what was undeniably a drab and dull past? The Japanese premium brand now routinely pumps out cars that are not just fun to drive, but are even *gasp* fun to look at, too.

And should you trace the genesis of all this new-found excitement, you'll find it was the Lexus RC that started it all. That car, unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Show in 2013, was an early sign that Lexus was going to start pushing the envelope with its passenger cars.

The two-door, four-seat RC has just been updated for 2018, with added technology, safety kit and even a particularly un-Lexus launch-control system in the most powerful models.

High time we took a closer look then, no?

Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.4L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

Kia Seltos9/10

On paper, the cheapest Seltos might seem the least appealing of the range. Base model, tiny wheels, unremarkable 2.0-litre engine and a CVT auto are hardly the stuff of champions.

Yet, with its boxy good looks, utilitarian proportions, hardy presentation, agreeable performance, absorbent ride, ample road clearance, thoughtful equipment levels, accessible pricing, low running costs and superlative after-sales care, the S starts to shape up as a handsome and likeable overachiever of the small SUV set.

Budget for the Safety Pack and do insist on that AWOL parcel shelf, and you’re left with what might be one of the today’s most suitable and formidable real-world urban propositions. The Seltos S rises above its station with an infectious can-do swagger.


Lexus RC3007.9/10

Still a rock-solid option in the (admittedly not massive) premium-coupe space, the Lexus RC looks and feels like a quality product. The 2018 update has addressed any safety shortcomings, even if the interior technology still feels a touch behind the times.

But an out-and-out performance car this ain't. Even in cars fitted with the big V8 engine, the RC behaves more like an effortless grand tourer than it does a performance coupe. But if we're being really honest with each other, that only serves to make it much easier to live with.

Is Lexus a brand that says sporty coupe to you? Tell us in the comments below.

Design

Kia Seltos

An imposing nose. Chunky styling. A ‘floating roof’ design. Vibrant colour choices. With a hint of old-school Subaru Forester in its boxy utilitarianism, the Seltos literally stands out in a very crowded sector. Little wonder it’s already a big hit.

It’s interesting how Kia and Hyundai went down very different visual avenues with what are essentially the same basic mechanical ingredients. The former is all about space and sensibility while the latter is very much contemporary style orientated.

Maybe that’s why, despite brandishing a handsome set of hubcaps, the S’ 205/60R16-shod steelies look a wee-bit tiny in those huge wheel arches.

That pleasing practicality ethos outside has been transferred inside the Seltos too, with a simple approach to the dashboard design that aims to enhance your interaction with it rather than distract, confuse or even intimidate. That just isn’t Kia’s way.


Lexus RC3008/10

Yes, yes - eye of the beholder and all that business. But for mine, the RC looks terrific. We cycled through two models, the RC350 and the performance-focused F Sport, and both cut a fine and athletic figure on the road.

Front on, the pincered grille dominates the view, sweeping back into bonnet, and stretching to the lowest corners of the front end, while a flared-lip body kit runs the length of the body. Special mention also goes to the cat-claw swipes that live behind the rear wheels.

The regular RC models make do with twin exhaust tips, while the F Sport range scores quad pipes, separated by a slinky rear diffuser, and the rear spoiler is an integrated lip that forms part of the boot. Cooler still, the Carbon Edition adds lightweight elements, like a carbon-fibre roof panel and an active rear wing - with about 6.6kg shaved off the kerb weight.

Climb inside, and you'll find a quality - if slightly dated interior - with soft leather seats, carbon-effect trim elements and a new, 10.3-inch screen in the centre of the dash.

As you can see from our interior photos, though, some elements do now feel a little behind the times. The door panels feel harder than I'd like, almost as if a thin-piece of leather has been stretched over hard plastic, and the control unit in the middle of the cabin is awash with hard black plastic, and the knobs mounted on it feel a touch cheap and non-premium, too.

Practicality

Kia Seltos

First thing’s first. It’s difficult to think of a cheaper new car that’s easier to get in and out of than the Seltos. Big doors, wide apertures, a tall ceiling, overhead grab handles, lofty cushions and a sense of airiness make it utterly undemanding. Swinging your hips up and on high flat seats (and down and off again), are further bonuses.

If you’re somewhat creaky in the bones and not so mobile, ensure this is on your list.

Most materials are of the hardy, durable variety, with the plastic (rather than leather-sheathed) wheel probably the next biggest giveaway after the wheels that you’ve chosen bargain-basement.

But at least you can sink yourself into soft and inviting cloth-ish seat fabrics. And there’s still some flair in there anyway, from door grilles which either look like an ode to Melbourne’s Fed Square or punched-in speaker grilles, to dimpled textures and contrasting shades of silvers and greys. Very Teutonic. 

The majority of drivers should count on excellent front and side vision (though wide C-pillars do blot out over-the-shoulder parking sight lines), as well as a tilt/telescopic steering column and a height-adjustable cushion for locating the ideal seating position.

And everybody should admire the outstandingly concise instrumentation markings, plentiful ventilation and copious storage – including the deep front door pockets, shallow fascia shelves (one next to the two 12V and single USB outlets for maximum practicality) and a sizeable centre-console bin-cum-elbow rest.

It’d be near-impossible finding a less painless rental experience after 30 hours flying to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, than the user-friendly Seltos. That also applies to the uncomplicated multimedia connectivity and transparency of all vehicle controls.  

Moving on to the back (possible without having to leave the car thanks to clambering-aiding space between the front seats), that flat and somewhat featureless cushion too is raised, which – like the wide-arc door opening – assists entry and egress as well as the view out for shorter folk.

It’s a light-filled expanse of rear-seat space, in contrast to the oppressive darkness of most small SUVs. We’re looking at you, Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-30.

There are a few surprising extras and omissions. On the credit side you’ll find two-angle reclinable backrests, a reading light and windows that wind almost all of the way down. Fido will be pleased. None are base-grade guarantees. But could the carpet feel grittier? Optional mats ($163.89 ex-Kia) are a must.

There are no face-level air outlets, map pockets, USB ports or cupholders back there, while the S and Sport grades miss out on that parcel shelf. That’s almost dog-act penny-pinching. If you want one, that’s $346.12 thanks.

Speaking of the luggage area, the boot opening is huge, the floor flat and the load space level. There’s a wagon-like low lip to haul things over, and there’s more cargo capacity at 433L than every one of its popular small SUV foes, including the Qashqai (430L), ASX (393L), Toyota C-HR (377L), Suzuki Vitara (375L) and Kona (361L). The Tardis-like HR-V, meanwhile, pips the Kia by just four litres at 437L. A space-saver spare lives underneath.

All in all, then, the Seltos’ cabin is big and spacious and inviting to interact with, but what it isn’t is innovative. We can’t help thinking that, given all that interior space, Kia missed a trick not engineering a sliding rear seat as per the Skoda Karoq, or under-seat storage drawers.


Lexus RC3007/10

Now look, if you see a future filled with trips to Bunnings or ferrying the troops to soccer training, the RC is not for you. It's a two-door, four-seat coupe - and those two rear seats couldn't be less helpful for adult-sized humans if they'd been painted on.

Its dimensions measure 4695mm in length, 1840mm in width and 1395mm in height, but most of that space is focused on the front-seat riders, where your surrounds feel sporty-snug, but not claustrophobic.

Up front, that cursed mousepad control system is still in full flight, but the screen it controls is now bigger. There are two cupholders to be shared between front-seat folks, as well as the usual compliment of USB and 'aux' connections. And even a CD player, for that matter.

Climb into the back, which is no easy task in and of itself, and you'll find the space cramped for anyone but kids. But while it's tiny, it's clever. Deep cut-outs in the rear of the front seats mean more room for your legs. Headroom, however, is a problem, and my (I'm 176cm) head was touching the roof.

There are two cupholders, at least, but - surprisingly - little in the way of entertainment connections. You will find an ISOFIX attachment point in both of the rear seats.

The boot opens to reveal a fixed 423 litres of space, which is handy enough for weekends away. Predictably, though, extra practical accessories are fairly limited - you can forget optional roof racks.

Price and features

Kia Seltos

From $25,990 before on-road costs, the Seltos S represents compelling buying, and not just among similar small SUV autos like the versatile Honda HR-V VTi (–$500) and bestselling but ancient Mitsubishi ASX ES (also a tenner under $26,000), as well as the exxier Toyota C-HR 2WD, Mazda CX-30 G20 Pure (both +$4300 apiece) and Nissan Qashqai ST (+$4600).

Thanks to some deft design and packaging, subjectively the Kia feels just about large enough to play in the medium SUV league, alongside favourites such as the Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2WD (+$7290). And while, stood side-by-side, the latter’s larger proportions are plainly obvious, its cargo capacity is just nine litres more than the Seltos’ 433L.

As with all of the above, the base Seltos is front-wheel drive, in this case employing a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine and box-fresh continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic combination. No manual is available, sadly.

The S is very well equipped for an opener, boasting an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, cruise control, automatic on/off headlights, reverse camera, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with vehicle and pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert and 16-inch steel wheels with a space-saver spare tyre.

And let’s not forget Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

We advise ticking the $1000 'Safety Pack' option, since it ushers in worthwhile goodies like adaptive cruise control, electric folding exterior mirrors, a driver’s side auto up/down window, cyclist collision avoidance braking as part of a more-sophisticated AEB system, larger rear disc brakes and an electronic park brake with hill-hold. Bargain.

However, there are some spec anomalies. You’ll need the $28,990 Sport for digital radio and alloy wheels (though it does also introduce a nicer full-colour 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat-nav); only the $32,490 Sport+ onwards brings a parcel shelf/cargo area cover (!), blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic avoidance and remote unlocking, while rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging and any sort of front LED lighting are the preserve of the GT-Line AWD flagship, from $41,400.

The latter includes a more powerful 1.6-litre turbo with all-wheel drive, though it’s also a $2500 option on the aforementioned Sport+; note that also bags a multi-link independent rear suspension system in place of the more-rudimentary torsion beam arrangement in FWD models. Metallic paint lightens your bank account by another $520.

Do you need all that extra gear? The upper Seltos’ play in serious medium SUV territory… highlighting just how much car the base S actually offers.


Lexus RC3008/10

As it is with most of the Lexus range, the RC model comparison is pretty straightforward. You need to pick your engine (300 or 350) and then choose your trim level (how much you want to pay), be it Luxury, F Sport or Sports Luxury. Only the RC F model line differs, because here you can choose from the base RC F trim, or the more expensive RC F Carbon.

Engine and kit aside, the RC family is the same basic set-up; four seats, two doors and coupe styling. The rest, then, depends on your intended price range.

Entry-level Luxury cars - $65,400 for the 300, $68,400 for the 350 - arrive with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and fog lights, leather trim, standard  navigation, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate and keyless entry with push-button start.

Step up to the F Sport Trim - $74,700 for the 300, $77,700 for the 350 - and you'll get bigger 19-inch alloys, a better Mark Levinson stereo and rain-sensing wipers.

Finally, the Sports Luxury models - $84,900 for the 300, $87,900 for the 350 - get better seats, some fancier cabin furniture and a moonroof. All the RC models get a new 10.3-inch screen (but no Apple Car Play/Android Auto).

Step up to the the V8-powered RC F models - $138,100 for the base model, $152,300 for the RC F Carbon - and you'll add adaptive variable suspension and an improved safety package that we'll come back to under the Safety sub-heading. The Carbon variant - predictably - gets a carbon-fibre roof panel, active rear wing and some carbon-fibre interior trim elements.

On the colour palette, the regular RC range is available in 'Sonic Quartz' (white), 'Mercury Grey', 'Premium Silver', 'Sonic Titanium' (another silver), 'Onyx' (black), 'Graphite Black' and 'Infrared' (red). The performance-flavoured RC F cars nab some extra choices, including 'Cobalt Mica' (blue), 'Lava Mica' (orange) and the brand's new hero colour, 'Zinnia Yellow'.

A moonroof (or sunroof) is standard fit on the RC F models, as well as the Sports Luxury trim, while it's a cost option on the cheaper cars. Speaking of which, you'll find all sorts of goodies in the accessories catalogue, including unique floor mats.

Each price listed is the RRP, of course, so you'll be paying more in on-road expenses. But you knew that already, right?

Engine & trans

Kia Seltos

Kia offers two distinct four-cylinder petrol powertrains in the Seltos.

In the three lower-end models including the S tested here, there’s a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine producing 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque driving the front wheels via a CVT, while a 1591cc 1.6-litre turbo delivers 130kW/265Nm to all four wheels via a seven-speed DCT in the Sport+ AWD and GT-Line AWD.

Make no mistake, even with fewer muscles to flex, the S’ 2.0-litre four provides more than enough performance for its intended function. Just a light press of the throttle will have the Kia leaping into action, and the front wheels scrambling for traction burying the pedal to the metal, and pulling strongly up, right up to the 6500rpm red line.

In doing so it’s neither the quietest nor the smoothest engine in its class – the downsized 1.2-litre turbo in the C-HR shines in this regard – but there is nevertheless more than enough punch in reserve for safe and confident overtaking. Expect a 0-100km/h figure of well-under nine seconds, which is strong for this class of SUV.

Such willing performance would not be possible without the natural and eager responses from the new transmission, which is probably the best CVT we’ve ever experienced in terms of emulating a (decent) torque-converter auto. It shifts smoothly, evenly and without the gearing-related roaring and droning that have blighted these sorts of powertrains for decades.


Lexus RC3008/10

The more you spend, the more you get. Spring for the 300, and you'll find a 2.0-litre turbo engine nestled under the bonnet, good for 180kW at 5800rpm and 350Nm at 1650rpm. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic, and shuffles power to the rear wheels.

Step up to the 350-badged cars and your engine specs improve accordingly. You'll now find a 3.5-litre V6 motor providing the horsepower, good for 232kW at 6400rpm and 380Nm at 4800rpm. The gearbox (eight-speed auto) remains the same, and the power is still sent to the rear axle.

The pick of the power bunch, though, is the 5.0-litre V8 engine nestled in the RC F cars. It'll fire 351kW at 7100rpm and 530Nm at 4800rpm toward the rear wheels - more than enough to shift the 1820kg (tare) weight. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic, or what the Lexus spec sheet refers to as a "Sports Automatic".

There is no AWD or manual transmission option anywhere in the range, and for specific oil type etc, consult your owner's manual.

Fuel consumption

Kia Seltos

Better still, given the size and space offered in the Seltos, the 2.0-litre/CVT combo is a comparatively economical one, returning an indicated 8.6L/100km after eight days of restful and spirited driving alike, 0.2 litres per 100km better than the official urban rating. The S’ combined urban/extra-urban average is 6.8L/100km, for a carbon dioxide emissions figure of 157g/km.  

The Kia will gladly run on standard 91 RON unleaded petrol or 94 RON E10 ethanol/unleaded. 

Fitted with a 50L fuel tank, expect up to 735km between top-ups based on that 6.8L/100km official combined average number.


Lexus RC3008/10

Let's start from the top, shall we? There is a price to pay for power, and the V8-powered Lexus arrives with its claimed 10.9L/100km on the combined cycle. That's quite a lot, and it's a number that will surely only worsen if you drive the RC F the way that you really should drive it.

Things improve with the 3.5-litre capacity engine, recording 9.1L/100km on the same cycle, while the 2.0-litre engine will return 7.3L/100km.

There is no diesel engine anywhere in the range, and the fuel-tank capacity across the board is 66 litres, with 95RON fuel required.

Driving

Kia Seltos

Here’s where the Seltos’ core strengths of pace, space, access and ease come to the fore, dovetailing with a few more virtues to highlight how well the small SUV works in an urban environment.

As outlined earlier, the S is hot to trot from the word go, making it a prompt point-to-point performer, with the CVT presenting none of the hesitation or lag on inclines that blight some dual-clutch (DCT) autos. This is a smooth and relaxing machine to scoot around town in.    

The steering, too, feels light and prompt, for effortless cornering and U-turn manoeuvres; and while there’s some lean due the Seltos’ raised centre of gravity, the upshot is sufficient spring travel for soaking up the ragged ruts and bumps peppering many urban streets, backed up by hump-traversing ground clearance.

Kia, like Hyundai, makes much noise about how it tunes most new models specifically for Australian conditions, and that seems to show out on the open road, thanks to solid and surefooted handling.

If you really push through fast corners the Seltos will lean quite a bit and seem a tad ponderous as the vehicle’s weight shifts about through tighter turns, but it never feels top-heavy or unwieldy.

As far as tall SUVs go, the S is pretty planted. Plus, while not especially quiet, the amount of wind, road and tyre noise heard inside is acceptable.

Note, however, that over gravel at even fairly moderate speed, the stability and traction systems seem a little too relaxed in that they allow the Seltos to slide wide before they intervene to straighten things out again, and do too abruptly at times, cutting power and making for some jerky progress.

If this is a concern then you might want to consider either spending the extra $10K on the AWD version or avoiding such roads, because the S behaves best on bitumen. 


Lexus RC3008/10

Having now spent a fair chunk of time behind the wheel of the V6 and V8-powered cars, we're ready to make a pretty bold claim: the six-cylinder engine is - and there's no other way to put it - simply more fun.

Shocking, I know, but there it is. There's effortless power on offer in the RC F models, of course, but it's the way that power is delivered that makes it feel like more of a loping grand tourer than a fire-breathing performance coupe.

For one, both the power and exhaust notes arrive in stages. So if you're gentle with the throttle - like you almost always are in the CBD or suburbs - it wafts around in near silence, the engine feeling anaesthetised, and like it's only using a tiny proportion of its available oomph.

Leave your foot buried, however, and the character transforms, the exhaust booming into life and that big V8 finally unlocking its prodigious power. With the adaptive dampers (no air suspension) set to the sportiest setting, it sits flat in corners, with nary a roll through the body. And while there isn't an intimate connection with the road below, nor masses of feedback through the steering, it does acquit itself well on the bends.

But... the V6 engine just feels sportier. It's still not super emotional, but I think it reacts to inputs quicker, and comes alive a little lower in the rev range than the big V8. It doesn't really matter if you're in Normal, Sport or Sport+, it just feels more vibrant. Hell, you can even get the traction light flashing if you're particularly silly with the accelerator.

And as such, it's our pick of the bunch. Sure, it can't match the outright performance of the V8, nor the speed of its 0-100km/h acceleration time, but it puts a bigger smile on your face in normal, day-to-day driving. And let's face it, that'll be 90 per cent of the time you spend behind the wheel.

Safety

Kia Seltos

The S comes with a long list of standard safety kit, including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, stability and traction controls, AEB with vehicle and pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, downhill brake control, hill-start assist, reverse parking sensors, rear-view camera with parking guidelines, six airbags (driver, passenger, and side and curtain airbags), and auto on/off headlights with delay function.

There are also two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps.

Like we said earlier, a more sophisticated AEB system with added cyclist collision avoidance braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/start functionality, electric folding mirrors and larger rear-disc brakes are among the extra features of the $1000-optional Safety Pack on S and Sport grades.

Thus-equipped, the S is at the forefront of safety for the small SUV class. ANCAP says the AEB works between 10km/h and 40km/h.

The Seltos scored a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating during 2019.


Lexus RC3008/10

Standard safety across the RC includes dual front and front-side airbags, as well as front airbags for the second row. You'll also find a knee airbag for both driver and front-seat passenger. Forward-collision warning with AEB (and pedestrian protection) is standard fit, too, and so are front and rear parking sensors and a parking camera.

F Sport and Sports Luxury-badged cars add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, along with lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. The RC F and RC F Carbon both get radar cruise control and an active lane-departure system included in the standard offering.

The Lexus RC range is yet to be crash-tested by ANCAP, and so is yet to receive an Australian safety rating.

Ownership

Kia Seltos

For some time now, Kia has led the industry with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty as well as roadside assistance.

Service intervals are every year or 15,000km, while published basic capped-price servicing ranges from $261 to $593 depending on the interval. The total is $2818 over seven year, averaging $402.58 annually over that period.


Lexus RC3008/10

The RC range is covered by a four-year/100,000km warranty, with service intervals pegged at 12 months/15000km. There is no capped-price servicing program on offer, but Lexus will guarantee you a loan car every time your vehicle is in the shop, and will even come to your house or workplace to collect - and drop-off - your car.

For any owner-reported reliability problems, keep and eye on our Lexus ownership page.