2021 Kia Seltos has right balance between flair and sportiness

This all-new model is Kia’s latest entry in the sought-after compact crossover SUV market.

The 2021 Kia Seltos is a whole new entry in the sought-after compact crossover SUV market. Its attributes include a roomy interior, attractive pricing, two engine choices, good fuel economy, and Kia’s generous powertrain warranty covering 10 years or 100,000 miles.

Seltos comes in five different trim levels. First up is the LX, with a base price of $23,110 including a $1,120 destination charge. It comes standard with all-wheel drive. Then comes the S model, priced the same as the LX but with more standard features and front-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive. AWD is available on the S trim as a $1,500 option.

Next up is the EX model at $26,410. Then comes the S 1.6T for $26,610, and finally the top-level SX, $29,010.

AWD is standard on EX, S 1.6T, and SX models.

The LX, S, and EX trims have a 2.0-liter, four cylinder engine with 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It has an EPA rating of 27 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined.

A more powerful 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is standard on S 1.6T and SX models, providing 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, with an EPA rating of 25/30/27 mpg. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic.

Some nice features on the entry-level Seltos LX model beyond the most basic things expected in any new car today are a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, six-way manual adjustment (including height adjustment) for the driver’s seat, a 60/40 split rear seat with two-way recline, and an 8-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and voice recognition. And don’t forget, all-wheel drive is standard on this model.

Kia’s newest compact crossover is smartly styled, reaching just the right balance between contemporary flair and traditional SUV sportiness. Its cramp-free interior gives goodly amounts of headroom and legroom to passengers, and even with rear seats in upright position, the dual-level cargo area provides 26.6 cubic feet of space.

Interior design is smartly styled as well, reaching the right balance between eye-appeal and practicality. A high rating is in order for seat comfort, and the cabin stays calm on uneven road surfaces and at freeway speeds.

I drove the ultimate Seltos, the SX model, for this report. Loaded with desirable features as standard equipment, it still squeezes in under 30 grand. The SX includes LED headlights and fog lights, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar, a wireless phone charger, and an infotainment system with 10.25-inch display, navigation, and Bose premium audio. An external amplifier and sound-connected mood lighting are included in the Bose package.

Better-than-leather synthetic Sofino seats are a highlight of the SX interior.

On the safety front, the SX adds a suite of driver-assistance technology issuing all kinds of warnings and giving all kinds of guidance if needed.

SX is the only Seltos trim available with a sunroof. It’s a $700 option and has a power sunshade.

Driving the Seltos is fun overall. The turbo engine of the SX model wakes up early and is lively and enthusiastic, but its partner, the seven-speed automatic transmission, likes to sleep in a little. Nevertheless, the two of them get along well in general.

If you like driving mode settings, there are Comfort, Smart, and Sport. Just so there’s no misunderstanding here in the ecological hotspot of the Puget Sound area: The Smart mode isn’t an Eco mode. It registers a driver’s driving style and adjusts itself accordingly.


Base price, including destination charge: $29,010

Price as driven: $29,485

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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