Kia fortifies its SUV midrange
Kia could not have chosen a day that better defined summer as it unleashed its all-new Seltos to the South African market. The readout nudged 41 degrees C at times as we worked our way across the Boland discovering a keen newcomer in a dramatically growing market niche. But is it worth dong Somersaults for?
Billed as an exceptional value for money contender, the newcomer fills a gap below the Sportage, which will grow in its imminent next incarnation too, and it will also soon sit above an all-new Kia entry SUV called Sonet, Seltos has some pretty tough nuts to crack. Two years ago this middling MPV/SUV niche, for want of a better name, let’s call them SFTs for Stylish Family Vehicles, did not exist.
Then all of a sudden we had X2, XC40 and F-Type plucking sales on the executive end of it, while the CX-3, C3 Aircross,3008 and Vitara with its cool new turbo mill, among others roamed in an area nobody had apparently thought of before. There are more -- like the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Mahindra XUV 300, Hyundai Kona and Volkswagen’s much marketed T-Cross too.
More stylish than the likes of Ford's EcoSport, the Renault Duster and Toyota’s Rush, this lot uses tight lines and in some cases, a lot of smoke and mirrors to pretend to be a class above as they threaten slightly bigger and more expensive middle SUV offerings. Kia makes no bones that Seltos will cannibalise bottom-end cloth seat hire car spec Sportage sales because the top end newcomer offers a hell of a lot more car for similar money without any significant sacrifice on space.
“Kia is famous for our exceptional quality and comprehensive specification and our all-new Seltos delivers all of that, and more,” Kia SA CEO Gary Scott promises. “Set apart by sporty design blended with traditional SUV the space and capability in a more compact package, Seltos not only looks much bigger than its closest competitors, but it is easily one of the largest and most practical compact SUVs available today.”
The first car to bear Kia’s next generation styling highlighted by a fresh, broad interpretation of that tiger nose grille flanked by striking new LED Daytime Running headlamps along with full LED tail and fog lamps and indicators, Seltos' confident stance is bolstered by a robust shoulder line and glasshouse tapering up towards the rear. Higher grade models get chrome detailing for even more emphasis.
Step inside and a comfortable driving position offers a commanding view of the road ahead dressed up on the choice of three specification grades. The entry point EX already comes with a vast standard spec including multifunction steering wheel controlled 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment with six speaker RDS radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mirroring, Bluetooth and front and rear USB connectivity.
Add cruise control, manual air-conditioning, auto headlights with ‘escort’ and ‘welcome home’, power windows and wing mirrors with indicator repeaters and cloth upholstery, while EX rides on 16-inch alloys with 205/65R16 rubber and a full-sized spare wheel
EX+ adds an automatic transmission option, smart leather trim, a centre console armrest, auto-folding wing mirrors and a step up to 17-inch wheels. GT-Line further pushes the boundaries with bespoke embroidered leather, a sporty D-shape steering wheel and sporty stainless-steel pedals. The larney one also gets sporty satin chrome and red trim, bespoke, 17-inch crystal cut alloy wheels, red brake callipers and full LED lighting with unique 3D layered indicators up front.
Packing McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension, the stiff and safe Advanced High-Strength Steel chassis id complemented by six driver, front passenger, front side and full length side curtain airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors and ABS Electronic Brake Force Distribution braking. Add park distance control and a reversing camera, central locking and an immobiliser across the range, while EX+ and GT-Line models add Electronic Stability and Hill-start Assist controls.
Available in three engine and transmission grades, the range is currently topped by Kia's all-new 103kW 242Nm 1353cc T-GDI turbocharged gasoline direct injection ‘Kappa’ powerplant in GT-line trim. Turning the front wheels through Kia’s 7-speed dual clutch transmission with Kia’s latest spec Normal, Eco and Sport mode Drive Mode Select with 2WD Terrain Mode, it’s good for 100km/h in a handy claimed 9.7 seconds and will run 189 km/h with 143 g/km CO2 emissions.
The other petrol engine is Kia’s venerable 90kW 151Nm 1.6-litre multipoint petrol injection Gamma lump that it promises will rush to 100km/h in 11.2 seconds, with a top speed of 175km/h in the choice of 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission good for 157 g/km CO2 in the manual. A 1.5-litre CRDI Common Rail Diesel will follow within a month or so, also in either 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.
I was impressed by Seltos’ look and feel - if this is the future look, I quote like it. The cabins are well-specced and comfortable - the leather chairs in both ribbed EX+ and diamond-style GT-Line are inviting I easily found a comfy solution for my bulk behind the wheel and I was intrigued and buoyed by a pretty sound infotainment interface that both looks good and works quite intuitively. Qualoity seems impressive and it feels good in there.
Seltos of course ships standard with Kias industry-leading Unlimited Kilometre, 5-year warranty, 5-year/90,000km Service Plan and 5-years roadside assistance.
I found the 1.6 EX+ we drove to have a really good ride, quiet and pliable, while the slightly rowdier old normally aspirated 1.6 pulled along well, but I feel that it may become a little underwhelming once you add that 1500m Jozi altitude. The 1.4 turbo will alleviate that completely — far torquier and responsive, it proved a pleasure to drive and while it seemed a tad tauter, I was quite impressed by its attitude and aptitude over my favourite Franschhoek pass.
The turbo also returned a litre per hundred better on the readout, which is something I’d expect that forthcoming diesel will go another litre or so better on too.
We have been disillusioned by one or two pretenders to this new throne, but this Kia seems to escape any of those quality, performance and pricing issues that bother us about those rivals. The Seltos is however a great package at reasonable pricing that may very well bother among the other cars that have on the other hand earned our respect in this neck of the woods.
I reckon Kia’s new Seltos certainly is worth the look if you are among the growing number of family guys or dolls looking closer at this ever more compelling niche… — Michele Lupini
Kia Seltos Pricing
1.6 EX Manual R354K
1.6 EX Automatic R372K
1.6 EX+ Automatic R390K
1.4 T-GDi GT-Line R445K