While competitors might only offer front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive for the higher trims, for the Seltos, front-wheel-drive is available only with the base trim. PHOTO: KIA

While competitors might only offer front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive for the higher trims, for the Seltos, front-wheel-drive is available only with the base trim. PHOTO: KIA

2021 Kia Seltos: Price-conscious compact utility vehicle that can actually go off-road

The Seltos can take on rougher terrain than many of its competitors

The early-2020 arrival of the Kia Seltos begs the question: Just how many utility-style vehicles can one automaker include in its lineup? The answer, it seems, is as many as it wants, provided there’s demand.

The Seltos name, in case you’re wondering, is derived from Celtos, son of Hercules in Greek Mythology.

The vehicle squeezes between the smaller Soul (10 centimetres shorter) and the larger and more mainstream Sportage (about 18 centimetres longer).

Although it shares the Hyundai Kona platform (Kia is a division of Hyundai), the two models go their own ways in terms of styling. The rugged-looking Seltos has considerably more carrying capacity, too, whether the rear seat is upright or folded flat. The Seltos also shows more than a hint of commonality with the full-size Kia Telluride, including the “tiger nose” grille that fronts the rounded front bumper and hood.

The sense of ruggedness carries over to the generous 18.5-cm ground clearance as well as the front and rear skid plates, ensuring that the Seltos can take on rougher terrain than many of its competitors.

The Seltos’s interior is highly detailed but not overdone. OK, the optional Bose audio package with flashing lights might be overdoing it a bit. PHOTO: KIA

The Seltos’s interior is highly detailed but not overdone. OK, the optional Bose audio package with flashing lights might be overdoing it a bit. PHOTO: KIA

The interior and dashboard are pretty much straightforward, but a thick steering wheel and equally substantial gear shifter are not normally associated with smaller utility vehicles. The standard 8.0-inch touch-screen and the available 10.25-inch unit protrude above the fresh-air vents, which some drivers might find restricts their forward vision.

In back, the split-folding rear seat also reclines. Behind it, the cargo floor can be lowered somewhat to accommodate taller objects.

Powertrain choices are the same as those found in the Kona: A 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine rated at 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque; and an optional 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet.

For both, selectable Normal, Eco and Sport — which really does feel sporty — settings alter the engine, transmission and steering performance.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is linked to the 2.0, while the turbo 1.6 gets a seven-speed automatic.

Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive 2.0 is rated at 8.2 l/100 in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 7.7 combined.

On-demand all-wheel-drive is optional for the base Seltos LX, but is standard for the EX, EX Premium and SX Turbo trims. The system comes with a centre-locking differential that, when engaged, splits the torque equally between the front and rear wheels, providing more traction for traveling off road.

Torque vectoring, another AWD inclusion, applies light braking force to the inside wheels when turning, which Kia says increases vehicle control.

AWD-equipped models also get independent rear suspensions, while the front-wheel-drive S comes with a less sophisticated torsion-beam rear axle.

At a starting price of $25,000 including destination charges, the base FWD S 2.0 is equipped with mostly the basics, but it lacks the full suite of active-safety technologies, such as pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist and forward-collision avoidance. All come with the optional Kia Drive Wise package that also includes a reminder to check for passengers in the back seat before exiting the vehicle. Then there’s Safe Exit Assist that alerts anyone opening the doors of approaching traffic from the rear.

There are additional comfort and convenience features — depending on the trim level — such as a navigation system, power sunroof, premium seat coverings and a wireless charging pad. A Bose audio package has a mood-lighting feature with six different colours that change with the sound from the system’s six speakers. Somewhat distracting and a bit out of time with the music, it’s similar to the system available in the Kia Soul.

The addition of the niche-filling Seltos gives Kia a total of six tall utility models (seven, if you count the Sedona minivan) from the small Niro to the full-size Telluride. If you can’t find your desired size, content and affordable price-point in this bunch, you likely never will.

The optional 175-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder gets a seven-speed automatic transmission while the base non-turbo four-cylinder comes with a continuously variable unit. PHOTO: KIA

The optional 175-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder gets a seven-speed automatic transmission while the base non-turbo four-cylinder comes with a continuously variable unit. PHOTO: KIA

What you should know: 2021 Kia Seltos

Type: Four-door, front- /all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle

Engines (h.p.): 2.0-litre DOHC I-4 (146); 1.6-litre DOHC I-4, turbocharged (175)

Transmission: Continuously variable (2.0); seven-speed automated manual (1.6 turbo)

Market position: Kia is attempting to straddle the line between urban transporter and off-road warrior by blending design and content elements of each vehicle type. It’s a strategy that other automakers are adopting as buyers gravitate to more rugged-looking tall wagons.

Points: Telluride-influenced vehicle is nicely proportioned. • Built to do much more than to conquer bad roads and poor weather. • Base engine will easily suffice, but the optional turbo four-cylinder is where the fun begins. • Base FWD model misses out on the available active-safety tech. • A distinctive attitude and purpose should almost guarantee success.

Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); active cruise control (opt.); front and rear emergency braking (opt.); inattentive driver alert (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.); pedestrian detection (opt.)

L/100 km (city/hwy): 8.2/7.1 (FWD)

Base price (incl. destination): $25,000

BY COMPARISON

Jeep Compass

  • Base price: $27,400
  • Compact utility vehicle can be had in an off-road-ready Trailhawk model.

Mazda CX-30

  • Base price: $26,600
  • New-for-2020 model is all about good looks plus a strong 186-h.p. I-4 engine.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

  • Base price: $30,300
  • Outlander Sport-based, but has its own 1.5-liter turbo engine. AWD is standard.

– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, be sure to visit TodaysDrive.com to find your dream car today! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram

AutomotivecarsSUVsTrucks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

The remains of Terry Bearden’s property before a demolition crew came in to remove debris. (Photo submitted)
Rimbey arson case may have a lead thanks to reward offered by owner

Anonymous tip alleges the fire was set by three local males

Caitlin Kraft, the sister of Jeffery Kraft, stands third from the left, holding a sign calling for the maximum sentence for Campbell, who is charged with manslaughter. (Photo by Paul Cowley)
UPDATED: Judge again rejects submission of 7-year sentence for slaying of Kraft

Tyler John Campbell charged with second-degree murder for December 2019 homicide

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Most Read