SAN ANTONIO — Kia bottles some of the magic from its hit Telluride in a smaller, more affordable package with the 2021 Seltos, a small SUV that delivers plenty of features and value.
Prices for the five-passenger Seltos start under $22,000 and top out around $28,000, competitive figures for a good-looking SUV that offers all-wheel drive and safety features.
The Seltos competes with subcompact SUVs like the Ford Ecosport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade and the upcoming Chevrolet Trailblazer.
At 172 inches, the Seltos is longer than all but the Trailblazer, with a roomy interior and good cargo space.
I spent a day driving a Seltos SX AWD with the optional 175-horsepower 1.6L turbocharged engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Central Texas Hill Country. The route included highway, city and suburban driving. We made a brief loop through the meadows of a ranch that raises exotic deer, relying on burros and ostriches to defend the season’s fawns from marauding coyotes.
The animals don’t cotton to coyotes but are docile and shy toward people and Kias. Ostrich behavior ranged from mildly curious to pecking at tasty looking taillights and winding up for a coyote-decapitating kick at a door panel.
No Seltoses were injured in the making of this column. Oscar, the petulant bird, was lured into a pen after a 50-mph run at a Telluride scouting the route.
The all-wheel-drive system in the vehicle I drove isn’t intended for serious off-roading, but a locking center differential can move up to 50% of torque to the rear wheels for acceleration and traction in in mild conditions. Despite those mild limited expectations, Seltoses for the U.S. get a mildly redesigned nose that creates a 28-degree angle of approach and — more to the point — an appearance suggesting rugged capability.
The Seltos is roomy and comfortable. Longer than most of its competitors, it also has a useful cargo compartment behind the rear seat.
At just 63.6 inches tall, the Seltos is easy to enter and exit. A low step-in height, long hood and roof create a relatively car-like profile
It’s the first Kia with Bose audio. An 8-inch touch screen is standard, while the SX has a 10.25-inch screen.
The seats are comfortable, controls easy to use. Upper S and SX models get a wireless charger while all models have voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Seltos I drove was loaded with safety and convenience features and cost $28,435. All prices exclude destination charges.
Flush with success from the acclaimed six- or seven-seat Telluride, Kia didn’t even try to give the Seltos the lowest price in its class. The brand emphasized features, offering just a single front-wheel-drive model, and surprisingly not using that inevitably slow-selling configuration to create an advertising-friendly, minimally equipped base model.
The starting price for both front- and all-wheel-drive Seltoses is $21,990. That’s above the base price for most competitors, and the FWD model has more standard equipment than AWD, unlike the stripped versions most companies build to attract customers who will most likely be talked into a pricier model.
Kia still expects most Seltos sales to be mid-level AWD models with prices in the $23,000-$26,000 range.
The base engine is a 2.0L four-cylinder that generates 146 hp and 132 pound-feet of torque. It’s linked to a continuously variable automatic transmission and available on FWD and AWD models. An optional 1.6L turbo engine that produces 176-hp and 195 pound-feet of torque is available only on upper-level AWD S and SX models. It’s paired with a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
- Automatic high beams
- Forward collision alert and automatic braking
- Rear cross-traffic alert and automatic braking
- Blind spot alert and assist
- Lane-keeping and following assist
- Lane departure alert
- Driver attention warning
- 8- or 10.25-inch touch screen
- Heated front seats
- Reclining rear seats
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- LED headlights, tail lights, running lights and indicators
- Bose audio
- Adaptive cruise control
- Push button start
- Remote start
- Two-tone paint
2021 Kia Seltos at a glance
Small five-seat SUV
Prices: Starting at $21,990
Drivetrain: Front- or all-wheel drive
Competitors: Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Ecosport, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade
Powertrains: 2.0L 145-hp four-cylinder engine with continuously variable automatic transmission or 195-hp 1.6L turbo with seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
Wheelbase: 103.5 inches
Length: 172 inches
Width: 70.9 inches
Height: 63.6 inches
Built: Gwangju, Korea