The new Kia Seltos is a good thing. Actually, it is more than good and it almost claimed a recent Wheels SUV mega test. It finished on equal points with the Toyota C-HR, the eventual winner. However, for the same price you can get a used Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline. It’s dimensionally bigger than the Kia and comes with a more premium badge.
At $41,990 the Kia Seltos GT-Line somewhat goes against the Korean brand’s budget-friendly perception. However, it’s a compact SUV bursting at the seams with functionality and kit. And it’s endowed with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol donk, all-wheel drive and locally tuned suspension. Hence the GT-Line has promise in reserve and goes a long way to justifying the $40K-plus price tag.
The figures for the 1.6-litre four are strong, too. With 130kW it certainly has enough oomph, and on the open road it feels more than spritely than the capacity suggests both off the line and on the highway. Where the smaller capacity is felt is in regards to torque, falling behind the VW with 265Nm. However, it’s an efficient unit, returning 7.6L/100km, and it ties in well with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s only blight is slight slow-speed indecisiveness.
Kia has gone the extra mile with the Seltos and has tuned it for local roads in Australia – it shows. While there’s a firm edge, there’s a layer of sophistication and talent, which is helped by the well calibrated multi-link rear suspension. Body movements are kept in check and, surprisingly, there’s an enjoyment level that almost verges on fun. Not something you expect in a compact SUV.
Inside, the GT-Line is packed with features – and so it should for this monetary outlay. You get premium leather seats with 10-way electric adjustability (eight-way for passenger), as well as an array of visually pleasing materials. A huge 10.25-inch touchscreen takes care of the infotainment, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Standard safety kit also includes items like AEB with forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, rear cross traffic alert, parking sensors and a reversing camera. It’s also hard to ignore the fact Kia offers a seven-year warranty.
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For the price you pay for the brand-new top-spec Seltos, you could get more badge cache and a physically bigger SUV with a second-hand Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI Comortline that is only a handful of years old. Luckily for you, someone else will have taken the hit for the biggest part of the depreciation. While they’re not direct rivals on paper, it makes for an interesting comparison to see how far your cash can go.
The 2.0-litre unit only offers up an extra 2kW of power, but the extra 55Nm of torque is felt thanks to the bigger engine. It’s a linear unit, so progressive that it hardly feels turbocharged, and does a great job of shifting a 1600kg mass. That fact explains why the 132TSI is only 0.1L/100km more fuel efficient than the 1470kg Seltos. The seven-speed DSG is quick on the run, but like the Kia, can be a little hesitant at slower speeds.
Dynamically the Tiguan goes about its business with aplomb, too. Like the GT-Line Kia, on-the-limit handling isn’t its modus operandi. Yet, the 132TSI is still engaging enough with accurate steering and confidence-inspiring dynamics. Both the Seltos and the Tiguan embrace all-wheel drive, but it’s unlikely either will see anything more hardcore than a smooth dirt road. The ride quality, too, is agreeable, while NVH levels and road noise are quelled nicely.
At 4486mm in length, 1839mm in width and 1658mm in height, the Tiguan is 116mm longer, 39mm wider and 43mm taller than the Seltos. So it’s no surprise that the 615 litre boot is 182 litres larger the Korean, while the 51mm longer wheelbase (2681) also aids rear legroom. However, that’s not to say the Seltos is lacking in space; compared to its direct compact SUV rivals, it is commodious.
Inside the Tiguan embraces Volkswagens traditional understated air of quality. The overall design isn’t as eye-catching and it doesn’t have leather seat trimming like the Seltos, but it’s a cabin that will be pleasing to live with. For an ‘older’ SUV, the Tiguan also takes the fight to the Kia in terms of safety and infotainment.
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