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2020 Kia Seltos S review

By Elise Elliott, 18 Oct 2019 Car Reviews

2020 Kia Seltos S review

Kia's belated entry to the Aussie small-SUV market has finally arrived. Elise Elliott jumped into the base-spec S variant to see if it's been worth the wait

Elise has been a journalist across the trifecta of TV, radio and print for more than twenty-five years. When not shackled to her computer or beloved kid, you’ll find this working mum indulging her other passions — skiing powder off piste or trying to catch a wave on her 8’ Mini Mal.

WHAT IS IT?

Finally Kia has a small SUV offering; and it’s about time.

Arriving on October 25 with a heap of features that we’re yet to see in a Kia, the Seltos comes with four spec levels: S, Sport, Sport+, and the range topping GT Line.

Kia Seltos S

The S and Sport are 2.0-litre FWD only and feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while a 1.6-turbo all-wheel drive with seven-speed dual-clutch auto is the only option in the range-topping GT-Line. The mid-spec Sport+ can be had with either drivetrain.

Seltos' new advertisement is accompanied by the blaring brash track “Bad Guy”, sung-spoken by current It-Chick-teen-with-attitude, Billie Eilish. The target market is clear from the get-go – tech-savvy buyers, AKA “night-clubbers with minimal responsibilities”.

Kia Seltos S

I test the base-model S, driving from Brisbane to Noosa and back via the winding and undulating Hinterlands, hoping to clarify two questions:

FULL DETAILS: Kia Seltos pricing and features

Could this small SUV range indeed have broader appeal? Like, you know, cool middle-aged peeps as opposed to carefree clubbers? And is the Seltos deity-worthy? It is, after all, named after the son of Hercules, Celtos (spelt with a “C” instead of KIA’s 'S'); was that a typo? No, apparently; the S signifies the car’s speed and sportiness, and fits in with the other Kia SUV monikers like Sportage and Sorento.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE WITH?

The Seltos is equipped with high-tech gadgets and plenty of swipe and scroll touch inputs that will appeal to its target audience. The S comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and the ability to sync two phones at once via Bluetooth.

Kia Seltos S infotainment

The Seltos S, however, does miss out on passive luxuries. It only comes equipped with an 8.0-inch touch screen, one USB charger in the front console and manual air conditioning. The finishes, including the steering wheel, feel plasticky and the small 16-inch wheels have plastic hubcaps.

Trade up to the next-level Sport and you find lots of luxe goodies including: a 10.25-inch touchscreen, two USB chargers in front, a more premium faux-leather wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels and a full-size spare.

With regard to storage there are two cup and four bottle holders and a deep centre console bin. 

Kia Seltos S interior

The S’s boot is a massive, class-leading, 498 litres thanks to the narrower space-saver spare wheel under the floor. The other variants, with full-size spares, have a still handy 433 boot space.

The sound system is adequate. Only the top-spec GT Line comes with the BOSE Premium audio, which according to Kia “is designed for drivers who enjoy waking up to non-existent kids”. Not sure what this means for parents of existent kids?

WELL SPRUNG: Aussie tuning for Kia Seltos

In another nod to its youthful demographic, the Seltos has moved away from the sober Melbourne palate of black, grey and white. Seven “fashionable” colours are on offer including Mars Orange, Neptune Blue and Gravity Grey, all for an extra $520. Unusually, the standard (free) shade is a blinding Starbright Yellow. A quick scan of current Red Carpet trends reveal citrus is hot right now. But that’s a risk; too on trend today means out of fashion tomorrow.

Kia reckons the Seltos' exterior has “the face has menace and attitude” in keeping with its name. That’s a stretch, though the Seltos does look bold and strong with its wide tiger-nose grille and wide rear stance.

Kia Seltos S rear seats

The rear seats are comfortable even with the S’s cheaper fabric and there’s plenty of legroom. Both the S and Sport miss out on air vents and USB sockets for rear seat passengers.

The cabin is quiet thanks to sound absorbing materials, including a thicker windscreen, to minimise noise, vibrations and harshness.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Like most Kia models, the Seltos has had its suspension re-tuned for harsh Aussie conditions. The theory is the Australianised product ensures a better ride on our tough, bumpy roads compared to the Korean versions which have a more floaty feel.

Kia Seltos S

It absorbs the bumps well as I hurtle through the backroads of the Noosa Hinterland, with the deeper 16-inch rubber absorbing road imperfections better than the bigger wheels on the more expensive versions.

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The S is a pleasant enough drive once I arrive in Sunshine Coast suburbia. It adequately handles Noosa’s many confounding roundabouts with ease. This would be an okay car if you’re just commuting a short distance to work every day.

This is the first Kia in Australia with a CVT. The company says this decision was driven by an American-led push for fuel economy and lowering of emissions. The S is indeed fuel efficient with an official combined 6.8L/100KM. I actually clock under this with just 6.0L/100km with a combination of back-road and suburban driving.

Kia Seltos S

Unfortunately, the entry level S and Sport do not come equipped with the full safety suite, though city-speed autonomous emergency braking is included. A $1000 optional safety pack, which brings more advanced radar- and camera-based 'Fusion II' AEB, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Driver Attention Alert+ and electronic parking brake, is available for both models; an irritating, if worthwhile investment.

IS IT WORTH THE COST?

The entry level S is clearly for the budget conscious and costs $25,990 (driveaway). It has the basics you need without the exciting stuff you want. It’s worth coughing up the extra $3.5K for the Sport at $29,490 (driveaway). It handles a little better and comes with those worthwhile extra luxuries. At the very least spend the extra $1000 on the safety pack.

Kia Seltos S

Seltos comes with Kia’s generous seven-year warranty, seven-year capped-price servicing and seven-year roadside assistance program.

In a congested market does the Kia soar above its competitors with Herculean powers? Not really. But it is a car with broad appeal; one that should not be reserved solely for hip, young things with minimal responsibilities. Ageing Gen Xers and Baby Boomers will love this small SUV, too.

PROS: Fuel economy; reasonable price; huge boot
CONS: Extra-cost safety pack; temporary spare wheel; 16-inch steel wheels

RATING: 4/5

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