The fresh-faced Kia Seltos is here, but will its updated looks and new transmission make it a worthy Corolla Cross rival?
As far as facelifts go, the Seltos has undergone quite a minor update on the outside, with light design at the front and rear being the main subject.
Beneath this, the changes are more significant, but the Seltos range remains a similar proposition in its segment, where it competes against the likes of the Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V and even crosses paths with its sibling; the Kia Niro.
No changes have been made to the Seltos line-up in Australia, with the range still consisting of six variants.
Like the last generation, front-wheel-drive Seltos models make do with a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine that makes 110kW/180Nm and is paired with a CVT.
For the all-wheel-drive models higher in the range, they get the same turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol, but this time it’s mated with an eight-speed torque converter auto, as opposed to the dual-clutch transmission that it used to have. Power and torque sits at 146kW and 265Nm respectively.
Pictured: GT-Line left and centre, S on the right
In terms of pricing the range starts with the S, which starts from $29,500 before on-road costs, and runs through to the range-topping GT-Line that starts from $41,500 in front-wheel drive form, and $44,900 with all-wheel drive.
In comparison to the pre-facelift Seltos, these new prices represent a $2210 increase on the entry-level S, and $2200 on the GT-Line AWD.
These increases are likely down to the standardisation of active safety tech across the range.
With handsome new looks and a new engine and transmission pairing on the range-topping models, Kia hopes to take a decent slice of the small SUV segment with this new Seltos, but will it live up to these large expectations?
In the range-topping GT-Line, the turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine is one element that carried over. Despite its relatively small displacement, the 146kW and 265Nm that it pumps out feels like more than enough in this application.
This is especially noticeable over the 2.0-litre petrol engine in the lower spec variants, which can feel a little lacklustre on the performance front.
Backed by an all-wheel-drive system, the GT-Line doesn’t struggle for grip off the line at all and managed to hit 100km/h in 8.3 seconds during independent testing. Though these aren’t hot hatch numbers, the small SUV doesn’t feel slow in the world of small SUVs.
On paper, the torque converter automatic transmission that replaced the dual-clutch unit in the GT-Line might sound like a backwards step on the performance front, but instead it feels like an all-round upgrade.
At low speeds, the clunky nature of the dual clutch is a thing of the past. The smooth auto doesn’t sacrifice sharp and snappy upshifts, either.
As standard, the range-topping Seltos sits on 18-inch alloy wheels, and although the new design looks great, I was skeptical about whether they would affect the ride.
These doubts were swept away almost immediately as the Seltos proved to be very composed and comfortable over the majority of road surfaces that were used during the local launch. Rough patches of tarmac tended to poke holes in this smooth ride and make it feel figidity, but as a whole, I was very impressed.
Eco, Normal, and Sport are the three driving modes that are available across the Seltos range, but without adaptive dampers or a sporty exhaust system the changes between modes aren’t overly noticeable.
As the name suggests, Eco maximises fuel economy by seemingly lessening the throttle response, and shifting through gears earlier. At the other end of the dial, Sport Mode seems to heighten the driving dynamics by quickening throttle response, allowing the transmission to hold gears for longer while also firming up the steering.
However, with changes between these driving modes being so minimal, most drivers will likely find themselves using Sport Mode for the better-looking display on the digital cluster.
As a whole, the steering system in this new Seltos is impressive, with a decent amount of weight behind it. As is the case with most small SUVs that are more focused on comfort over dynamics, road feel through the wheel is minimal, and traction levels at the front wheels aren’t communicated well.
There’s no denying the impressive ride that’s offered by this updated Seltos. As a whole, it’s very composed and offers a nice middle ground between a plush ride and a direct drive. Body roll is evident through tighter turns, but for the most part, it’s a fair compromise for fixed dampers that provide a comfortable ride.
Kia Australia has decided to drop the safety packs for the new Seltos, making the full safety suite standards across the range. This includes active safety tech such as automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring can all be had on the entry-level Seltos S for no extra charge.
Those looking for adaptive cruise control will have to opt for either the Sport+ or the GT-Line at the top of the line-up.
Just like the exterior, the interior of the updated Seltos is nice to look at, but doesn’t feel as premium as it should be, especially considering the price of the GT-Line variant.
Though it gets a few soft touch panels around the high contact areas of the cabin, the majority of surfaces are a combination of hard plastics and piano black – neither of which are particularly nice to live with.
One redeeming factor is the perforated leather steering wheel on every variant above the S, which is also flat-bottomed on the GT-Line. Despite the sporty feeling of the GT-Line, it doesn’t get shifter paddles behind this wheel, which feels like a wasted opportunity.
It’s not that anyone is expected to drive this Seltos particularly hard, but paddles have become somewhat expected of performance-line models in modern times.
When it comes to cabin technology, every Seltos above the entry-level variant gets 10.25-inch screens for both the digital gauge cluster and the infotainment system.
Now with Kia Connect, the multimedia system gets satellite navigation with live traffic, though it still makes use of a wired system for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The only way to mitigate this strange issue on the Seltos is to opt for the entry-level S variant, with the 8.0-inch display, as it gets wireless phone mirroring.
In terms of amenities, there’s three-zone climate control with physical controls. There are both USB A and USB C ports in the front row, as well as a wireless phone charger. This facelift has seen a pair of air vents added in the second row, which sit above a pair of USB C charge ports.
In the range-topping GT-Line Seltos, artificial leather covers the seats, and the comfort level is impressive.
Both the driver and the passenger get powered seats, which is also impressive in the small SUV segment. The steering wheel gets height and depth adjustment as well.
In terms of cabin practicality, there’s no shortage of head and leg room across the front row, and the second row isn’t much different.
Back there, those seated in the middle seat will have their legroom impacted by a transmission tunnel that’s slightly raised, though it’s not as bad as other vehicles in this segment.
When it comes to the boot, only the GT-Line gets a power tailgate, and there’s 433-litres of space with the rear seats in place. Folded down, this figure jumps to 1393-litres.
For context, this is almost identical to the 436-litres offered in the Toyota Corolla Cross. On top of this, every Seltos model above the entry-level S gets a full-sized matching alloy spare beneath the boot, which is a big win for the Kia in my eyes.
Kia Australia claims a combined fuel economy of 7.4L/100km for Seltos models powered by the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine.
During real-world testing the best figure that we could muster up was 8.0L/100km, which isn’t quite at Kia’s claim, but isn’t too far off, considering the drive route through the Blue Mountains on the launch.
When pushed, the Seltos isn’t afraid to jump into the double digit economy figures, but regular driving will smooth this out quickly.
In terms of servicing, Kia Australia offers a capped price plan that covers the Seltos for seven years, or up to 70,000km. This costs $3214, with service intervals every 10,000km.
In comparison to the range-topping Toyota Corolla Cross Atmos, which costs $1150 over five years, the Kia is significantly more expensive. The Toyota gets the advantage with its 15,000km service intervals, meaning that each visit costs just $230.
Though each service for the Seltos costs a different price, it averages out to $459 each time over the seven years.
It’s also worth noting that the Seltos is covered by Kia Australia’s excellent seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
As a whole, this updated Seltos will be a serious competitor in the ever-growing small-SUV segment. Despite its small stature, the packaging inside the Seltos works well and it feels like it punches above its weight on the practicality front – especially with that full-size spare beneath the boot.
The engine and transmission combination in the range-topping GT-Line feels refined and manages to retain its sporty feeling despite the move to a torque converter automatic.
My issues with this Seltos lie in the interior with the cheap-feeling plastic panels and the lack of wireless phone mirroring on the majority of the range.
According to Kia Australia, the latter is in the works to be fixed as it is part of a much larger issue, but without a timeline on these changes, I can’t say that I’m hopeful.
Those looking for a handsome, family-friendly small SUV that’s still reasonably fun to drive shouldn’t be deterred by these issues as it is still an impressive package at its price point.
Toyota Corolla Cross
Toyota Corolla Cross
After 56 years and 12 generations, Toyota’s Corolla small car lineage spawns an SUV version. And it looks to have its ducks lined up for mass-market success
Variant tested GT-LINE (AWD)
Key specs (as tested)
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