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

Bella Coola’s new WildSafeBC co-ordinator, Rae Kokeš, has spent the last 10 years in Africa working in lion, human, conflict, and is a wildlife biologist by trade. (Photo submitted)
From the savannas of Africa to the Bella Coola Valley

New Wildsafe BC coordinator ready to tackle wildlife conflict

Bella Coola Valley Ridge Riders Horse Club board member Annika Granander watches, and participates in the gymkhana Sunday (Photo submitted)
Sunshine and smiles all around Bella Coola Ridge Riders Horse Club gymkhana

The event was the first of the year, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place

A build up of lint in a clothes dryer is believed to have caused a house fire in Alexis Creek Sunday evening, April 4, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Clothing dryer suspected cause of Alexis Creek home fire, owner wants to warn others

Neil Miller is thankful he still has his horses, community support and his life

This will be the second year the Bella Coola Valley Rodeo won’t take place due to the pandemic. (Michael Wigle file photo)
Bella Coola Valley Rodeo cancelled for 2021

Club organizers say next year’s rodeo will be bigger and better than ever

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Most Read