Skip to main content

KIA’s 2021 Seltos LX and SX Turbo offer tons of bang for the buck

Written By | Oct 22, 2020

SEATTLE — Over the last ten years, we’ve seen KIA do a complete makeover of its brand, vehicles, and quality. Its current lineup represents some of the best car values anywhere and its latest Seltos looks to continue that.

A slight step above the boxy KIA Soul, the Seltos is a sub-compact SUV that’s packed full of features and comes in a few different trim and powertrain options. We had the chance to drive both the EX-AWD and the formidable SX Turbo AWD.

The Seltos is a new vehicle for KIA that competes directly with Nissan’s Rogue, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and the Chevy Trailblazer. One might make the case that it’s the best-looking one of the bunch.

Under the hood:

The standard engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that’s mated to a dreadful CVT transmission. It produces 146 horsepower with 132 lb-ft of torque. Step up to the SX, however, and you find a 1.6-liter, turbocharged 4 cylinder that is good for 175 horsepower with 195 lb-ft of torque. The turbo is paired with a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission for a far more spirited driving experience. To us, that option is a no-brainer.

The extra power of the SX does come at a slightly higher fuel expense. The EPA rates the EX-AWD at 27 miles per gallon around town and up to 31 on the highway. Whereas, the SX drops it a bit to 25 in the city and 30 on the highway. We still feel that a slight trade-off is worth the extra jolt of power.

Pricing and exterior:

Priced between $23,000 and $30,000, the Seltos has some great styling, especially in its class of affordable SUVs. We really like the body lines that do a great job of blending a bit of ruggedness along with refinement.

On the outside, the Seltos presents itself as a somewhat rugged-looking SUV with 7.3-inch ground clearance and the faux skid plate under the engine bay that’s made of plastic. I like the integration of KIA’s “tiger nose” Its 28-degree departure angle does allow for some basic off-roading as well.

Seventeen-inch alloy wheels with P215/55 tires come standard on the EX trim level while the SX model employs 18-inch alloy wheels with P235/45 tires. Both trim levels do some with a spare tire. Standard 12-inch front disc and 11-inch rear disc brakes do a very good job of bringing the Seltos to a stop.

Let’s take a look inside:

Step inside and you’ll find ample legroom for rear passengers, even two adults. There’s plenty of headroom as well. While we wouldn’t want to be much older than 10 to sit in the middle seat, the spaciousness of the Seltos’ cabin is very good, considering the vehicle’s overall size. The only downside here is that the driver gets to enjoy a 6-way power adjustable seat, while the front passenger only gets a 4-way seat.

Front seats offer some decent comfort, even on long road trips. We drove our test model for hundreds of miles and never felt any extreme discomfort, even after extended hours behind the wheel.

While the standard audio system that comes with the 8-inch touchscreen doesn’t offer very good sound quality, there is an upgraded UVO version that has a 10.25-inch touchscreen and better audio fidelity. Both feature Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay standard. And while both units do support AM/FM radio, mp3 playback and Bluetooth audio, the UVO system also has SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

Driving impressions:

On the road, both models of the Seltos handle themselves rather adeptly with minimal body roll with slight understeer. The all-wheel-drive system helps you feel safer and more confident, even in inclimate weather and the standard tires provide adequate footing.

The SX Turbo model is our favorite for sure. The added power – especially the massive boost to the engine torque – coupled with a non-CVT transmission provide the driver with a very spirited driving experience. While it won’t set any land-speed records, you will see 0-60 times in well under 7-seconds. Rather remarkable performance considering the class and price of this vehicle.

KIA has done a fabulous job with positioning the Seltos to be a market leader for years to come. It’s styling, the roominess inside and available upgrades make it one of the most capable compact SUVs under $30k that you’ll find anywhere.


Read More from Duane Pemberton

About the Author: Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.