2021 Kia Seltos
2021 Kia Seltos

First Drive: 2021 Kia Seltos

Kia has come a long way from the “welcome to the swamp” days of the past. Sophistication is the key nowadays. It’s more like “where do you wish to go.”

The latest Kia sophisticate is the 2021 Seltos, the fifth vehicle in the company’s gasoline-powered SUV lineup. It’s positioned between the smaller Soul and the popular Sportage which made that early swamp splash in the crossover market.

It’s an odd name but Kia says it has significance. The name is inspired by Greek mythology and the legend of Celtos, the son of Hercules. The ‘S’ in its name, Kia says, implies speed and sportiness. You could add style, sophistication and safety.

2021 Kia Seltos
2021 Kia Seltos

Targeted at “urban millennials,” Kia Canada marketing director Michael Kopke says Seltos has a secondary target in “the young at heart; matured empty-nesters looking for a new vehicle with practicality and design.”

This crossover has curb appeal. Its lines flow nicely from LED headlights and daytime running lights that begin above the headlights with the positioning light extending into the grille over floating style two-tone roof rails and black-clad wheel wells to a rear chrome bar that ties the LED taillights together.

And there are front and rear skid plates although this is no true off-road vehicle.

It looks larger than it is. At 4,370 mm long, 1,800 mm wide and 1,630 mm high with a 2,630 mm wheelbase, Seltos has a surprisingly spacious passenger compartment with comfortable seating for four and room for five in a pinch.

Front row head and legroom is plentiful and that spaciousness extends into second row accommodation which gives an average size rear seat passenger room for knees plus 5 inches (127 mm) more and headspace with about 4 inches (101 mm) of clearance.

With all seats occupied, there’s still 752 litres of cargo capacity behind the folding rear seat, more than its competitors.

Interior furnishings are pleasant and equipped with a long list of the latest technical features. Heated power front seats are standard across the lineup while upper levels get heated and cooled seats to go with a heated steering wheel. Heated rear seats are available.

Depending on the model, the driver has a wealth of information at hand and the SX Turbo’s head-up display is one of the most complete I’ve seen. Some HUDs show little more than speed, Kia’s adds navigation data, cruise control setting, a fuel level warning pop-up, and safety system icons.

Other systems not seen on competitors’ small utes include safe exit assist which detects a vehicle approaching from the rear and warns anyone about to exit. Seltos will remind you to check the back seat if a rear door has been opened previously and it will also remind you to take your cell phone with you.

Add all these technical bits to the long list of safety features and you have a vehicle with great attraction for someone who likes to drive while keeping connected.

2021 Kia Seltos
2021 Kia Seltos

On the first drive through the streets of Austin and a variety of roads in rural Texas, Seltos proved nimble on city streets, quick to take advantage of breaks in traffic and its equally at home at highway speeds.

Steering is well-weighted and responds quickly, body lean is minimal in corners, but pushing it can produce an “uh oh” moment of pronounced understeer. The suspension soaks up road imperfections making the ride smooth, if somewhat firm, either in urban or highway conditions.

Wind and road noise are minimal.

Two engines are available. A 2.0L naturally aspirated four-cylinder rated at 146 horsepower and 132 lb. ft. of torque. It’s linked to a Kia-built continuously variable transmission with eight simulated gear shift points. A 1.6L turbo powerplant in top-of-the-line SX models is rated at 175 horsepower and 195 lb. ft. of torque. Shifting is handled by a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

All-wheel drive is standard on all but the LX entry level model.

Pricing starts at $22,995 for FX front-wheel drive with standard blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, heated front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

LX AWD, which adds 17-in. alloy wheels as well as AWD, costs $24,995.

EX, expected to be the top-selling model, costs $27,595 and adds forward collision avoidance assist, lane follow assist, smart key with push-button start, sunroof and Sofino leather seating.

Moving up to EX Premium brings a $30,595 price tag and adds LED headlights and fog lights, 10.25-in. multimedia interface with navigation. UVO Intelligence and wireless cell phone charger.

The top of the line is SX Turbo adds 1.6L turbo engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, head-up display and Bose Premium sound system. It goes for $32,595.

The 2021 Seltos arrives at dealers later this spring.

2021 Kia Seltos
Trim levels: LX, LX AWD, EX, EX Premium, SX Turbo
Price before taxes: $42,995.00 to $32,995.00
Freight: $1,795.00
Configuration: front engine, 4WD
Available engines: 2.0L in-line 4 cyl./1.6L Turbo 4 cyl.
Available transmissions: 7-spd. dual-clutch automatic/Continuously variable automatic
Power/torque: 2.0L: 146 hp/132 lb. ft., Turbo 1.6L: 175 hp/195 lb. ft.
Fuel economy ratings: TBD
Warranties: 3 years/36,000 km (basic), 5 years/100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Qashqai

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