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[Behind the Wheel] With segment-blurring Seltos, Kia adds premium to small SUV lineup

When Kia Motors said its latest compact sport utility vehicle Seltos would be a game-changer in the local SUV market, the company was met with doubts, as the automaker already has three other small SUVs -- the Stoniq, Soul and Niro. 

But upon the official launch of Seltos this month, and with a single test-drive of Seltos, feelings of doubt immediately changed to pleasant surprise. 

Driving Seltos on a 65-kilometer route from Wonju, Gangwon Province, to Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, it was clear that Seltos serves different tastes compared to other small SUVs, just as Kia dubbed the car a “high-class SUV.”

Kia Motors' Seltos (Kia Motors)
Kia Motors' Seltos (Kia Motors)

Blurring the characteristics of different car segments, Seltos comes with added features and functions that had been only available in larger SUV segments or luxury sedans.

Seltos has an impressive powertrain despite the car’s size category of B-segment SUV. It has a relatively long car body at 4,375 millimeters, the longest in the small SUV category, which includes Hyundai Motor’s Kona, SsangYong Motor’s Tivoli and Renault Samsung’s QM3.

The 1.6 turbo gasoline model picked up speed quickly but smoothly on the highway. There was no disturbing engine-related sound and only very little road noise sipped into the car, proving that Kia has put extra attention to window and door, as well as the car’s suspension. On winding road, handling was responsive and cornering was easy. 

Seltos is available in two engine lineups, a 1.6 turbo gasoline with 177 horsepower and 27 kilogram-meters of torque, and a 1.6 diesel model equipped with 136 horsepower and 32.6 kilogram-meters of torque. 

The premium feel of Seltos was distinctive through Kia’s latest driving assist functions applied to all trims of the car. 

Driving assist functions includes forward collision-avoidance assist, lane following assist, lane keeping assist, driver attention warning and high beam assist. 

Another effort to make Seltos sophisticated could be seen through the adoption of the Bose speaker, head-up display and heating and cooling seats in the front and rear. 

Kia Motors' Seltos (Kia Motors)
Kia Motors' Seltos (Kia Motors)

Despite these premium features, the only concern was the price, which is relatively high compared to other same-class SUVs with full option in the highest Nobbless trim. The price of the 1.6 turbo gasoline model begins at 19.2 million won ($16,200) for the lowest trim, Trendy, but goes up to 24.4 million won for the highest Noblesse trim. For the diesel model, the price starts from 21.2 million to 24.3 million won and 26.3 million won. 

Without additional options, the price of the Seltos is still 5 million won higher than Venue, though still less than the Tivoli. 

By Kim Da-sol (

The Korea Herald Ratings

Design: 4 stars
Fuel economy: 3 stars
Safety: 4 stars
Price: 3 stars

Overall: 14/20