We drive three versions of the upcoming Kia Seltos ; the 1.4 GDI turbo-petrol MT and DCT as well as the 1.5 diesel MT. Here’s our review of what could be the best offering in the mid-size SUV market in India.
The Seltos needs no introduction now. Post its world debut right here in India, a lot has been said about the car. This by both the Indian media and international counterparts. Yes, this is a global product but it is of great importance to Kia India and why not. The Seltos is their first product offering for the country and right from the word Go, they want to make it right.
Things have been very busy at Kia’s manufacturing plant in Andhra Pradesh. It took them just about 2 years to set-up the entire place which is a mean feat in itself. And the cars we drove weren’t mere prototypes but the ones you and I can walk into a showroom and take for a spin. So while Goa did welcome us with rains, we being the journalists we are, managed to scoop out ample time with various versions of the vehicle. Is it worth the wait over its rivals? Click the video below or continue to read on…
The design part
Calling the Seltos just a good looking vehicle will be doing injustice to it. This one competes with the likes of the Harrier and Hector but thankfully there are enough elements to make this stand out and grab enough street cred. Though the body shell isn’t very radical or different, its the execution of the front and rear of the Seltos that gets the attention it deserves.
DRLs and LEDs are the reason for this. Up front, the DRLs are not only placed inside the headlamp assembly, but the thin horizontal strip extends all the way to the centre of the grille. Likewise, the indicators have a lovely design to them and look oh so bling. But we aren’t done yet because down there in the bumper, you also have the ice cube fog lamps, something we have seen in other Kia models sold internationally.
This same effect can be seen at the back – the indicators have a 5 step design and the DRLs create their own magic. And then the dual diffusers in the bumper finish up the rear. The side profile, as I said earlier, isn’t too radical and the only thing that gets your attention are the alloy wheels. The variant you see here is the top spec GT Line which means larger alloy wheels and red inserts at places including for the brake calipers – would I have imaged this for a mid-size SUV till a couple of years back? Hell No!
The GT Line version also gets red inserts at the lower end of the bumpers and on the side cladding of the doors. The badge is also prominently placed in the front grille and on the boot lid. In terms of dimensions, the Seltos is longer than its distant cousin, the Creta by about 45mm though its shorter in length to the Hector and Harrier. The same thing applies in terms of width and height. Also, believe it or not but the Seltos is an aerodynamic SUV with cd of just 0.35 which Kia says is lower than its rivals!
The interior game
Now the Seltos has fierce competition in terms of the rivals it will rub shoulders with. The good report is that the cabin does live up to the price the Seltos will sell for. Before I get further into details, during and before the test drive, it was evident that some automatic variants (like the 1.4 DCT petrol) will not be offered in a true top end and hence will miss out on features like ventilated seats, 360 surround camera, powered drivers seat and a sunroof. The same has been said in the video above. However, now it seems that Kia will eventually roll out all the automatics in a proper top end version too. Good going!
Given the number of engine-transmission-trims on offer, customers also get to experience different colour themes on the inside. For example, the GT Line will come with all-black interiors with sports leatherette seats for the lower versions and Black-Beige interiors with sports leatherette seats for the higher versions. Likewise, other models (non GT Line) will come with all-black interiors with premium fabric seats for lower versions and black-beige interiors with premium leatherette seats for the higher versions. Before it starts sounding confusing, lets move to how the cabin actually feels.
Nice, very nice. There are no rough edges and overall quality of panels is up there with the best. A lot has been said about the endless feature list and hence I will not waste time with that. Yes, the Bose system sounds epic and the mood lighting works well for everyone in the car and this Korean giant even manages to taunt premium brands by offering the largest HUD (heads up display) screen ever seen in India. Top marks there guys.
In terms of front comfort and visibility, I will rate the Seltos very high. True it doesn’t have a proper, towering seating posture that will give your ego a massage but the way it makes you feel, cocoons you and puts everything into place is remarkable. Ergonomics are excellent and so is the visibility – the windows arent too high, the A pillar not too thick and the outside mirrors are functional and do not come into the line of your side vision.
Headroom, even for tall drivers is good and even hefty adults like me won’t be rubbing shoulders up front. That said, I would have loved a bigger sunroof for airiness and the extra black gloss finish around the central screen is a dirt and fingerprint magnet. Will be hard to keep this part of the car clean in the long run.
At the back, things are equally good. First, the legroom / knee room on offer is more than ample with about 5-6 inches of gap left between my knee and the back of the front seat. Yes, the front seat was adjusted for my height and I stand 6 feet tall. Next, seat comfort (back and under thigh support) is reasonably good. The rear seat also has a split and can be reclined individually and you even get manual sun blinds! Both the front seats get rear pockets and the parcel shelf is large enough to throw in a lot of stuff. I am beginning to like this car a lot!
In terms of boot space, the Seltos offers about 430 litres which is more than the Creta and ample for your weekend runs. No, no powered tail gate here like the Hector.
Its good to see manufacturers experimenting with engine and transmission options. If you are into cars, you must have realised by now that the Seltos will be offered with three different engines and an automatic will part of the package in all of them. On the drive I had the chance to sample the 1.5 diesel and the 1.4 turbo petrol and that is what I will talk about now. Do note all the engines are BS6 ready (do not meet BS6 regulations yet, but are ready to do so with some changes)
The 1.5 diesel is good for 115 PS of power and 250 Nm of torque. These figures are less than some of the rivals but surprise, surprise! On the move, the Seltos diesel not feel underpowered at all. Infact, the flat torque curve, from as low as 1500rpm to about 3000 rpm is what makes your city runs very effortless. Further, NVH levels or noise, vibration, harshness levels are well under control and this is one area where Kia has done a lot of hard work. I drove the manual version only due to lack of time and the gear shift quality was top notch. This is one area where even the Creta diesel has won a lot of hearts.
Next was the 1.4 GDI petrol version that I drove and thankfully managed to experience both the manual and auto models. With 140 PS of power on hand and almost same levels of torque as the diesel motor, were grinning moments part of the package? Given the price segment, definitely yes. And with a flat max torque curve that starts at 1500rpm and extends till about 3200 rpm, city runs are a breeze. At slower speeds you can potter around in a higher gear without any unwanted stress or drones from the engine. And though the stick-shift is preferred by enthusiasts, the 7 speed DCT is a gem of a unit. I remember my drive in the Hector DCT and can safely say, this one feels a generation ahead. Shifts are quick and the Seltos can a hoot to drive both on city roads and open highways. No paddle shifters here but you can take charge but flicking the gear lever to the right.
But the comfort?
No issue here either. But let me add that enthusiasts will be disappointed. Why? Kia has worked hard to ensure the ride remains comfortable and even the GT Line variants with 17-inch wheels ensure you aren’t tossed around. Infact, at times, with the 16-inch wheels, ride seems plush without the rear moving all over the place. Body roll is limited too but the steering is more family-person oriented than for young guns. Dont get me wrong here. Kia knows a majority of buyers seek comfort and that is what the Seltos offers.
The 1.4 petrol GDI DCT has an ace up its sleeve and that is the knob next to the gear level. Drive modes and traction modes is what you get and I was surprised (for the good) to know that shifting to Sport mode does alter the steering behaviour too. We have seen this before in the XUV300 and the same thing happens here. The steering does weigh up more and gives you that extra dose of confidence.
Summing it up.
I am impressed with the Seltos. There, I said it. It does have a late mover advantage in the segment but Kia has done its homework right. If they can price it from about 10-10.5 lakh onwards, they have a winner on their hands. 22nd August isn’t far away and we already have enough hints from the top management that the segment will be in for a change of sorts. Watch this space for more!