In record time, the Kia Seltos has become one of Canada’s most popular small utility vehicles, a success that can be explained simply as soon as you drive it.
With the launch of the Seltos last March, Korean manufacturer Kia added a fifth model to its utility lineup. Due to its reduced dimensions, this compact model is found between the, smaller, and the larger Sportage. It is therefore aimed at buyers who are looking for a small SUV … which is not too small!
We’re talking about nuances here. The Seltos is 4.4 m long, the Soul 4.2 m and the Sportage 4.5 m. However, there is a difference of barely 70 mm between the wheelbase of the shortest model and the longest model.
This concept of in-between nevertheless pleases. The commercial success achieved by Nissan with the Qashqai and by Mazda with the CX-30 confirms this. For the Seltos, it is even more obvious. This year, at the end of the still brand new third quarter, this Kia claimed fifth place in its class behind the Hyundai Kona, Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Kicks and Qashqai, the four most popular vehicles (in order ). This popularity also relegated to sixth place the Honda HR-V, which has long been among the favorites.
Its design explains this sudden stardom: it is an original and aesthetically successful product, although it uses a platform and known engines: those of the Kona.
Two engines, two personalities
The common elements are therefore out of sight, and it starts with this rigid chassis which gives the Seltos a healthy road behavior. For the more affordable LX and EX versions, there is also a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine. This engine shared by the Kia Soul and Forte produces 146 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, enough to deliver correct performance, and saves reasonable consumption.
The entry-level two-wheel-drive LX, EnerGuide attributes an average fuel consumption of 7.7 L / 100 km, while the four-wheel-drive Seltos LX and EX have an average of 8.2 L. These ratings are slightly lower than those of Kona using the same engine (7.9 L / 2WD and 8.6 L / 4WD) since they have a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Seltos, on the other hand, benefit from a more fuel-efficient continuously variable automatic transmission.
The Seltos SX Turbo, the most opulent in the range, has the exclusivity of a supercharged 4-cylinder. This 1.6L turbocharged engine, which is also used in the Kia Forte 5 hatchback, is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. More lively, it is. Our test vehicle demonstrated it to us. With 175 hp, it develops 195 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. With torque to spare, it allows this Seltos to shoot 100 km / h in about 7 seconds, but with an acceleration that would benefit from being more linear. Such performance also implies a slightly higher consumption, namely 8.7 L / 100 km. This average that we obtained is also that announced by EnerGuide.
The double clutch of this version contributes to its speed by reducing, as it should, the delay of changes of gears. Unfortunately, it accomplishes its task by imposing occasional irritating jerks on standing starts. In addition, the manual gearshift mode of this automatic transmission does not allow the driver to use the engine brake as it should. Pity…
Roll on Dynamax
Dynamax all-wheel drive is one of the options for the Seltos LX ($ 2,000), while it is part of the equipment for other versions. This reactive system has been shown to be effective on wet pavement. It does not require any intervention from the driver, unless the latter chooses to lock the center differential (by pressing a button) to take advantage of a torque split 50/50 between the front and rear wheels (as long as you are driving at less than 60 km / h). This is the choice one would make when moving, for example, on a sandy road or in deep snow. Of note, the all-wheel-drive Seltos also have upstroke stationary assist and downhill brake control systems.
The interior of the Seltos is spacious and welcoming. It is suitable for four adults of average height. The comfortable bucket seats are heated in all versions. The interior design has a classic feel that will age well and the finish is neat. In addition, standard equipment includes a touchscreen (8 or 10.25 inches depending on version), Bluetooth connectivity systems, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as some important driver assistance devices. , such as obstacle detection systems in blind spots and rear cross-traffic. However, you must opt for an EX or SX version to complete this hardware with, among other things, a frontal collision avoidance assistance device.
Which one to choose?
The buyer only has to define his needs and expectations to know which of the three small Kia utilities – Soul, Seltos or Sportage – suits him. Because they are more different than one might imagine at first glance.
Quirky in appearance, the Soul does not have all-wheel drive, but its fuel consumption is similar to that of a two-wheel-drive Seltos, which is a little more expensive.
The Seltos, on the other hand, can have four-wheel drive and a vigorous supercharged engine. Its trunk provides approximately 100 L of additional useful volume when the 60/40 rear seat backrests are in place. But if they are folded, its volume is close to that of the Soul.
Finally, the Sportage offers two or four-wheel drive and more powerful and greedy engines. More expensive than the other two utility vehicles, it is also the only one able to tow a trailer (up to 907 kg), the manufacturer tells us. Its trunk has about 100 L more usable volume than that of the Seltos when passengers are in the back seat, but its maximum volume is similar to that of the other two models when the rear seatbacks are folded.
So there is something for everyone at Kia when it comes to small SUVs. However, if the Seltos currently dominate this trio (with good reason), we can bet that the fifth generation Sportage, which we will discover next spring, will have a slightly larger appearance, in order to differentiate it further from the new darling of the Mark!