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Here's a solid road test review from a publication in New Zealand for the Seltos.


KIA SELTOS
Price range:
$25,990 (LX, launch price) to $46,990 (LTD T-GDI).
Powertrains: 2.0-litre petrol four (110kW/180Nm, 6.8l/100km), continuously variable transmission, FWD or 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four (130kW/265Nm, 7.6l/100km), 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, AWD.
Body style: Five-door SUV.
On sale: Now.

If you were to argue that there's a lack of styling innovation in the SUV world, we wouldn't disagree. There's only so much you can do by joining two boxes together.

But compact SUVs seem to be where carmakers are happiest taking chances. It's happened in the premium sector with out-there stuff like the BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace and especially Volvo's "tough little robot" XC40.

There are things stirring in the mainstream segment now, too. Case in point is Kia's new Seltos, which looks appealingly idiosyncratic. It's not pretty... but it does look pretty cool.

Make me an instant expert: what do I need to know?

If you're confused by all of Kia's SUVs, you're not alone. Seltos is officially "compact" but it's probably bigger than you think. It's 35mm longer than the brand's electrified Niro SUV, although the wheelbase is 70mm shorter.

Same difference in wheelbase compared with the medium-sized Sportage, although that model is of course quite a bit longer than Seltos.

But the newcomer has a larger boot than either and that rear seat really is quite generous. So even if you're looking for a budget-priced mediumSUV, don't discount the compact Seltos.

Most models are powered by an Atkinson Cycle 2.0-litre engine, matched to a continuously variable transmission. Like Subaru, Kia has gone a different route with its gearless 'box by using chain drive instead of the usual belts, in an effort to improve responsiveness and reduce CVT "flaring".

And like Subaru, Kia has decided to call its CVT something different. In this case IVT, for Intelligent Variable Transmission.

The 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre models are all front drive, but the flagship Limited 1.6-litre turbo (T-GDi) has a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and all-wheel drive. The engine and gearbox you'll know from Kia's Cerato GT, while the same AWD powertrain is used in top-line Hyundai Kona models.

The T-GDi LTD also rides on multi-link rear suspension, a step up from the torsion beam used in the rest of the range.

The name, by the way, is a reference to Hercules' son Celtos from Greek mythology. But with an "S" to match the Sportage and Sorento.

Where did you drive it?

We had a week to do our own thing with the entry Seltos LX, so it was a first drive along some familiar road test routes and urban environments.

The IVT is really good. No, honest. It doesn't have the crispness of the "geared" standing-stand you get in Toyota's Corolla/RAV4 CVT, but on the move it's responsive to the throttle and doesn't flare at high speed: keep the throttle to the floor and the IVT will do a little step down in revs near the redline before climbing up the rev range.

You can click the gearlever across to Sport mode, or use the drive-mode selector to select the same for the rest of the car. In either case, you get a bit more response and engine speed, without the system going over the top and whining. Tipping the gearlever across to S is a handy way to get some extra engine braking as you approach a corner, for example. It's very useable.

You can also go the whole way to eight simulated steps and a pseudo-manual shift, but it's a lot less convincing. The IVT does it better when left to its own devices.

The LX rides on tiny 16-inch wheels, but it steers with authority and avoids what we've come to know as a little Kia chassis quirk: an excess of lift-off oversteer accompanied by an overactive stability control system. Both are kept in check in the Seltos, giving it a confident feel on Kiwi roads.

What's the pick of the range?

That's a hard question because we've only had time in the entry-level LX version. But also an easy question because this model is being launched at a special price of $25,990 (timeframe unspecified), which represents an enormous amount of car for the money.

The LX is far from basic, with Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Hill Start Assist and Tyre Pressure Monitoring.

But it is also specified very much down to a price: it's the only Seltos to lack Smart Cruise Control (it does have standard cruise though), Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist, front parking radar (it has rear only), sat-nav (but it does have phone projection, so who cares?), cyclist detection for the Autonomous Emergency Braking system, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and an electric parking brake.

You also start it up by doing something really weird: you put a key in the ignition barrel and twist it.

You can pick up much of that missing kit with the LX Plus, but compared with the entry car it's another $10k. That gap will close when/if the LX moves to a regular retail price, but at the moment it's kind of hard to justify.

There are also EX and LTD trim levels that become progressively more luxurious, while the aforementioned flagship LTD has a much more enthusiast-oriented powertrain and chassis - but it's a cool $20k more costly than the LX driven here.

Why would I buy it?

You loved your old Skoda Yeti and think its replacement, the Karoq, is a bit dull.

You're won over by the little Kia's combination of individual style, price and refinement.

Or you're a big Blackpink K-Pop fan (none of them drive, by the way). Don't know what a "Blackpink" is? Ask a teenager.

Why wouldn't I buy it?

The driving experience isn't as edgy as the exterior styling suggests.

Or you're waiting to see what Hyundai's sister model, the Venue, is like.
 
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