We spent a weekend driving the 2021 Kia Seltos and noted where the small SUV shines and where it can improve
The 2021 Kia Seltos is entering the small SUV segment with style, roominess and decent comfort features. The Seltos is Kia’s newest SUV, slotting between the boxy Soul and sleek Sportage. We recently drove from San Antonio to Houston and spent a long weekend in Kia’s stylish new SUV, learning some of the pros and cons it has to offer.
Pro: Bose Audio System
Although it’s only available in the top-trim SX, the eight-speaker Bose audio system sounds clear and crisp. This is the first time Kia equips a vehicle with a Bose system (the automaker used Harman Kardon in past models), and the sound is great for a subcompact crossover—it might battle the Nissan Kicks for the best-sound system in a cheap SUV.
Con: Interior Materials
Yes, the Kia Seltos is inexpensive, but the amount of hard plastics and poor materials are all around the cabin. That’s something normal for a $23,000 SUV, but when the top-trim’s price is closer to $30,000, some customers may expect better materials. The leatherette on the seats and door panels also could be better quality.
Pro: Electrochromic rear-view mirror
Although during our First Drive we drove during daylight hours, we didn’t have a chance to see some of the features the interior offers at night. I was surprised to see that the rear-view mirror in the SX is electrochromic, which dims the mirror when it senses light, preventing any kind of reflection from the headlights behind you. I drove a base Honda CR-V LX for one year and complained about the lack of a dimming rear-view mirror, so I was surprised to see that the Seltos SX has it.
The Seltos is equipped with two powertrains—a 2.0-liter that delivers 146 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque and a 1.6-liter turbo that’s good for 175 hp and 195 lb-ft. Although neither powertrain is awful, the 2.0-liter feels slow and thrashy at full throttle, while the turbo is peppy but lacks refinement during stop and go traffic, primarily because of its dual-clutch transmission.
Pro: Space and Cargo Room
Despite its small size, the 2021 Kia Seltos is pretty spacious inside. Its square-ish shape allows back-seat passengers to have enough headroom, while there’s plenty of legroom for 6-feet adults. During the weekend, my dad (who is almost 6’4” and a big guy) had a bit of trouble when he sat in the rear seat, but for the average-size American, the interior is roomy. There’s also plenty of cargo room, and you can lower the cargo floor for more volume.
Con: Disco-like ambient lighting
Like the Soul, the top-trim Seltos is equipped with ambient lighting that changes color with the melody of the songs you’re playing, providing a lounge-like interior. But unlike the Soul, the ambient lighting isn’t as bright or as noticeable. When driving the Seltos at night, I had to look hard to see if the ambient lighting was on, and it was hard to see the colors change with the reggaeton songs I was playing. In contrast, the Soul’s interior turns into an Ibiza-style club.
Kia estimates the Seltos to deliver up to 34 mpg in highway for front-drive models with the 2.0-liter, which is better than what the Mazda CX-30, Nissan Rogue Sport, and Jeep Compass offer in front-drive form, and ties with the Honda HR-V. Getting all-wheel drive reduces the numbers by about 2 mpg, while the 1.6-liter turbo delivers 25/30/27 city/highway/combined mpg with AWD.