Putting value first. Kia’s become known for offering strong value, regardless of segment, and it’s the same case with the new 2021 Kia Seltos. The only catch is that you’ll have to skip the base trim if you’re looking for the best value option. For that, you’ll want to move up to the second-from-the-bottom S trim.
Available with either front- and all-wheel drive, the S adds heated exterior mirrors, roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, and LED rear taillights. More importantly, the S trim comes with six driver-assist features, including forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and lane departure warning.
Making every inch count. The Seltos may be Kia’s smallest crossover – the jury’s still out on whether the Soul is a utility vehicle or not – but it’s one of the more spacious options in the subcompact segment. When it comes to cargo space, the Seltos offers 26.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and a total of 62.8 cubic feet. That’s the largest figure for the subcompact segment and even matches a few compact crossover SUVs.
Despite a small wheelbase that measures in at just 103.5 inches, the Seltos’ interior is surprisingly spacious. Offering more interior space than the majority of rivals, it manages to be able to seat up to five in comfort, even if they’re all adults. Not a lot of other subcompact crossovers can say that.
Handsome design. While rivals may have funky, outlandish designs to stand out in the segment, Kia has gone down another route. It's one that sees the South Korean brand pen a simple, yet stylish design for the Seltos. The look also makes it feel like a cohesive part of Kia’s lineup, which we think is a good thing.
Kia is offering the Seltos with a two-tone paint job, as the roof is available in black or white on the majority of the trims. When chosen with the right color, the contrasting roof does a great job of helping the Seltos look even better. It also makes the roof look like it's floating, which is a modern trend.
Just average performance. The Seltos has a smooth ride that slightly errs to being a little firm compared to other competitors. In day-to-day driving, you might not notice the firm ride quality, as it’s still a comfortable crossover. Where the Seltos is just average is when it comes to the performance of its powertrain.
Both of the engines in the Seltos range are familiar ones that are available in other Kias, so there are no surprises to see. The base engine isn’t exactly quick, but it’s enough to get the job done. It comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 146 horsepower. It’s paired to a continuously variable transmission with all-wheel drive coming as standard. The last bit is a nice touch, but the rest of the powertrain is nothing to get excited about.
The S Turbo and SX Turbo come with a stout 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 175 hp. The engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with all-wheel drive as standard. While the engine itself is great, producing good power, the transmission is the issue. It judders at low speeds and is slow to provide shifts. It’s slightly better than other models with the same powertrain, but there are still some kinks that need to be worked out.
Final thoughts. The all-new 2021 Kia Seltos hasn’t been on the market for too long, but it’s quickly become one of the better options in the subcompact segment. With its elegant design, spacious cabin, and lengthy list of tech features, it’s easy to see why the Seltos immediately climbs up the ladder.
There aren’t too many things to complain about. We do wish that Kia offered more standard advanced safety features, instead of requiring consumers to climb up to higher trims to get more. A smoother seven-speed dual-clutch transmission would also help the Seltos greatly.
There are tons of options in the subcompact crossover segment. The new Mazda CX-30 is one of our favorites, as it looks even better than the Seltos, is more enjoyable to drive, has a more premium cabin, and comes with more standard tech. It doesn’t come with the same amount of power as Kia’s option and has less cargo space.
The Hyundai Kona is the Seltos’ cousin, but there are a number of differences between the two. The Kona has a more futuristic design, has less cargo space, and has a cabin that isn’t as big. But it’s more agile and comes with more standard safety features.
Check prices for the 2020 Kia Seltos »