Aug 13, 2019

Test Drive Review - Kia Seltos

A rain washed Goa isn’t the perfect place for vehicle evaluation, but this brand new SUV, the Kia Seltos, can cut through the pall of gloom formed as much by the weather outside as the dangerous slowdown in the Indian auto industry

Words: Aninda Sardar



As an English Lit student steeped in history, the purist in me was dying to scream out loud that it doesn’t matter how you justify it but the name is a typo. The name is derived from Celtos, the son of Hercules we are told. Except that the letter S in the name denotes Strength apparently. I scoff in my head but thankfully, better sense prevailed and I didn’t. Instead, I paid attention to all that was being told to me about the spanking new Kia Seltos.

It’s all about that base

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it they said. That’s what conventional wisdom says but then the Koreans haven’t done things very conventionally. So Kia threw the adage out of the window and instead took a tried and tested platform, the one on which sister concern Hyundai built the award winning and hot selling Creta, and improved on it. Or at least changed the dimensions a bit till the end result was a little bigger. The result is the Seltos.

To power its new SUV, Kia has chosen three engines, two of them petrol and one diesel. At the start of the grid you have a 115hp 1.5–litre four cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine mated to either a 6-speed manual transmission or an intelligent CVT that Kia has dubbed IVT. For the diesel enthusiast, which is probably going to see the largest chunk of Seltos sales, there is a 115hp 1.5-litre turbo diesel working with a 6-speed manual or automatic. At the top of the value chain is a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine with 140hp. Transmission options are a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual clutch. Top drawer stuff really. The kind that would excite an auto enthusiast.

The Seltos wishlist

At the introduction to the Seltos we were also introduced, virtually of course, to the brand’s ambassador in India – the very athletic Tiger Shroff, and the Seltos TVC that you should be able to see soon enough on the idiot box. The company clearly wants to connect with the youth and are peddling the Seltos as a ‘badass’ SUV. Ironic though it may be, I felt the Kia SUV was more nice than badass. Excepting perhaps the way it looks, be it the sporty GT Line or the more luxurious Tech Line. There’s a certain wickedness in its stance and that wide gaping tiger (the animal and not the brand ambassador) inspired grille can be menacing when seen in combination with the stacked LED headlamps, which I believe are a segment first.

Depending on which of the two variants you choose – GT or Tech, you get an Arkamys sound system with Bose speakers, an 8-inch head up display (HUD) that will remind you of the far more expensive MINI’s HUD, a sunroof that I honestly don’t care much for in this country and more. There is also a 10.25-inch HD infotainment system with a whole bunch of connectivity systems, 360-degree view camera, ventilated and cooled seats and a smart air purifier. For those who like a gimmick or two from time to time, there’s the UVO app that allows you to do a whole bunch of things including switching the engine on and setting the cabin temp remotely! All, in all you’re pretty well stocked if you have the Seltos in your garage.

Grappling with the Greek

Yes, I’m stretching the inspiration behind the Seltos, but let’s admit it. It sounds a hell of a lot better than Grappling with the Korean. Fact of the matter is, the Kia Seltos, be it the diesel automatic or the range-topping petrol automatic that I drive, is bloody good to drive. The engines are refined and punchy yet with a linear spread of grunt so that things remain easy when the roads are clogged. There’s an air of stability as you go past a turn at speed or you flick the car past a dog that’s just run past. At the same time, bumps on the road are ironed out with a firm hand. I doubt I could come up with one good reason not to buy this one. Except the price perhaps, but we won’t know that till Kia launches the Seltos on August 22, will we?

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