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Kia Seltos review: You can't myth this

Named after a king, the Kia Seltos looks able to handle the rough stuff, but in daily motoring is where it reigns.

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The Seltos is a small sport utility vehicle (SUV), but Kia's designers have pulled every trick in the book to make it loom large in the eye.

BT_20200821_KIA_4209609.jpg
The Seltos is a small sport utility vehicle (SUV), but Kia's designers have pulled every trick in the book to make it loom large in the eye.

Singapore

THE Kia Seltos is named after Celtos, who was the mythical King of the Celts and a son of the Greek hero Hercules. No, we're not kidding. That was probably a way for Kia to meet a key criteria of any modern crossover (a funky name), but if the Seltos is king of anything, it's convenience.

The Seltos is a small sport utility vehicle (SUV), but Kia's designers have pulled every trick in the book to make it loom large in the eye.

The car's taller than most of its competitors and visually it sticks to the original soft-roader formula of looking square and chunky, and like it could take a turn off the beaten path. That imposing front end is one way it stands out, thanks to a wide grille flanked by stacked headlight units, and an equally wide bottom air intake with a faux protection plate.

The version driven here is the range-topping GT Line, which sprinkles red highlights on the brake calipers, wheels and front end for a little more spice. Inside, there's a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, along with racy aluminium pedals.

Despite the rugged looks, you probably shouldn't go off-roading in the Seltos, because it lacks the requisite hardware. But it's looks that count most for modern SUVs and their buyers.

While this fashionable path is very well-trodden, by taking classic soft-roader angles, the Seltos is actually an ironic contrarian now. It's refreshingly boxy and nowhere in its press literature is the word "coupe" mentioned. Compare that approach with that taken by Honda and Toyota for the HR-V and C-HR respectively, both of which have hidden rear door handles and curvy lines instead of angular ones.

Yet, going boxy is a plus because it reaps plenty of dividends in practical terms. As expected of an SUV, the Seltos has a high seating position, while the tall windows, sunroof, and extra height of the car maximise your view, aside from giving the impression of greater space throughout the cabin.

It's not all light and windows, since as a small SUV, the Seltos will fit four adults with comfort to spare. And it doesn't leave backseat passengers in the dark. While some coupe-influenced SUVs have claustrophobic rear seats, the Seltos' boxy shape means more headroom all around, not just the front.

Likewise, the 433-litre boot is a match for anything in the segment, and has a wide aperture for easy loading, with 60/40 split fold seats that expand it.

Convenience doesn't just spring from generous space, but also in the measure of how much you have to do behind the wheel. Thankfully the Seltos gives you less to do with your hands and eyes. The wipers, lights, and mirror dimming are all automatic, there's a 7.0-inch driver's instrument display for clear info readouts and - a rarity at this price level - a head-up display.

While Kia has made great strides in cabin quality, this is still obviously a mainstream car. There are still some cheap plastics on display around the door sills and dash, but it does its best to distract you from that with technology.

On the info-tech side, a wireless smartphone charger is a welcome convenience, as is the presence of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Both are channelled through the 8.0-inch colour touchscreen system - a larger 10.25-inch unit is available as an upgrade - and they allow you to use a voice assistant.

One way the Seltos partially lives up to its fictional progenitor is under the bonnet. The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine makes 140 horsepower, which means it's one of the more powerful cars in the segment. On the road that means it is decently quick on its feet and has better than average acceleration for a mainstream SUV.

With 17-inch wheels, the Seltos' suspension setup highlights small bumps, and on the move the car itself is not particularly refined nor quiet. Yet, those sins are forgivable, since they're endemic to the segment. It's still relatively comfortable overall, but the standout qualities are its size and the long list of equipment.

The only sticking point is that the car we drove, the Seltos GT Line, isn't exactly cheap, at S$114,999 with certificate of entitlement.

We'd recommend the Seltos SX model instead, at S$107,999, since it only does without the cosmetic features of the GT Line model and keeps most of the convenience features mentioned above.

There's also an entry-level EX model, at S$97,999 but that one does without many of the things that make the Kia nice to live with, such as the automatic climate control, ventilated front seats, sunroof and so on. True, you're left with the roomy cabin and the punchy engine, but without the fancy features it feels like the Seltos could myth the mark.


Kia Seltos 1.4 GT Line

Engine 1,353cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 140hp at 6,000rpm
Torque 242Nm at 1,500 to 3,200rpm
Gearbox 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
0-100km/h 9.8 seconds
Top Speed 190km/h
Fuel Efficiency 6.3L/100km
Agent Cycle & Carriage Kia Singapore
Price S$114,999 with COE
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