It definitely feels like ages since we started waiting for this one SUV from Kia, the Korean manufacturer, to hit the Indian market. Not long ago had the Kia Seltos been unveiled in the country and that had sent more adrenaline into our veins back then. Further ahead, Kia Motors India had officially opened the bookings for the car, only to witness the smart SUV amass an exhilerating count of over 6000 bookings right on the day 1! Hopes and anticipations sky high, we waited on till recently when Kia Motors invited us to Goa, to experience the SUV on the rain-drenched roads. So here's what we think of the car!
What Does It Look Like?
Before we answer this question, quickly have a glance at the Kia SP Concept, that was displayed at the previous year's Delhi Auto Expo by the carmaker, hinting a tad too sharply at their imminent Indian entry. The concept looked much flashy and futuristic and had managed to turn a lot of heads back then!'
The Kia Seltos is essentially the 'real world guise' of the SP Concept. As evident from the pictures herein, the Seltos hosts minuscule design changes from the SP Concept. The 'back from the future' headlamp cluster of the concept has given way for a more realistic, yet thoroughly adorable set of sleek full-LED headlamp - smart LED turn signal lamps unit.
There is a set of suave LED Day Time Running Lamps as well. The KIA-ish 'tiger-nose grille' of the concept finds a place in the Seltos too. The LED DRLs in fact, run a bit too deep into the grille, imparting an overall air of premiumness to the design. What has apparently had a great leap ahead though, is the fog lamp cluster that now hosts a magnificent 'ice cube' design. There are skid-plates upfront and at the rear, boosting the 'SUV appeal' of the Seltos.
The massive 17-inch wheels give the side profile an imposing stance. The window line and glass area run back confidently from the front and taper towards the rear, finally ending up magnificently with a pronounced chrome insert at the back. The rear is well drawn and the tail lamps well designed.
There are two styles for the Seltos- the Tech line and the GT Line, each branching further into various trims with varied characteristics. The key differentiating factors here are the engines though, more on that later. There are, however, cosmetic tweaks that make the GT line more visually appealing for the buyer. The GT line, essentially the sporty guise of the SUV, gets stuff like beautiful crystal cut alloys, sporty red cues, and the handsome looking 'GT Line' badging, differentiating it from the other. The car also gets sporty-looking red brake callipers on the GT line.';
Inside The Cabin?
Getting in and out of the Seltos is no big game, thanks to the user-friendly ride height; you will never crave for a footstep here! There is an air of premiumness filling the cabin, no, I ain't talking about the aftermath of the car's 'Smart Pure Air system'! Jokes apart, the cabin boasts of superior material quality and fit and finish. The plastic used is indeed premium and mostly soft. There is generous use of leather on the dash and in other parts inside. The leather-wrapped steering wheel seems quite appealing and convenient, owing to its flat-bottom design and the great grip on offer.
There is a vast plethora of features on offer inside. The central 10.25-inch touch-screen infotainment system seems to be much promising and convenient with its decent touch-response and user-friendly layout. The design of the touchscreen-DIS cluster as a whole, reminded us of the one found in flagships like the new Mercedes G Wagens, indeed a great job done in providing a ' globally recognised premium in-cabin experience' out there Kia! Also, there is no big sea of confusing physical controls and switchgear here in the Seltos, thankful enough! However, the fact that the car lacks physical volume controls, save for the ones on the wheel, can at times, be sort of an inconvenience for many!
The top-spec trims get a 400W, 8 speaker Bose Sound system that provides for an unmatched theatre-like audio experience inside the cabin, while the lower trims go with one from Arkamys. There are also fancy bits like Sound Mood Lamps to add to the pomp inside.
The SUV also gets the much sought-after eSIM-based connected car tech, and one can implement a bunch of functions like remote START/STOP, Geo-fencing, Time fencing etc, through the UVO Connect app.(The app has not yet been launched in the market, but would be available on both Apple App Store and Google Playstore right from the day of launch of the Seltos, which by the way, is August 22nd, 2019.)
The UVO connect option with the built-in eSIM hosts around 37 smart features, many of which as India-specific. There are dedicated controls for instant Helpline dialling, the use of which gets you connected to a 24*7 assistance line, that can provide you with all critical aids and services required.
There is also a dedicated voice command system inside, that works quite well for almost all common commands. But one should not take it for as smart a thing as the one found in the MG Hector, a key rival to the Seltos.
The car gets other interesting bits like a smart electric sunroof, Tire pressure monitor, a 360 degree camera, blind spot monitor, ventilated power seats, rear mechanical sunblinds, rain-sensing wipers, etc add to the comfort and convenience inside.
What needs a massive thumbs up inside the cabin is the Seltos' big 8.0 inch heads-up display, that is of great convenience on highway runs and city conditions alike. The Seltos essentially outsmarts bigshots like the Mini Cooper S with the massive size of its HUD. The HUD provides the driver with all essential information like the speed, Navigation info and even the current status of the infotainment system.
What Is It Like To Drive?
There are three engines and a choice of four transmissions on offer. The 115 hp 1.5L NA petrol, 115 hp 1.5L diesel and a 140 hp 1.4L turbo petrol mills sum up the engine chart, while there are also 6-speed manual, IVT, 4-speed torque converter and a 7 speed dual clutch boxes on offer as well. The engines are all BS6 compliant.
Kia India had refused to shed much light on the architecture underpinning the Seltos at the time of its unveiling. Now, however, we know that the Kia Seltos is built upon a new platform that we might get to see in the second-gen Hyundai Creta, if that is to make its Indian debut somewhere in the near future. The platform is indeed quite different from that of the current Creta on sale here, but all for the good. Sigh! ( The Seltos, in fact, outshines the Hyundai Creta in overall length, width and wheelbase.)
We focussed our attention mainly on the 1.5L diesel and the much sought-after 1.4L Turbo Petrol versions. Also spent time driving 7 DCT, 6 manual and the CVT boxes.
Let's talk about the 1.5 Diesel with 6 manual first. The diesel is quite refined to drive. There comes in a decent bump in power at around 1800 rpm, but in a very linear manner. Thus this is one user-friendly car to drive. The NVH levels are far better than those of the apparent rivals. Not much of the diesel clatter makes its way into the cabin. The road noise too, is well contained. The 6-speed manual gearbox is very smooth and precise in operation. Also, the clutch lacks weight and can be operated with ease, a very good India-specific tweak. Chances are nominal that one might ever get tired of driving this car. The steering, though light at low speeds, puts up decent weight with bumps in speeds. There is also ample feedback on offer.
However, the diesel GT line is no car you might ever want to slam the corners with. Even though the body roll is well contained, we personally did not feel it much confidence-inspiring to take corners with speed on the 1.5 diesels.
The 1.4 Turbo petrol GT Line with the 7 speed DCT is the one the enthusiast in you would crave to be in. The car is seldom shy in gaining speeds with ease. The entire 140 hp can be seen doing its job proficiently. The 7 DCT is indeed a sweet gearbox to live with. The shifts are thrilling and spontaneous in the general sense, however, definitely not on par with Volkswagen's DSG in giving you evil grins!
But something we loved the most about the Turbo Petrol GT line is the introduction of a selectable Drive mode/ Traction mode system in it. A single rotary knob does job as the control for both. However, the knob to us, looked a bit fragile and not befitting the overall fit and finish elsewhere inside.
The drive mode selector offers three main driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport, listed in the increasing order of thrill they impart on the driver. The 'Sport', as obvious, is the cream with it decently altering the throttle response and shift points on activation.
The Kia Seltos, is obviously not a machine one would ever imagine of going offroads in. But the carmaker has, however, given it a couple of selectable traction options, that let you get better grips on mild terrains like mud, wet/snow and sand. We, however, dared to give these a slight test and thus took the car for a slight hill-ascent. As expected, the system does give you decent traction and grip on mild, VERY MILD, terrains. It can, of course, be driven on slightly slippery inclines with ease. So yeah, we liked it here as well. Low speed- Steep ascents, as expected, are still very far cries for the Seltos. And yes, one should not expect an AWD for this currently FWD car ever.
The braking, in general, is very effective and efficient, with the GT line getting all-wheel Disc brakes. The brakes have ample bite and offer minimal judder. There are also tonnes of safety features onboard the GT Line.
At the end of the spin we came out with a deep inner urge to live the rest of the life with a 1.4L T-Petrol DCT! It is undoubtedly the best driving compact SUV on sale currently in the country.
How Is It To Ride In One?
The ride-quality is indeed praiseworthy in the Kia Seltos. The suspension has been well-tuned and set even on the Turbo petrol. There is an ample amount of head and knee rooms in both the front and rear rows. The low speed-pot-hole absorption deserves appreciation.
The front seats are perfect places to be in, thanks to the supportive, well cushioned ventilated seats. The rear seats offer good leg, knee, head and shoulder rooms but never on par with the rivals (!) like the Hector and the Harrier. There are a decent 433 litres of boot space and lotsa storage spaces inside, adding to the convenience. The rear seats can also be folded in the 60:40 fashion if needed. The front armrest, however, is not reach-adjustable.
There is also a wireless charging deck on the front centre tunnel. But we found it a bit difficult to reach for the driver (We, in fact, had a tough time getting used to this) It is way too handy on the current-gen Hyundai Creta, we must say!
Well, we, so far, find no reason to ask you to say NO to the Kia Seltos. The only thing remaining now is the price, that is expected to be out at the time of the imminent Kia Seltos India launch. There has been no clue on the same yet from the maker, but we expect it to be in the INR 12-18 lakhs range. Fingers crossed...