Review: Kia Seltos 1.4T GDI - is this the Goldilocks of SUVs?

By Jason Woosey Time of article published Jul 23, 2020

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Johannesburg - When it comes to outright size, most SUVs and crossovers tend to be either fairly big or a bit on the small side. Even ones that were previously compact, like the Toyota Rav4, have morphed into pretty formidable chunks of metal. And it’s below that space that Kia has introduced what could very easily be the Goldilocks of SUVs.

Measuring 4.31 metres in length, on a 2.61m wheelbase, it’s appreciably bigger than a Renault Captur or Volkswagen T-Cross, which both measure a shade over 4.1 metres, but still somewhat smaller than the 2.6m Rav4.

But is it packaged well enough to be a family vehicle?

Step into the front or back of the cabin and space is not an issue. There is some stretching room for both front and rear occupants and it feels big enough to serve as a family runabout. However, the full-sized spare wheel does intrude on the luggage area quite a bit, although the 433 litre capacity is still reasonably decent and should be good for a family holiday if you pack sparingly.

In pricing terms it is a bit more expensive than the compacts, but still somewhat cheaper than the midsized brigade, with prices ranging from R380 995 for the basic 1.6 EX to R471 995 for the range-topping 1.4T GDI GT-Line that we had on test until recently.

This turbocharged model is on the expensive side, but there is a selection of 1.6-litre normally aspirated models at the lower end of the price ladder. However, the pick of the bunch is likely to be the new turbodiesel derivatives that were recently introduced, starting at R410 995.

Since we haven’t driven the diesel as yet, let’s take a closer look at the 1.4T GDI GT-Line.

Is the GT-Line worth the extra money?

What I can say is that if you are prepared to splurge, or if you bag a discount big enough to make it worthwhile, the flagship model provides a very satisfying driving experience.

Powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged direct injection petrol engine that produces 103kW and 242Nm, with power going to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, the Seltos GT Line feels surprisingly brisk off the mark. The motor provides effortless performance both in town and on the highway, and while the gearbox can get a little flustered under hard acceleration it is unobtrusive enough in regular driving situations.

Kia claims a 0-100km/h time of 9.7 seconds, which is not bad for an SUV in this neighborhood. The Seltos is also impressively quiet on the open road and there’s little to fault the ride quality.

Another feature setting the GT-Line apart is a Drive Mode Select system, which allows drivers to choose from ‘Normal’, ‘Eco’ and ‘Sport’ driving programmes. Sport, for instance, makes the steering more responsive, while Eco sets the powertrain up for more efficient driving and Normal seeks a careful balance between the two modes. There’s also a terrain mode with ‘Snow’, ‘Mud’ and ‘Sand’ settings that optimise the traction control for these scenarios, but ultimately the front-driven Seltos is far more of a dirt road warrior than a trail crawler.

GT-Line means more style

The Seltos GT-Line comes with numerous exterior and cabin garnishes that set it apart from the humbler versions, including a chrome surround for the lower bumper, as well as red accents on the front, side and rear of the vehicle, LED headlights and taillights and 'Crystal Cut' 17-inch alloy wheels.

It’s a decent looking vehicle that has an imposing presence up front, but I can’t help but feel the side and rear views are a bit on the generic side - if someone said “design an SUV that will blend into a parking lot in 2020”, it would probably look a lot like this.

Jumping inside, I was surprised by how square the upper section of the dashboard is. It’s a big rectangular slab that incorporates the instrument cluster (which is still analogue) and the central infotainment screen. And you don’t get that neverending screen effect like you do in some premium cars these days as the interfaces are surrounded by a somewhat cheaper looking shiny ‘piano black’ plastic.

That said, there was a certain something about this slabby dashboard that made me feel I was in a Jeep Wrangler, and I felt this added some character to the driving experience.

Also adding some pizzazz are the GT-Line embroidered leather seats, which have a stylish horizontal pattern as well as red stitching on the side bolsters.

The 20.3cm touchscreen infotainment system, with CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, is nicely sized and user-friendly. This feature is tandard across the Seltos line-up.

How do the spec grades differ then?

The base EX has most of the bells and whistles that you’re going to want, including the aforementioned infotainment as well as a reverse camera, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, manual air conditioning, auto lights, six airbags and ESP stability control.

The EX+ adds leather seat upholstery to the mix, along with a centre console arm rest with integrated storage box, ESC stability control and Hill-Start assist.

The GT Line, in addition to the aforementioned style enhancements, gains Drive Mode Select and push-button start.

VERDICT

The Kia Seltos is a comfortably sized vehicle that will tick most of the boxes for those seeking an SUV that’s not too big or too small. It’s also a pleasure to drive in GT Line form, albeit pricy. The best value in the range is likely to be found in the diesel models, which we hope to experience soon.

IOL Motoring

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