2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

A rousing first impression – that’s the recipe an automaker needs to lug around in an exorbitant auto industry, like India. As for Kia Motors – owned by Hyundai Motor Group – the Indian market is a rather important one, especially considering how well Hyundai is regarded in our industry. You see, entering one of the most difficult markets in the world – if not the toughest – requires pedalling through maze-like complexities. And for Kia Motors, the Seltos, as their very first product, is very important for the fate of the South Korean automaker.

Having said that, Kia Motors has sorted their way in the minds of a typical Indian consumer through brilliant marketing and not to forget their extensive line-up showcased during the 2018 Auto Expo. The Seltos will debut in the mid-size SUV segment, currently dominated by the Hyundai Creta and filled up with some serious contenders like the Tata Harrier and MG Hector. So, Kia’s mid-size SUV ought to be special to give the other automakers a run for their money. But, is it? We answer that in our extensive Kia Seltos review.

Quite dazzling, they said?

Even if you have a slight knack for cars, you must have had an encounter with one of the adverts that Kia Motors had spread across the country – brilliant marketing as I mentioned, right? Puns aside, the Seltos looks absolutely scintillating. Kia has managed to retain the styling cues of the SP2 concept, and I must add, the design is fresh and there is no uncanny resemblance to the sister Creta. At the front, the snazzy LED headlamps are flanked by the company’s signature ‘Tiger Nose’ grille. The grille itself is finished in a very premium knurled texture and contrast black plastic finish. The indicator module and the ‘Ice Cube’ shaped projector fog lamps are quite appealing as well.

Now, if you notice closely, there are red accents over the skid plates, door cladding, alloy wheels, front brake callipers and not to forget the GT Line badging on both ends. Well, Kia has sufficed the needs of every consumer by offering the Seltos in two trims – Tech Line and GT Line. While the former is focused more towards luxury, the latter adds a taste of sportiness to the Seltos. Now, in our Kia Seltos First Drive Review, we got to test both the trims with their respective engines.

It’s well-loaded too!

While the exterior is quite impressive, the interior ups the ante in every dimension. From our first impressions, we didn’t find any grouses in terms of the fit-and-finish or the quality of the cabin. First of all, I must say that the seats are quite impressive. The first thing that catches your fancy is the 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display, a 7-inch coloured MID, a blind spot camera, and a 360-degree camera. In addition, there is an electric sunroof, front ventilated seats, an 8-speaker Bose sound system and, wait for it, an 8.0-inch Heads up display. The HUD display works fantastically well, and apart from a digital speedometer, it also accommodates turn-by-turn navigation right in the viewpoint of the driver.

Now, with 16 variants on offers, further segregated by two trims, the cabin of the Seltos can be specced up by the requirements of the consumer. While the equipment is the same – well, almost – for both the trims with their respective variants, the red accents add a dash of sportiness to the Seltos’ cabin. You see, while the Tech Line is focused more towards a balance between luxury and practicality, the GT Line is all about sportiness. While both can be had with either a dual-tone or all-black interior, in our Seltos review we had the all-black GT Line trim and the dual-tone Tech Line trim. If you ask me, well, I am biased towards the nefarious zing from the GT Line trim.

Turbo Sailing!

The Seltos really has a long list of engine and transmission options. Starting off, the first and foremost is the entry-level 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol that is capable of pushing out 113bhp and 144Nm. As for the diesel, you have a 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel producing 113bhp and 250Nm of torque. But for an enthusiast, and my personal favourite is a 1.4-litre T-GDI motor that produces 138bhp and 242Nm of torque. Now, while all the engines are paired to a six-speed manual as standard, they each get a different type of automatic. The 1.5-litre gets a CVT, the diesel is paired to a 6-speed torque converter and the T-GDI motor can be paired to a 7-speed DCT. What’s more, Kia has enabled all the three engines to meet BS-VI norms right from launch.

In our time with the Seltos, we picked up the diesel (with both transmissions) and the turbo-petrol automatic. Let’s begin with the de rigueur diesel. Right from the get-go, the engine feels lively and there’s no turbo lag to speak of. That said, the power delivery is supremely linear and the engine pulls exceedingly well from any rpm. While shifting with the manual is a breeze, I find the automatic to be a tad bit lazy, and the absence of paddle shifters was sorely felt. Next up, is the turbo-petrol automatic. Like the diesel, turbo-lag is very well contained and the DCT gearbox is extremely fast with shifts. The engine rewards you with a surge of torque as soon as you start to shoot up the rev needle. As we speak of fun, Kia has beautifully tuned the suspension and handling of the Seltos. The suspension setup is a tad-bit stiff, but it only aids in the driving dynamics of the Seltos. Combine that with the direct steering, and the Seltos is easily fun to drive SUV.

Yay or nay?

There are virtually no flaws with the Seltos – barring the absence of paddle-shifters. With a combination of style, segment-first features, impeccable fit-and-finish, and excellent suspension setup, Kia Motors has managed to create an SUV that perfectly fits in the Indian market. With 16 variants on offer and four-transmissions to choose from, the Seltos will definitely cater to a larger audience. Now, if Kia can price the Seltos close to the Creta – we’ll have to wait till 22nd August for that – they have an absolute winner in their line-up. And talking about the first impression, Kia has hit managed to hit a bullseye with this one. To read our full Kia Seltos review, and to learn more about the pricing, be sure to tune in to autoX.

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