2021 Kia Seltos (U.S.) Review

In the summer of 2019, South Korean carmaker Kia announced its decision to greatly expand its operations on the Indian market. Part of the plan to get a strong foothold on what is likely to become one of the largest markets on the planet is a brand new SUV called Seltos.
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The SUV, meant for the small segment that is enjoying great success, will not only sell in India though, but globally, with its declared target being the younger generation. And globally means in the U.S. as well.

During November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, Kia unveiled the Seltos destined for the American market, a car meant to slot between the Soul and Sportage, but at the same time considered by Kia its brand new entry-level SUV, inspired by the stunning, all American Telluride.

1Exterior design & features

The new Seltos is based on a platform used for a model called Creta, or ix25, and sold pretty much everywhere, with the exception of Europe and the U.S. 

For the American market, the SUV takes some design cues from the Telluride, one of the carmaker’s most prized SUV in recent years. It comes with a long wheelbase and a tall front part that ends in a long-looking hood. 

To give the Seltos a sportier, more off-road oriented look, the American Seltos has been gifted with front and rear skid plates, as well as with black wheel arch cladding. The car sits 7.2-inches off the ground. 

The Seltos is available in the U.S. in 5 trim levels, namely LX, EX, S 2.0L, S 1.6T and SX. On the S, EX and SX there is a chrome beltline giving it a more streamlined appearance right up into the D-pillar, and there is also the option of having the roof painted in a two-tone hue.

As for wheels, the Seltos is offered with either 17- or 18-inch rims.

2Interior design, features
and passenger space

The interior of the SUV has been designed with the younger generation in mind, meaning this is the place where one will clean and driver-oriented design. The instrument panel, for instance, is asymmetrical and wide, and also somewhat angled toward the driver, and the steering wheel and shift knobs are wrapped in leather. 

The Seltos is not a big SUV, yet it comes with all the required space for both the driver and passengers to enjoy the required room for hips, shoulders, legs and heads. As per Kia, who doesn’t provide any numbers, the Seltos has “more interior volume than most rivals.”


When it first showed the Seltos in the summer of 2019, Kia said it is a car meant for the tech-savvy buyer. That means most of the technological advancements made in recent times have made it into the design, in both conventional form and as innovations. 

The instrument cluster comes in two sizes, depending on trim: 3.5-inches for the LS, S and EX, and double that for the SX. The other screen of the car, the one for infotainment, is sized 10.25-inches, and comes complete with satellite radio, UVO telematics, navigation and split-screen display.

The Seltos runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, comes with USB ports and wireless charging, and allows multiple devices to be connected via Bluetooth. 

For the first time on a car manufactured by the South Koreans, a Bose sound system with speakers and color lights is available, working about the same as the light show deployed on the Soul.


In the rest of the world, the Seltos range is powered by three engine choices, two gasoline and one diesel, but in the U.S. only the gasoline powertrains will make their way, both four-cylinder and turbocharged and offering three driving modes: Normal, Eco, Sport. 

The entry-level, as far as output goes, is the 2.0-liter that develops 146 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. Fitted on the LX, S and EX, it is linked to an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT).

Most power comes from the 1.6-liter in the S and SX. Working in conjunction with a 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), it develops 175-horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque.


The Seltos is equipped with MacPherson strut front suspension and coupled torsion beam axle (CTBA) rear suspension, allowing for both and comfortable rides including when the driver goes a bit off-road. 

The body of the SUV is made of 61 percent advanced high-strength steel, joined together including with 374 feet of structural adhesives.

The wide range of driver assistance systems, available under the Kia Drive Wise name, include blind spot, driver attention, highway driving assist, lane departure, and rear occupant alert.


On the American market the Seltos will be launched in the early months of 2020, with prices said to start at under $22,000 for the LX trim in all-wheel drive configuration. The price is not bad, but competition in this segment is fierce.

On international markets, the Seltos is pivotal for the South Korean carmaker. In the U.S. that’s probably less so, but still the model marks an important expansion of the Kia lineup. 

For the Indian market, the SUV will be manufactured locally, while for international destinations, including the U.S., production will be done at the Gwangju facility in South Korea.