While there are several new brands and cars coming to India, the latest car joining the mid-SUV segment is the Kia Seltos, a new car from a new brand in India and probably the most important one to launch this year too. Reason being, Kia Seltos garnered more than 6,000 bookings in just 24 hours of announcing the pre-bookings, bringing a ray of hope for the Indian automotive industry, which is going through the worst slump in years. So what makes this car so attractive to the buyers and how good it is to drive, we tried to answer all these questions during our first-drive review of the Kia Seltos in Goa.
With every new product launch in the SUV space, the design gets better and premium. Gone are the days when SUVs were meant to look muscular. Cars like the Kia Seltos perfectly balances the muscle with proportionate and eye catching design. The Seltos is available in two trims, Tech line and Sports line and there are few visual changes between the two, with GT being the sporty one having red accents throughout the body.
Upfront is a radically different looking face with the signature Tiger Nose grille, LED headlights which Kia has named Crown Jewel and LED DRLs called the Heartbeat DRLs. The vertically stacked fog lamps are called Ice Cube led lamps. At the side are the large wheel arches, roof rails, floating roof, and dynamic body lines, giving Seltos the visibility.
There are 17-inch alloys, with different design in both the trims. However, it's the Y-shaped crystal cut alloys on the GT line that looks brilliant. At the back are the extended tail lamps connected via a chrome plate that gives it a wider look, along with the skid plate. Since it competes in the mid SUV space, comparison with Hyundai Creta is inevitable. Dimensions wise, the Seltos is both longer and wider than the Creta.
Cabin and Features
Move inside the cabin and you will be taken aback by the design and layout. There are a variety of trim options right from an all-black theme to dual tone and more. The overall layout remains the same with a cockpit inspired design. The highlight, of course, is the large horizontally placed 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system that's intuitive to operate. The system adjoins the instrument cluster having a 7-inch digital display and looks modern.
In terms of features, the Seltos is loaded to the brim with many features some of which are segment-first and also India-first. The features include a 8-inch heads up display, Bose speakers with ambient lighting, air purifier, inbuilt perfume diffuser, inbuilt rear sunshade, 8-way adjustable seats, tyre pressure monitoring system to name a few.
The Kia Seltos is the 3rd car in India after Hyundai Venue and MG Hector to get a connected tech called UVO meaning your voice and has 37 features. The UVO app can be used to control functions like remote engine start/ stop, door lock/ unlock, voice based commands and remote vehicle status among others. Kia has partnered with Vodafone to provide Connectivity solutions along with many other tech companies like MapMyIndia and LG.
Practicality wise, the Kia Seltos has ample space both at the back and front, easily accommodating 5-full grown adults. There are also enough spaces to keep your stuff and the door pockets are huge. The boot is very deep and wide with 433-litres of space.
What's missing in the Seltos is a panoramic sunroof, which the competition is offering, and a powered tail gate. The plastic quality, especially on the roof mounted buttons is also questionable. All in all, the Kia Seltos has the best cabin design and features list, not only in its segment, but at least a couple of segments above.
Engine and Performance
Not only is the Seltos feature rich, it's also mechanically rich. Kia has added a variety of engine and gearbox options in the Seltos to cater a wide audience and growing demand of the buyers. To be precise, there are 3 engine options and four gearbox options combined to form 16 variant options. The one we drove during our first drive review was the 1.5-litre diesel engine with automatic gearbox.
Before talking about the driving experience, here's a brief idea about the engine options. There's a 1.5-litre petrol engine developing 115 PS and 144 Nm output mated to a either a 6-speed manual or a CVT gearbox. There's the 1.5-litre diesel with 115 PS and 250 Nm output mated to a 6-speed manual and 6- speed automatic unit, the one which got to drive. And lastly, the talk of the town 1.4-litre turbo petrol producing 140 PS and 242 Nm and is mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT. All the engines are BS-VI ready.
There are 3 drive modes - Normal, Eco and Sport and three traction modes - Mud, Snow and Sand to choose from, however there's no physical knob to easily opt between these modes. There's no all-wheel drive system either. Talking about the drive experience, the diesel engine had a minimal turbo lag with a linear delivery and a very good low end torque. The auto gearbox responded well with the engine and it was not difficult doing three digit speeds even on narrow Goan roads.
The flat bottom steering not only felt good to hold but also had a balanced feedback for city and highway driving. It was not difficult to take sharp turns, though it felt a bit heavier at times. The ride quality was fabulous and it felt like Kia had worked hard to tune suspension as per the Indian roads. We took the car through water clogged roads, broken patches and highway and the Seltos did not disappoint us.
The NVH levels were refined and no diesel clutter or instant acceleration noise seeped inside the cabin. The braking was confident too, and heavy rains didn’t affect the braking force much. In terms of mileage, Kia claims 16+ kilometers to a litre for both the petrol engines and 21 kmpl for the diesel engine with manual gearbox.
Safety wise, apart from the active safety systems like 6-airbags, ABS with EBD, Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist, there are also connectivity based safety features like the emergency assistance in case of an accident, Geofencing, stolen vehicle notification and immobilization. There's also a first-in-segment 360 degree camera with a blind view monitor.
Overall, the Kia Seltos offers a very plush and balanced driving dynamics. Kia Seltos will compete against cars like Hyundai Creta, MG Hector and Tata Harrier in India and is expected to be priced starting at Rs 9 Lakh and going upto Rs 18 Lakh for the top spec GT model.
Kia Motors played a huge gamble by building a car from scratch and launching it in a segment dominated by the likes of Hyundai Creta and even cars like Tata Harrier and MG Hector recently. But it seems like the gamble has paid off. Not only is the Kia Seltos most feature packed car in the segment, it’s fun-to-drive and looks very good too. Being a newcomer, Kia will also play the price card quite aggressively. With over 20,000 bookings and 200 odd touchpoints, Kia Motors has come to India not only to survive, but to rule the market. Let’s hope we see more Tiger Nose grilles roaming on our roads, making India more synonymous to other South Asian countries.