Kia Seltos Review – 1.4 petrol, 1.5 diesel engine test drive

Kia’s first offering in the Indian market, Seltos looks youthful, trendy and brimming with energy. Its smooth, proportionately designed curves and unique character lines are a treat for the eyes and a sure shot head turner on the streets.

Some of the key exterior features include LED headlamps with DRLs, sleek front grille, ice-cube LED fog lamps, electric sunroof, electrically adjustable ORVMs with integrated turn signals, front and rear skid plates, body cladding in contrasting shade, blacked out A, B and C pillars, sporty crystal cut alloy wheels, shark fin antenna, roof rails, and edgy LED tail lamps.

Talking about the interiors, Seltos offers premium styling with dual-tone colour scheme, leather seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and gearbox, contrasting red stitching, soft-touch materials, and chrome accents. Interiors are spacious, comfortable and designed to make you feel at home. There are plenty of utility spaces to keep your stuff.

Key interior features include 7-inch instrument cluster colour display, smart 8-inch head-up display, 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, Bose 8-speaker sound system, ventilated seats, rear AC vents, in-cabin air purifier, telescopic steering wheel, wireless charging, LED sound mood lights, and power-adjustable driver seat. We already have shared about the exteriors and interiors of Kia Seltos in detail, in our earlier post. In this post, we will focus on talking about the drive experience, engine performance, car quality, touch and feel, etc.

Space and Built quality – On the outside as well as inside, the built quality of the Seltos is simply top notch. There are some places where the quality could have been better, like the buttons for power windows. But the overall feel the Seltos delivers, is that of a premium product. The production quality is brilliant. Seats are extremely comfortable, be it in the front or at the rear. The under-thigh support offered by rear seats, is really good, making sure you are comfortable even during long drives.

The AC worked perfectly, and coupled with the purifier system, the cabin felt fresh every time you entered the car. If you like to listen to music while in the car, Seltos scores high in this department as well. The quality of music offered by the premium 8 speaker Bose audio system is simply amazing for a car in this segment.

Engines Performance – KIA has launched Seltos in 3 engine and 3 powertrain options – A new 1.4 Turbocharged GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) making 138bhp and 242Nm, a 1.5 naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine good for a healthy 113bhp and rather modest 144Nm, and lastly, a 1.5 Diesel with VGT producing 113bhp and 250Nm. Gearbox options include a IVT (Intelligent Variable Transmission), a 7 Speed Dual Clutch Transmission and a 6 Speed Manual `box.

IVT transmission laden spec and the 1.5 Naturally aspirated petrol powered versions were not available for test. We started with the 1.4GDI equipped GT Line Seltos mated to a 6 speed Manual. This unit grabs your attention right from the get go, thanks to its superb refinement levels. Operating at injection pressures up to 200 bar (2900 psi) helps its impressive power and torque figures. It employs a single-scroll turbocharger with an electric wastegate actuator to improve low-end torque, and also part-load fuel economy.

The light action clutch and smooth slotting 6 speed manual transmission are as flawless and enjoyable to use as they can get. This unit loves to be revved, and rewards you with a delightful sporty thrum if you feed it with a healthy dose of revs. Driving in and around Goan collector, roads, this unit displayed its brilliant drivability across its rev range. We noticed this motor exhibits low levels of engine braking and excellent tractability. Even while whipping up the revs to redline in 2nd, Seltos wouldn’t nose dive under engine braking upon lift off – such is the brilliant nature of this engine.

A long throw of the gears, and the long travel clutch will instantly remind you of a Hyundai if you have driven one, and we accept the trade-off in favour of light action over heavier effort inducing short travel. On the vehicle we drove, the engine bogged down at tickover idling speeds at times, so, it will need a bit of prod on the throttle or it can catch you napping if you hastily release the clutch.

The 7 Speed DCT equipped GDI unit is an absolute livewire of all variants, and delivers doses of fun in spades. This dual clutch transmission swaps cogs in a blink of an eye, and has AI levels of intuition. What makes the deal sweeter is the drive and traction options that DCT variant presents. Seltos comes with Normal, Eco and the Sport Transmission modes, and Mud, Snow/Wet, and Sand traction modes. Even with a DCT, Seltos skimps on paddle shifts.

KIA claims transmission modes do alter steering characteristics as well. Sport mode feels overtly aggressive, downshifting to the lowest possible cog relative to vehicle speed. KIA claims the DCT will yield 16.5kmpl. One can extract 16.1kmpl in the Manual Transmission pairing. The 1.5 diesel performs and feels more like a downsized Hyundai 1.6 CRDi unit. For a diesel, it’s a pretty refined unit and thanks to ample sound dampening, Seltos barely has much engine noise. Knowing its roots, we aren’t even surprised by the driveability this unit offers. Coupled with taller gearing, it’s the best mile muncher out on highways.

There is simply no hiding the 250Nm of torque. Seltos pulls clean and eagerly in each gear. Surprisingly, the motor revs beyond its 4500 redline and inches closer to 5000rpm albeit sounding a bit strained and grainy. Mated to a 6 speed Manual transmission, this pair works like a charm, and offers the best of both worlds in terms of frugality as well as driving pleasure. We haven’t done comprehensive long run tests but expect this unit to return fuel efficiency in the region of 20kmpl.

The 6 speed Automatic transmission is our least favourite of all the transmission-powertrain combinations we drove (IVT which was not available). In itself this AT is pretty fuss free and benefit of doubt to us for driving this one after driving the previously described sprightly variants. All said, Seltos could feel a tad lethargic and the gearbox seems pretty out of sync with the throttle inputs or gradient /speed demands.

However, it gets saved thanks to plenty of torque from the 1.5 oil burner, without which this combination would have been pretty dull to drive. Expect this pairing to deliver 18kmpl as per KIA. The 1.5 SmartStream naturally aspirated petrol engine is said to return 16.8kmpl with manual transmission, and 16.5kmpl with IVT.

Driving dynamics and handling: During product briefing, KIA mentioned that the Seltos prototypes were made available for drives to take feedback on the variants. KIA has maintained that Seltos has been extensively tested and tuned to offer a balance of both worlds – comfort and performance.

As soon as we got behind the wheel of the 1.4GDI with the 6 speed MT, we were impressed. At times, you don’t need to necessarily spend hours or miles behind the wheel to understand its behaviour. A well-developed product with innate qualities always shines through – Seltos is just that!

It scores big on many fronts. Starting from seating position to steering wheel-gear lever-pedal box interplay, it’s all spot on. The flat bottom D cut steering wheel is a delight to hold and complements drive experience. With the manual transmission variant, we were impressed with progressive rack, and the feedback engineered into it. Expecting an E-PAS (Electronically Power Assisted Steering) unit to be communicative is cruel, and the unit does very well to avoid the dead centre feeling, and weighs up fairly well as speeds build up.

Yes, the long travel clutch, and long throw gears could have been shorter to amplify the fun, but they are not deal breakers in anyway. Maybe we’re just nit-picking here. Suspension setup on Seltos endows it with matured mannerisms – it’s on the firmer side of compliant. Thanks to a lighter power train and well tuned setup, Seltos is best served in petrol – manual combinations.

Switching over to the diesel powered variant, the balance feels a bit skewed. Allow us to elaborate. Perhaps to compensate for the heavier load on the front axles, possibly the front suspension and damping has been tweaked, leaving the rear untouched?

The diesel has a less lively, more compliant frontend feel, and steering obviously feels tad weighty. As a passenger seated at the back, Seltos feels more firmly sprung here than it does in its gasoline powered avatar. Even though we could not test the Seltos on extended highway runs, we are pretty sure that it will exhibit composed mannerisms at high speeds as well.

While NVH levels are impressively controlled at the front, while seated at the back you do get fair amount of road noise filtering into the cabin. Seltos as a package is a rewarding car behind the wheel, and a pleasure as a passenger. Ride quality, interiors space and well-designed seats add to the appeal of the overall package.

Verdict – Kia Seltos as a car, delivers on every aspect. From built quality to safety, from features to performance. Attractive in design and comfortable on the inside, there is nothing really wrong with the the Kia Seltos. We now wait for the price, and from what we hear, they are going to price Seltos really aggressively. We are hoping for the price to be in the Rs 10-15 lakh range, ex-sh. And if that does happen, there will be many rival cars who will need to rethink their pricing strategy.

Kia Seltos Tech Line

Kia Seltos GT Line

Kia Seltos Colours

Disclaimer – For Kia Seltos review, Kia India invited and hosted us. And they paid for our travel, stay, and food.