Square is an interesting word made hugely famous through the ‘cubist’ art of Picasso and beloved of the hippie generation to describe anyone who was not them. Now, less used both in that verbal context and in art, it nevertheless is making a slight comeback in automotive design.
After decades of look-alike wind-cheating wedge shapes for cars, the rise in popularity of the SUV has seen a move away from the drop-nose copied from sedan styling to the more practical ‘square’ contour that not only meets the ideal of providing the driver a great view of the road ahead but, also allows that person to see the corners of the vehicle.
While this styling may infringe on the quest for a perfect drag coefficient score, it more than makes up for that in lowering the number of parking lot dings!
However, to call the Kia Seltos ‘square’ is do it a disservice. Style masters have shaped and sculpted the square to take the edge off, if you get my drift. The company describes it as ‘sporty’ but that is more marketing speak than reality.
Fighting for space in the ‘B’ SUV segment, the Seltos presents a handsome façade with neat styling lines that break it free from pure square. Riding on 17-inch crystal cut alloy wheels with red brake callipers adds to its street cred.
At 4 315 mm long, 1 800 mm wide and 1 620 mm high, the Kia Seltos not only looks much bigger than its closest competitors thanks to its long hood, the strong character line on the front bumper and the sharp lines pressed into the bodywork, but is (oxymoronically) one of the largest compact SUVs available today.
The GT-Line version launched late last year with a brand new powerplant to the Kia line-up in the form of a 1,4-litre T-GDI (turbo-charged gasoline direct injection) engine. The 1 353 cc ‘Kappa’ engine develops 103 kW of power and 242 Nm of torque, available between 1 500 r/min and 3 200 r/min.
The engine is exclusively paired with a new-generation 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) which helps the sprint to 100 km/h in 9,7 seconds, with a top speed of 189 km/h. CO2 emissions in the combined cycle is 143 g/km.
It comes with three driving modes – Normal, Eco and Sport. Normal is perfectly adequate for most driving situations in, or out, of the city, while Sport does inject a sense of urgency to enhance the get-up-and-go characteristics. Eco, quite frankly, should be avoided and is rather like one of those long-winded government minister non-answers to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.
It also has 2WD Terrain Mode with three modes (‘Snow’, ‘Mud’ and ‘Sand’), each designed to tailor power and torque to ensure maximum traction on slippery or sandy roads. All modes are accessed via a single dial located above the gear shifter.
The view from the comfortable bespoke GT-Line leather upholstery with matching embroidery is commanding one and the bottom-cut steering wheel, while being nice to work with also mostly eliminates knee-bashing when getting in or out of the vehicle.
From the front, side vision and rear vision are also good (the latter aided by a rear camera) but for taller folk in the rear seats, the slight taper of the roofline can intrude on vision from the side windows.
Up front, the ‘tiger nose’ grille is flanked by elegant headlamps and bolstered by a robust shoulder line and a glasshouse that tapers towards the rear. Wheel arches feature black cladding to underline the crossover nature of the car.
The rear bumper has an integrated metallic-look skid plate, as well as a dual chrome muffler garnish (model dependent). In combination with the chrome-look tailgate garnish, which connects the taillights horizontally, the width of the Seltos is emphasised for a planted stance when viewed from the rear.
All models are equipped with LED Daytime Running Lights at the front, as well as front fog lamps across the range. On the higher specification models, both fog lamps, headlights and indicators are full LED, with similar treatments for the rear combination lamps.
Standard features include air-conditioning), automatic headlight control (including an ‘escort’ and ‘welcome home’ function), electrically adjustable side mirrors with integrated indicators, leather upholstery, steering wheel-mounted remote controls, power windows, cruise control, and an 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system that incorporates a radio with RDS, linked to six speakers.
Seltos is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone mirroring, as well as Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and has charging USB ports for front and rear passengers.
Exclusive to the Seltos GT Line is satin chrome and red trim with gloss black and satin chrome detailing on the front grille and all exterior lights are upgraded to full LED units, with 3D layered indicators at the front.
Comprising a blend of steel and aluminium, the body shell is produced with a high proportion of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS). The underbody is designed to absorb and disperse impact energy, while hot stamping technology is used to reinforce the core vehicle body members, ensuring a high torsional rigidity as well as a low body weight that not only enhances occupant safety, but also reduces road vibrations.
Seltos makes use of a McPherson strut at the front, with a torsion beam setup at the rear and is set up to iron out most of the road ripples, riding possibly slightly more comfortably than its cousin the Hyundai Creta whose underpinnings are used for the Seltos.
It is equipped with six crash bags as standard: one for the driver, one for the front passenger, two side bags for the driver and front passenger, as well as two side curtain bags that stretch across the length of the cabin.
ISOFIX child seat anchors, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), as well as rear park distance control sensors and a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, integrated into the vehicle’s touchscreen infotainment system are standard as are Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Hill-start Assist Control (HAC).
The auto tailgate opens wide and its cargo area is large enough for shopping, sporting, touring or Mom’s Taxi requirements.
On the road, the Seltos feels comfortable and poised with the right amount of feedback through the steering to make corner choices accurate and predictable. It is not intended to be muscled around the bends and responds with expected ‘push’ but nothing latently nasty.
Reasonable dirt roads are also comfortably taken so when the lockdown ends, a good choice for a getaway off the beaten track.
In many ways, the Seltos is the forerunner of a raft of updated and aesthetically altered Kia product due for launch later this year.