Almost every automaker likes to imply levels of strength and muscularity in their product, especially models in the crossover segment of the market but, Kia went out and named one after the son of Greek mythology’s ‘superman’ Hercules – namely the Seltos (derived from Celtos).
In many ways an apt name for a car that looked good from the first ‘sneaked’ sketches of the Byung Chul-juh design to the final product that currently stands high, wide and handsome in my driveway.
There is an interesting interplay between the two Korean automaking giants Kia and Hyundai. The latter owns the former and the permanent reminder of its place in life is the twin-towers head office in Seoul, where the Kia block is a couple of stories shorter than Hyundai.
When Kia snatched up former Audi designer, Peter Schreyer, it was not long before he was absorbed by the parent company to be Group Chief Designer and, following him, the former designer of the Lamborghini Murcielago, Luc Donkerwolcke, took over to shape the things to come (Genesis among them).
He has now left with no named replacement so it appears the two companies might go back to a situation where each has its own design team.
However, there is obviously huge co-operation between the two in terms of parts, platforms and the like – the Seltos most akin to the Hyundai Venue in looks, but more directly a competitor of the Hyundai Creta.
Both share an identical 1,6-litre engine with the Kia just edging out the Creta in terms of fuel consumption (manufacturer stated) and size.
The Kia Seltos is 4 315 mm long, 1 800 mm wide and 1 620 mm high and has a load capacity of 433 litres (compared to 402 for the Creta). This larger overall size plays out nicely in terms of providing it with decent rear seat legroom without compromise to the luggage compartment.
From the front, its wide ‘tiger nose’ grille – featuring a new interpretation of Kia’s signature design feature – is flanked by striking headlamps and bolstered by a shoulder line and a glasshouse that tapers towards the rear, giving the vehicle an air of elegance.
The rear bumper features a three-dimensional surface treatment with an integrated metallic-look skid plate, as well as a dual chrome muffler garnish. In combination with the chrome-look tailgate garnish, which connects the taillights horizontally, the width of the Seltos is emphasised.
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.
Power is courtesy of a 1,6-litre Multi-point Injection (MPI) engine. The 1 591 cc ‘Gamma’ engine develops 90 kW of power and 151 Nm of torque. Acceleration to 100 km/h takes 11,2 seconds, with a top speed of 175 km/h.
The EX+ on test is available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission and it rides on 215/60R17 tyres (with a full-sized spare wheel).
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.
The EX+ gains an auto-folding function for the side mirrors and a centre console armrest with an integrated storage box.
The car looks good from the patterned leather seating to the layout and placement of the dashboard where even the plastics have a little extra shine and elegance to them. The driving position options offer good all-round vision and the light steering makes the parking lot Polka as easy as a lie slips from a politician’s lips.
It makes use of a McPherson strut at the front, with a torsion beam setup at the rear. This works well for its positioning as a crossover and the combination irons out much of the ripple in our deteriorating roads. On the dirt, it achieves similar levels of comfort, while keeping the wheels firmly in place to obviate any back or front end ‘kick’ while travelling briskly.
Highway cruising produced a fuel consumption of 7,4 l/100 km with our overall average on the 7,9 l/100 mark – this bringing me to the ‘but’ in the review.
The automatic gearbox was disappointing. Maintaining throttle pressure approaching even a fairly mild incline resulted in a long dither (and loss of momentum) before the gearbox decided to make a change, then often dropping two or three cogs to compensate. This was dreadful on cruise control with the engine trying to rev itself into oblivion as the Seltos struggled to maintain the set speed (120 km/h).
Even kicking over to Sport mode did not produce the same levels of energy some rivals offer and I believe a rethink on the actual choice of ratios (for this market) is needed. In urban motoring, this is far less noticeable and the Seltos has enough grunt to satisfy most needs.
Comprising a blend of steel and aluminium, the body shell is produced with a high proportion of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) and it comes with six crash bags as standard, ISOFIX child seat anchors, anti-lock brakes, and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) as well as rear park distance control sensors and a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, integrated into the vehicle’s touchscreen infotainment system. Central locking and an immobiliser are also standard across the range.
As with all Kia models, all Kia Seltos models ship as standard with Kia’s Unlimited Kilometre, 5-year warranty (inclusive of roadside assistance), and also include a 5-year/90 000 km Service Plan.