KIA SELTOS DRIVEN
Creta, Harrier & Hector should be very worried
WE'VE BEEN WAITING AGES FOR the Kia Seltos so I'll break with the norm and go straight to the verdict — the Seltos is excellent! If you've held back on buying your next car in anticipation of the Kia you've done A Very Smart Thing. Of course we don't know the pricing as of going to print but Kia are unlikely to make a wrong turn especially considering the dark clouds hovering over the industry right now. And in any case it isn't like the Seltos has no competition.
Bottom line though, after driving the Seltos in monsoon-drenched Goa, is that Kia are on the money. And it all starts with the fantastic styling. In the metal, even in dreary weather under pregnant clouds, the Seltos is stunning with the right blend of style and bling. Of course the LED lighting elements in the nose, especially the slim strips that carry on into the top of the tiger nose grille can be a bit fussy, but overall it works very well.
The GT Line
The GTX trim is characterised by the (faux) skid plate under the bumpers, different design for the 17-inch alloys and liberal application of red striping. This is the sporty variant of the line-up and the 1.4 turbo-petrol motor can only be had in this trim line so it has the go to match the show. One step above is the GTX+ though for now Kia isn't offering that with the DCT automatic. There's enough of a clamour for it for Kia to launch it sooner rather than later and the reason to wait is the 8-speaker 400W Bose sound system, 360-degree camera with front parking sensors, blind spot camera in the instrument binnacle and the sun roof.
The dual tone is an option on both variants and the black roof with the black roof rails contrasts very well on our white test car. The overall proportions are spot-on, particularly the wheel arch gaps that are filled out nicely by the 17-inch rubber on the top-spec variants. The Seltos will only be offered with frontwheel drive but it does have a nice and beefy SUV vibe to its styling including black plastic cladding on the wheel arches. This extends into the rear bumper, lending visual relief and drawing the eye to the distinctive LED graphic of the taillamp and the bold Kia badge standing proud on the chrome strip across the tail gate. What I don't like though are the twin, and fake, exhaust tips.
The Tech Line gets lighter interior trim while the GT Line has all-black interiors. Cabin quality is so good it brings to mind European cars, down to the way the doors shut, the indicators click-clack, and the overall fit-finish. The GTX gets a meaty flat-bottom steering wheel and red contrast trimming to contrast with the black.
You don't get digital dials on the Seltos and I think that's a good thing — I'd much rather have nice analogue dials over the fussy digital stuff that is hard to read. Between the dials though you get a large 7-inch screen for the trip computer and flanking it are shift lights and the gear indicator. And from the top of the dash a screen slides for the Head Up Display, just like in the Mini Cooper.
The 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen
dominates the dash and the important stuff is organised in neat and easily accessible tiles, all of which respond very well to touch inputs. A neat addition is the in-built air purifier that cleans out the air in the cabin and even has an Air Quality Index (AQI) readout. Via the infotainment you can increase the speed of the air purifier's fan and even perfume the cabin. Audiophiles will be (pleasantly) surprised that even the standard Arkamys sound system sounds good and includes mood lighting around the speakers that pulses to the beats of the music; there's even a party mode for even more of the pulsing.
The Seltos gets 37 smart features via Kia's UVO app, similar to Hyundai's Blue Link that debuted on the Venue, and includes a Vodafone e-SIM that connects with the call centre for road side assistance and even stuff like pushing maps to the car. The UVO app allows you to start the car remotely (only the automatics), set the temperature, geo-fence it, locate and immobilise the car if stolen and even start the air purifier to clean up the air inside the Seltos.
Now for the back seat and if being chauffeur driven is your topmost priority I wouldn't suggest you cancel the Hector booking. It's not like the Kia Seltos is cramped, there is adequate space for four and five can squeeze in, but it's nowhere like the Hector's abundant space. Neither does the Kia's 433-litre boot match the Hector's 587 litres. The different seat profile and 45mm added to the length means Kia claim there is slightly more space than the segment leader but in reality there is only a wee bit more space than the Creta.
How different is the Seltos to the Creta? Kia and Hyundai are sister brands under the Hyundai Motor Group and much like Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi et al share common VW Group underpinnings so too does the Seltos share the Creta's platform. The big difference though is five years of development. The Creta came in 2015, set a new benchmark, and fully deserves its 10,000 units a month sales figures. Now Kia's engineers have taken the same basic underpinnings and added 20mm to the wheelbase, BS VI engines, and a European level of dynamic sophistication.
Since we're all familiar with the Creta, I'll use
Kia’s engineers have taken the same basic underpinnings and added 20mm to the wheelbase, BS VI engines, and a European level of dynamic sophistication
that as the base line. The ride quality of the Creta makes it a comfortable car for the city but on the highway it feels a touch too soft and the body doesn't stay flat over bumpy roads. The Seltos sorts that out. There's a touch of firmness to the low speed ride but it still manages to iron out bumps and potholes with more polish than the Creta. Go over a speed breaker and the front suspension feels stronger, there's less sogginess and the stronger rebound means there's no secondary movement. Build speed and the Seltos takes on bad roads with even better polish, there are no suspension thuds and clunks entering the cabin, and on the short bursts of speed we got on the highway, the Seltos felt very confidence inspiring despite the wet and slippery roads.
We didn't get too many corners that we could attack at speed. The roads in Goa are narrow and to add to that the rainfall was as plenty as it was incessant, but the few opportunities we got revealed good control over body roll and equally good grip levels. Must add the Goodyear Assurance tyres, 215/60 R17 on the GTX, do perform well in the wet. The steering isn't lifeless either, on the contrary it has some feedback and inspires confidence too. In Sport mode it gets a little too heavy for low speed manoeuvring but that weight adds to the stability on the highway.
Sport mode? The DCT transmissionequipped Kia Seltos gets a drive mode selector with Eco, Normal and Sport modes, of which Normal feels the best compromise. In Sport
Finally we have a logical upgrade on price and performance over the Polo GT TSI
the gearbox holds on to gears for far too long making the Seltos too jumpy. In addition, there's a terrain mode selector that alters the engine and ESP mapping between Snow, Mud and Sand modes. This is a trick similar to what the Tata Harrier employs and in the absence of all-wheel drive the utility is really quite limited.
The upgrade Polo GT TSI drivers have been looking for?
0-100kmph in 9.7 seconds, that's the headline figure of the 1.4 GDI turbo-petrol engine when mated to the 7-speed twin-clutch DCT transmission. Finally we have a logical upgrade, both on price as well as performance, over the Polo GT TSI — at least until VW brings in their own turbo-petrol-equipped mid-size SUV in a year.
The motor makes 138bhp of power and 242Nm of torque which feels plenty quick, especially on our test route that afforded very little opportunity to put pedal to metal. To go with that power it also gets disc brakes all round and ESP as standard. And to answer all your questions thrown up on social media, yes, the 1.4 TGDi Seltos is fast, sporty and fun to drive. What I'd have liked though is a bit more of the turbocharged character, like you get in the VW Group TSI engines: a stronger kick when it gets on boost, some more whistling from the turbo and dumping from the wastegate, and a little more aggression. This is a very refined motor, with very little turbo lag, but it is possibly a bit too refined for what is billed as a sporty variant. And I'd really have liked paddle shifters for the automatic.
For those worried about fuel efficiency, the DCT delivers a claimed 16.5kmpl and with the manual it drops down to 16.1kmpl. On our drive, we didn't see double-digit figures, but then again, we weren't driving it in a relaxed manner either.
The TGDi + DCT is, in my opinion, the combination to have if you're of an enthusiast bent. But it won't be the best seller. That, even today, will be the 1.5 diesel with 113.4bhp of power, 250Nm of torque and a claimed 0-100kmph time of 11.5 seconds. The 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol on the Tech Line develops 113.4bhp of power and 144Nm of torque and is over two seconds slower to get to 100kmph compared to the 1.4 turbo, taking 11.8 seconds. The diesel gets the option of a 6-speed auto while the 1.5 petrol gets a CVT option. And all engines are BS-6 compliant right from launch. Good thing you waited!
The Indian automotive industry is struggling, big time, and the drop in sales is severe enough to be now labelled a recession. And to recover from this slump is going to take the rest of the year. If there's a silver lining, it is that most experts believe we've hit the bottom and it will now stabilise at this level before inching back upwards. And, for Kia, the good news is that even in these depressed times, buyer interest is still there for new cars. Witness the strong interest in the Hector that has led MG to stop bookings, or the Venue that has raced away to the top of the compact SUV charts and will take up the slack left behind by a drop in Creta volumes — which is bound to happen. While growing the mid-SUV segment, the Kia Seltos will also eat into the volumes of current players and, of the lot, the Creta will get hit the hardest. And that's because the Seltos has everything we've loved about the Creta, only a bit more. More in terms of style, performance, engine and transmission options, features, dynamics, quality and most importantly, driving pleasure. Priced right, the Seltos will definitely have been worth the wait. ⌧
Right: GT Line gets all-black cabin with flat-bottom steering wheel and red stitching; fit-finish and quality is top notch. Above: DCT only available on the GT Line
Above left: 10.25-inch touchscreen has in-built maps and the UVO connectivity app. Left: Drive mode selector toggles between Eco, Normal and Sport while Terrain mode toggles between Snow, Mud and Sand