KIA SEL­TOS DRIVEN

Creta, Harrier & Hec­tor should be very wor­ried

Evo India - - FRONT PAGE - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Ro­hit G Mane

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

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