IN THE DRIVEWAY: The 2021 Kia Seltos

When it comes to SUV’s Kia is staying on top of things. The Soul continues to be a strong seller and their new mid-size Telluride sure looks promising. And let’s not forget that Kia also has the Niro and the Sportage. But the South Korean automaker isn’t stopping there. For 2021, they are adding yet another small SUV to the lineup, the Kia Seltos.

Slotted between the Soul and Sportage, the Kia Seltos shares the same platform as the Hyundai Kona, but whereas the Kona is lower and wider, the Seltos is more upright and taller – giving it an exciting yet elegant look. Overall, the Seltos offers exciting exterior styling, a roomy cabin and a choice of engines makes me think that Kia has yet another winner on their hands.

Like the Kona, the Kia offers the Seltos with two different powertrains – the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque hooked up to CVT automatic and available as an option – a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (175 hp, 195 lb-ft) that’s mated to a seven-speed automated dual-clutch transmission. The Seltos is front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional. All-wheel drive Seltos get an added benefit of having an independent rear suspension versus the torsion beam that front-wheel drive models get.

Kia will be offering the Seltos in four trim levels: LX, S, EX and SX. For the most part you can mix and match powertrains and trim levels, with a few exceptions. An example of this is the top-of-the-line SX, which only comes with the turbocharged engine. This is what Kia has me in this week.

Room in the Seltos is good for a vehicle of its size. Front seats are supportive, comfortable and roomy. Backseat passengers will also be comfortable thanks to seat backs that recline and just the right amount of head and leg room. When it comes to cargo, there is an impressive 26.6 cubic feet of room behind the rear seats, which expands to 62.8 cubic feet if the rear backseats are folded down. This tops the Kona and even beats out the Jeep Renegade, one of the Seltos’s main competitors.

The rest of the interior is typical Kia – nothing looks cheap, and overall it looks more expensive than what it’s price tag would lead you to believe. Gadget freaks will like the 10.3-inch screen on the SX model (others get an 8.0 inch screen), CarPlay, Android Auto and two USB ports.

When it comes to small SUVs, I usually don’t expect much in the way of driving dynamics. But the Seltos is surprising. The steering and suspension in my SX Turbo AWD is nicely setup to deliver responsive feedback and balance, making the Seltos fun to drive. Mazda SUV’s quickly came to mind as I drove the little Kia into corners.

Along with the excellent road manners the Seltos delivers, the engine, at least the 1.6-liter turbo plays it’s part nicely. There is plenty of punch, and three modes let’s you dial in your preference. My suggestion: keep it in Sport mode.

Pricing for the Seltos starts at just under the $22,000 mark, while my fully decked out SX Turbo AWD has an MSRP of $29,485.

It seems as if the small crossover market is growing by the day, giving buyers many vehicles to choose from. The Seltos is yet another one of those choices – and it’s looking to be a good one at that.

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