Kia knows SUVs these days, and it was not too long ago that the company was once a very car centric lineup. But the times are indeed changing and Kia is in a very enviable position in the industry. From the award winning Telluride, to the funky Kia Soul, the Korean car brand is out to show the world that it can throw some very key punches in the rapidly growing SUV and CUV segments. Aiming to be a swift uppercut to the face of many competitors, is the Kia Seltos. But can the Seltos be the key piece that cements Kia’s long term SUV sales goals? We were eager to find out, and spent some quality time with the Seltos on the show floor at the Chicago Auto Show.
While the Seltos originally made its debut at the 2019 L.A. Auto Show, its trek to the Windy City was the first time that the Seltos has made its way to this part of the United States. Slotting in between the Soul and the Sportage in terms of size, the Seltos shares its platform with the Hyundai Kona, but the Seltos manages to make good use of its underpinnings to make a very unique canvas. The front fascia is very attractive, with sleek headlights and a bold grille formally punctuating its role in life very nicely, the side profile is a bit plain, but it leads out to a rear fascia that is equally bold in appearance. Wheras the Kona intentionally tries to be a mixture of futuristic cues and Hyundai traits, the Seltos instead goes in a more traditional direction while still retaining the newfound playfulness that has been defining recent Kia designs. SX trim models in particular maximize this effect, and it should help the Seltos stand out from rivals like the Ford EcoSport, Nissan Kicks, and the aging Toyota CH-R.
Kia claims that the interior of the Seltos has “Herculean” levels of interior space. While we are taking Kia’s words with a very big grain of salt in this regard, our brief time in the cabin did reveal that the Seltos does have ample room for six footers that choose to reside in the back seat especially in leg room. Front seat occupants also benefit from good amounts of room, and the Seltos also comes equipped with an impressive arsenal of standard and optional equipment including heated and cooled seats, a seven inch OLED screen for the instruments, and even a 10.25 inch infotainment system for the flagship SX model. Look for this massive suite of equipment to resonate nicely with buyers, especially those that want to have a potent mixture of technology and value for the money.
While we will have to wait for another opportunity to see how the Seltos handles the daily commute, buyers that have seen the Kona’s performance options will be very familiar with the engines lurking in the Seltos. Base models are paired with a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine that is good for 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with Kia’s Intelligent Variable transmission (aka a CVT) and is aimed at being a good entry level choice for buyers. However, for those that crave more power and smoothness, the Seltos can also be equipped with a 1.6 liter turbocharged four cylinder which is good for 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the 2.0 liter, the 1.6 liter is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic which promises to deliver a balance of efficiency and fun.
The Seltos is still currently making the rounds on the auto show circuit, but we look forward to spending some more time with the Seltos in the near future to see if it does succeed in being a distinctive compact CUV offering.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.