Kia Seltos: The perfect car, almost

GOA – A place that’s synonym with pristine beaches, the most happening parties and a magical monsoon. Hey, but what was Shutterdrives doing here? Shutterdrives was invited to experience the Badass, experience something the Country was in much need of, something that would re-write the future of compact SUV’s here. Something so good that I wouldn’t shy away from calling it the ‘perfect’ car, almost. The KIA Seltos. Some cars are compared to others, some set a benchmark for others. The Seltos belongs to the second breed. 

I haven’t done my Masters in Business Administration, but I do know that the 3 key important factors for a product to be successful are right product, right place and right time. First factor, check. Second factor, check. But, was this the right time to invest billions of $? The automotive industry in India is sinking at a two-decade low pace. If you do, you can’t afford to make any slightest of the mistake. Well, KIA luckily hasn’t made any. 

The Kia Seltos retails at a price of 9.69 lakhs (ex-India). 

Pros + 

+ Striking design! The best car south of 30 lakhs. Makes 10x more sense to pick this over the D segment sedans like the Octavia. 
+ Feature loaded to the brim. Has everything you can think of. Will list them later. For starters, it has an air purifier too. damn. 
+ “Negligible” turbo-lag in the 1.4 petrol DCT (automatic) . Gears shift better than the Volvo XC 40 costing twice as much
+  This car screams premiumness everywhere. Build quality is superb. Panel gaps are minimum. The interiors are on par with the entry-level German cars like the Audi A4 and the Merc GLA 
+  Its extremely difficult to get the right balance of ride and handling. The Seltos comes closest to being perfect in that department
+  16 variant options, 15 colour options including the dual tones. Which means, there is a variant tailored for every person walking into the showroom

Cons – 

– One look at it after looking at the MG Hector and you know the car isn’t ‘biggg’ 
– Although there is a dedicated sports mode, it doesn’t do justice to the car. The car simply revs or rather screams more than what’s required. The steering gets additional weight in the sports mode but its not very precise
– Looks like someone in the product strategy department messed up things. The best engine variant that’s 1.4 petrol DCT doesn’t come in the top end variant. I don’t know why! 
– The UVO app that seems to be one of the USP of the car is niggle prone. For instance, it took 3 attempts to start the car. This can also be attributed to the bad weather during the media drive. Will use this app again at the showroom before I publish the full review. 
– No All wheel drive option even in the near future. Sorry off-roaders

Before we get into the details, let’s resolve the North Korea – South Korea conflict. How different is the Seltos from Creta? at-least on paper:

In terms of size it is very similar to the Hyundai, just 45mm longer than its sibling, and 20mm wider. Since the 45mm increased length also comes from a 20mm increase in wheelbase, it would be safe to say that the Seltos has more space inside.

Exterior 

Kia has done a fantastic job to keep the production car’s design so similar to the prototype that was unveiled at the Auto Expo. It’s the front that gains the most attention, thanks to the width. Then there’s the tiger nose grille as Kia calls it which gives it a very aggressive look. One look at the Seltos and you know its designed so well, with all the available patience. The design is striking and minimalistic at the same time, nothing seems overdone like the recent cars that we have seen. Looks super crisp, the jewel-headlamps are great and they are placed well too, where they belong, not in the bumper, if you know what I mean. I loved those super classy indicators. Attention to detail is something we have always admired from the Koreans but failed to implement in the Indian cars. This car would be my favourite, only if it was slightly bigger. It suffers from the same problem that the Nissan Kicks suffers. Although they both love to call themselves as SUV’s, they actually fail to fit perfectly in that bracket. I won’t have any problem in calling them as compact SUV’s because that’s where they belong. 

The side profile is muscular and well proportioned, retains the floating-roof concept that is gaining popularity in cars these days and is muscular due to the extra cladding on the sides giving it the SUV stance. On the sides it’s the 17-inch alloys that stand out, especially the crystal cut alloys with the red caliper on the GT line variant. What a brilliant design, the best alloys India has ever seen. Period. Moving to the rear, I was simply fascinated by how well a car can be designed. i was drooling over the tail lamps, then I fell for the elegant chrome strip running between the tail lamps and before I could take my eyes away, that lovey chromed-tip exhaust caught my attention. Before I missed it, the spoiler screamed for attention too. 100 marks to the design department. 

Trust me, these are the best set of alloys I have seen on any Indian car: 

LED fog lamps: 

Roof Rails: 

Shark-fin Antenna:

Brilliant attention-to-detail again. I could never imagine indicators could be so admiring: 

Interior

When you buy a car with your hard earned money, you spend most of your time inside, not outside. That makes it very very important for the car to have a feel good factor when you step in. The Seltos screams premium-ness everywhere. It has got one of the best interiors a car in this segment can have. By best, I don’t mean fancy interiors of a Mercedes or Lord of the rings, its the ROI you get for your buck, the superb quality. Step inside Kia Seltos and you are greeted with a fresh and bold interior. Kia has tried to put its heart inside the cabin of Seltos. With all black or beige interiors, the cabin of Seltos looks upmarket and uniform. The sporty theme along everywhere in the inside. Kia wanted to follow three important parameters for the interiors namely, elegant, premium and hi-tech. And they have pretty much got it spot-on. The all-black theme with silver inserts look great with the 10.3-inch HD touchscreen infotainment system. The only issue I had with the interiors was this large screen was popping out like an alien out of nowhere. Somehow, this did not gel that well. Remember the Merc GLA/GLC? 

The steering felt super premium, the perforated leather wrap on the steering wheel ensures your hands dont sweat while driving. Details, you see. Moving on the instrument cluster, the simplistic and crisp design adds to the overall elegance of the car. I want to meet the person who designed the Tachometer of MG Hector. Luckily, things are not so complicated in the Seltos. You also get the digital + Analog combo here. The AC vents have a lovely chrome tip finish. To go beyond what is normal, Kia Seltos comes with 8 speaker audio system of Bose, fitted with mood lighting that will certainly up the game in the segment. But what’s beyond normal? The Bose team actually customised the stereo surround exclusively for the Seltos with an additional 5th speaker placed at the centre for a theatre-like experience. Boy! The music system is ‘phenomenal’.

We love flat-bottoms:

Designs don’t really have to be complicated to be good. This simplistic design looks very very neat. Notice the digital speedo:

Electric Sunroof, not Panoramic unlike the Hector: 

Loved the red contrasting stitches:

Aluminium pedals to give you Schumacher feels: 

How does it Drive?

There are 18 variants of the Kia Seltos, that makes it more variants than I had subjects in my engineering. I am not a big fan of this complexity though. I won’t mention the variants now because you would get frustrated and stop reading this right away. Will keep that for the last, like the dessert in a 7-course-meal.  

The Seltos comes with three engines and three transmission options, which are – 1.4 T GDI Petrol, 1.5 Petrol and Diesel 1.5 VGT along with 6-speed manual transmission (MT), smart stream 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and a 6-speed advance automatic (AT). 

In terms of performance, 1.4 GDI petrol churns out 140 PS of power and 242 Nm torque which comes with an option of 6-speed MT and smart stream 7-speed DCT. 

While the 1.5 petrol churns out 115 PS of power and 144 Nm which is mated with 6-speed MT and smart stream IVT. 

Talking about the 1.5 VGT diesel engine, it churns out 115 PS power and 250 Nm mated with 6-speed MT and 6-Speed advance AT. 

All three engines get 3 Drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sports and 3 Traction modes –  Mud, Snow/Wet and Sand. 

At first, we drove the GT line, the 1.4 DCT petrol. I was in love with this engine-gearbox combo. Acceleration is crisp and the engine is also very free revving. The twin-clutch gearbox isn’t as responsive as a DSG gearbox but still way better than all other automatic options available, esp. the Hyundai’s and Let’s not even get to Maruti, who is offering a 4-speed tranny with the XL6. The difference in driving modes is also apparent with sport mode increasing the urgency. The few corners on the track, the Seltos handled well with controlled body-roll. It’s not as huge as the Hector so it has a massive advantage over it. The steering is good but not the best, it doesn’t have too much to offer in terms of feel but weighs up well once you activate the sport mode.

Dear Kia, why ain’t you offering different driving modes in the manual ‘mode’ of the automatic transmission. The Manual was phenomenal. It had enough thrust to make you feel you are driving a cheaper version of Boeing 747. It would have made sense to offer it with this combo. 

The 1.5 Petrol offers a CVT gearbox, in addition to the manual. This powertrain is not as quick as the DCT combo. Also because the engine generates a lower 115PS of peak power and 144Nm of torque. The third engine is the 1.5 VGT that puts out 115PS of power and 250Nm of torque. There is also the choice of a 6-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. This engine and the manual gearbox felt much less agile compared to the 1.4-petrol DCT. The turbo spools up a little later and there is a lot of torque that is loaded onto the mid and top end of the rev range. But there is still no sluggishness in low-speed performance. This powertrain also offers the highest mileage at 21kmpl. The two petrol engine are thirsty at the rate of 16 kmpl.

The suspension is well balanced, offering a firm ride but at the same time ironing out most problems of the road surface. What I really like is that it drives like a car with minimal body roll, this is highly appreciated because a car with severe body roll is not a good car, read the first-gen Toyota Fortuner. Seltos offers the ease and convenience of an SUV in terms of ground clearance as well as seating position and visibility.

For the enthusiastic driver who drives on mixed roads including city and highway, the 140bhp, 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with the 7-speed DCT delivers the best of both worlds – the sportiness of a manual transmission and the convenience of an automatic.

Space and Practicality

In terms of seat comfort and space, Seltos gets 8-way driver power seat, while the co-driver seats can be adjusted manually. Front seats are adequately cushioned with good back and thigh support. But the rear seats which can be reclined to 26 degrees and 36 degrees, do not give the perfect thigh support. The rear is not the best place to be in the Seltos. Practicality wise, the Kia Seltos has ample space in the front but adequate in the back, easily accommodating 5, ok 4 – full grown adults. There is also enough spaces to keep your stuff and the door pockets are huge. The boot is super deep and wide with 433-litres of space. Mahindra, are you listening? I pity the XUV 5OO, which can’t even fit anything in the boot except 2 umbrellas and that too folded ones.

 

Safety

Safety has been an increasingly paramount parameter for most of the manufacturers of late, which is a very good thing given the rate at which the accidents are increasing in our beautiful Country. Kia Motors has added a lot of safety features to the all new Seltos and they include six airbags, ABS, Vehicle Stability Management, ESC, Hill Start Assist, front and rear parking sensors, and a Brake-force Assist System. The Seltos also features ISOFIX child seat anchors. We don’t have a Euro NCAP rating for the Kia Seltos, as of now.

What’s in the kitty?

Amenities on the Kia Seltos include a sunroof, an anti-glare mirror, auto light control, rain sensors, a tyre pressure management system, and a wireless charger for smartphones. The Kia Seltos also comes with it’s own UVO application that is available on both the Play Store and the iStore. The app allows for in car, and smartphone controlled features. One can use voice commands to control navigation and media, remote start the car, set climate control, send destination routes to the car, set time and Geo fencing, check vehicle status remotely, and also features stolen vehicle tracking and immobilisation. The UVO app that I used was niggle-prone. Blame it on the bad weather of Goa during the media drive or bad luck of the car allotted to me. 

Colours 

This deserves a standing ovation. The Kia Seltos will be available in 13 colour options at launch. 

Single Tone – Intense Red, Aurora Black Pearl, Glacier White Pearl, Punchy Orange, Intelligency Blue (my fav), Gravity Grey, Steel Silver, and Clear White.

Dual-tone colours – Intense Red/ Aurora Black Pearl, Steel Silver/ Aurora Black Pearl, Glacier White Pearl/ Aurora Black Pearl, Glacier White Pearl/ Punchy Orange, and Steel Silver/ Punchy Orange.

So, Is Seltos worth the hype or its just another Hyundai for the Millennials?                                                   

No, I mean its not just another Hyundai for the Millennials. This car is not here to change the rules of the game, its here to change the game. Don’t be surprised if you see too many Tigers in your rear-view mirror, the Seltos I mean. Kia has done an excellent job in every department possible. Has enough swag to impress your someone, enough punch to take you on a highway, enough features that you would forget them, a robust quality that could easily last till the doomsday, only if it was a little more spacious. There is no ‘perfect’ car in this universe, the Seltos comes closest to being one.

Wait! Did I promise you something?

The laundry list of variants:

*GT line:
1.4 turbo-petrol GTK
1.4 turbo-petrol GTX
1.4 turbo-petrol GTX DCT
1.4 turbo-petrol GTX+
1.4 turbo-petrol GTX+ DCT

*Tech line
1.5 petrol HTE
1.5 petrol HTK
1.5 petrol HTK+
1.5 petrol HTX
1.5 petrol HTX CVT
1.5 diesel HTE
1.5 diesel HTK
1.5 diesel HTK+
1.5 diesel HTK+ AT
1.5 diesel HTX
1.5 diesel HTX+
1.5 diesel HTX+ AT

With an arrival of the latest entrant, the 1.5 diesel GTX+, in a nutshell, there are 18 variants with permutation & combination of Petrol, diesel, Manual, Automatic DCT/AT/CVT, 1.4 liter engine, 1.5 liter engine, Turbocharged, Non-turbocharged. That’s not the best part, the best part is you can’t buy the automatic in top-end of GT line with all the bells & whistles because that’s offered at a lower variant. Again in the tech line, the auto tranny splits into AT and CVT as though we were less confused. 

Good luck, KIA and Welcome to India 🙂 See, they rhyme too.

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