Why Kia's Seltos is more than just a new SUV in a flooded segment


SUVs and bakkies go hand-in-hand in the local market. Not only are they the most prominent segments, but the ones with the most significant market share gains. 

Kia Motors launched its Seltos SUV towards the end of 2019, and the hype was exciting. The Korean brand was missing a smaller SUV in its range and this one slots in just below the Sportage to fill the gap.

Was it a good idea? Of course! Sale figures have been more than optimistic since its launch in late November last year. In January this year, Kia sold 510 new models, according to the latest Naamsa figures.

Kia says it's on a different strategy to the rest of the local market too.

READ | Why most South Africans buy compact SUVs in the R320k-mark

Earlier in February, Wheels24's Lance Branquinho wrote: "WesBank occasionally shares data with the market, and in 2019 their average new car pricing data collates to sit at a rounded R320 000.

"Run with the logic and R320 000 should be the intersection point between aspiration and reality for most new car buyers. In that price bandwidth, SUVs are now nearly a third of the total volume.

"Last year, nearly a third of South Africans buying around WesBank's R320 000 magic number chose SUVs. That is significant because more SUVs mean fewer hatchbacks and sedans."

kia seltos rear_kia

Image: Kia SA

So while SA's SUV market ranges anywhere from low R200 000 to well over R600 000 on the high-end, Kia is honing in on that magic-money mark of the segment, and it's working like a charm for the local automaker. 

No doubt the current pandemic crisis already has a massive knock on the automotive industry, and manufacturers will have to rethink their strategies.

Before the pandemic hit and caused a domino effect on global industries, Kia SA managing director Gary Scott said the brand would be really bullish about their new product line-up as they want their volume share to increase significantly. They're going about doing so by going against the flow of the industry by not just launching replacement models; they're also revisiting their brand position, and it has already been showing positive outlooks.

Scott said: "Used cars are in high demand this year, but an equilibrium point is coming later in the year with more new vehicles in the market. The blood is on the walls in the premium segment. Those customers buying down don't want to compromise on reliability and confidence.

A product road map launching new models into segments will always give a lift to any automaker. Kia has divulged that a new Picanto and Rio will launch later this year, and the evolution of the renowned 'tiger-nose' grille will be seen on all new products, as it can already be seen on the Seltos.

kia seltos pos 1_kia

Image: Kia SA

So what is the Seltos all about?

As mentioned, the Seltos looks assertive with its wider 'tiger nose' grille, a new interpretation of the automaker's signature design feature. It is flanked by striking headlights to compliment its sporty looks. Higher specification models include chrome detailing along the window line emphasizes the sweeping look towards the rear, says Kia, this resulting the C-pillar to create a ‘floating roof’ impression. To give the vehicle a more rugged look, the wheel arches have black cladding.

At the rear there's an integrated metallic-look skid plate, a dual chrome muffler garnish depending on the model variant. All models come with LED Daytime Running Lights at the front, as well as front fog lights across the range. On the higher-spec models, fog lights, headlights and indicators are full LED, along with the rear lights. 

There are seven body colours including Glacier White Pearl, Steel Silver, Gravity Grey, Aurora Black Pearl, Intelligency Blue, Intense Red and Punchy Orange, the latter only available as a special order, says Kia. There are also three two-tone colour options: Glacier White Pearl with a black roof, Intense Red with a black roof, and Punchy Orange with a white roof, the latter also only available on special order. 

The auto tailgate opens up quite wide, and its cargo area is massive - something South Africans love, and always need whether you're going away with the family for a weekend, or panic-buying ahead of a national lockdown.

kai seltos boot space_kia
Image: Kia SA

How does it drive?

Based on the Hyundai Creta's underpinnings, the Seltos feels sturdy, smooth, and comfortable on the road; all the attributes one would expect from a Kia as their latest offerings have proven these past few years. 

The Seltos has three specification grades, three engine choices, and three transmissions.

Because of its size, the Haval H2, Hyundai Creta, and the upcoming, highly-anticipated VW T-Roc would be its most assuming rivals, however, it's direct competitors are the VW T-Cross, Renault Duster, Toyota CH-R, Mahindra XUV300, and anything else you could possibly imagine in this segment.

The base model is packed with standard features, and this has always been the Korean brand's strong-point. Kia says the EX includes air-conditioning (manual), automatic headlight control, electrically adjustable side mirrors with integrated indicators, cloth upholstery, steering wheel-mounted remote controls, electric windows, cruise control, and an 8" colour touchscreen infotainment system. The Seltos is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone connectivity with voice recognition and has charging USB ports for front and rear passengers. 

Under the bonnet, there's a 1.6-litre Multi-point Injection (MPI) engine. The 1.591cc 'Gamma' engine is good for 90kW/151Nm of torque. The zero to 100km/h run takes 11.2 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 175km/h. You can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission. CO2 emissions are rated at 157g/km for the manual transmission, and 164g/km for the auto. 

The mid-spec EX+ is also available with the 90kW 1.6-litre petrol engine but only mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. 

kia seltos explus_kia

Image: Kia SA

We sampled the range-topping GT Line turbo model at launch, along with the naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre. The GT-Line is definitely the one I would fork some cash out for if I could afford it. The body sports a satin chrome and red trim, with gloss black and chrome detailing, 17" crystal cut alloys with red brake callipers, and all lights are full-LED units, with unique 3D layered indicators at the front. Inside there's bespoke GT-Line leather upholstery with matching embroidery, a sporty D-shape steering wheel with stainless-steel pedals.

But what really makes the GT-Line special is the brand's new Drive Mode Select system, incorporating a 2WD Terrain Mode to go with the brand new 1.4-litre T-GDI (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) engine. 

The 1.353cc 'Kappa' engine pushes out 103kW/242Nm, and it is only paired with a new-generation seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Not only are gear shifts seamless, but the powertrain is surprisingly fuel-efficient despite being so throttle-happy. It goes from zero to 100km/h in 9.7 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 185km/h. CO2 emissions are rated at 143 g/km.

Surprisingly, the NA unit hardly displayed any turbo lag as we had anticipated, and while not as feisty as the 1.4-litre GT-Line, it's still a pretty good unit considering the price and everything else you get with it.

kia seltos interior

Image: Kia SA

Drivers can choose between 'Normal', 'Eco' and 'Sport' mode to suit your style of driving, or even where you're driving by a dial above the gear lever. The 2WD Terrain Mode offers three modes; Snow, Mud, and Sand, each designed to tailor power and torque to ensure maximum traction on slippery or sandy roads.  

On the safety front, there are six airbags as standard on all models, and it also has ISOFIX child seat anchors, ABS brakes, and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD). There are rear park distance control sensors and a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, integrated into the vehicle's touchscreen infotainment system.


KIA Seltos 1.6 EX Manual        - R353 995
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX Automatiic   - R371 995
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX+ Automatic  - R389 995
KIA Seltos 1.4 T-GDi GT-Line   -  R444 995

All models include an unlimited Kilometre or five-year warranty (inclusive of roadside assistance), and also include a five-year or 90 000km Service Plan.

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