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Kia Seltos 1.6 MPI: A well-packaged proposal

By Ghaith Madadha - May 17,2021 - Last updated at May 17,2021

Photos courtesy of Kia

Launched during 2019 and 2020 in various markets, the Kia Seltos is something of a ‘world’ car compact crossover that manages to cover plenty of ground.

Modern looking, but not over complicated, classy without being over-indulgent inside, compact but well-packaged, and comfortable yet dynamically confident, the Seltos gets so much so right and at a reasonable price without being too heavy or too tech-laden. A versatile model in a well-saturated segment, the Seltos is also sold in two discretely different guises for different markets.

Discrete difference

Virtually identical in design with only slight bumper, dash and 60mm length differences telling them apart, the two Seltos variants are also built on slightly different platforms. In Europe, the US and elsewhere, the longer and pricier Seltos features more optional equipment, multi-link rear suspension, optional all-wheel-drive and is distinguished with its longer bonnet and shut-line behind its badge. For many developing markets including India and the Middle East, the shorter, lighter and more affordable variant features torsion beam rear suspension and is identified by a full clamshell bonnet. 

Trendy and modern with a snouty front-end with a slightly complicated but assertively handsome design consisting of stacked, slim horizontally-oriented headlights and a stacked grille separated by metallic strips and using different slat designs. Meanwhile, the Seltos’ headlight edges trail off to prominent creases above its slightly squared-off wheel-arches, tapering to the rear lights. Slightly more athletic and urgent in disposition in its shorter guise, the Seltos’ discretely descending roofline is tipped with a sharp sporty spoiler, and features lower body cladding for a more rugged aesthetic.

Eager delivery

Attractively eye-catching, the Seltos, however, has a slightly nose-heavy appearance from profile views when equipped with smaller 16-inch wheels, as tested, but which are now discontinued in favour of 17-inch wheels for Jordan. Under its creased bonnet and behind its strongly browed fascia, the Seltos is powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder multi-point injection engine, driving the front wheels, as is standard to all of the shorter Seltos variants. Power is meanwhile channeled through a 6-speed automatic gearbox for Jordan, but a 6-speed manual is available in other markets. 

Developing 121BHP at 6,300rpm and 111lb/ft at 4,850rpm, the Seltos’ familiar engine may not be especially powerful, but is certainly a sweet, responsive and somewhat high-revving one. Delivering good throttle control and unleashing exacting increments of power in a zesty and urgently progressive manner, the Seltos’ engine is a pleasure to wring through to redline, along to a subtly snarling and purring soundtrack. It is particularly rewarding through winding roads where it is just as responsive winding down on throttle lift-off as on pick-up.

Responsive and confident

Tasked with the Seltos’ restrained weight of around 1.2-tonnes and with well-chosen gear ratios, its eager naturally-aspirated engine delivers better performance than expected, dispatching 0-100km/h in an acceptably quick 11.2-seconds and onto a 175km/h maximum. Responsive to throttle inputs, the Seltos’ engine also delivers decent low-end and mid-range versatility, but is best at high revs. Its smooth automatic gearbox meanwhile complements the engine with responsive and succinct manual mode shifting, which allow for a greater degree of control, connectedness and ultimately confidence through snaking lanes.

Smooth and confident in town and on highways, the compact Seltos is easily maneuvered with decent visibility, reversing camera, tight 10.6-metre turning circle and light steering. Perhaps lighter than ideal and slightly vague on first impression, its steering, however, becomes more nuanced for road feel and vehicle position once driving briskly through sprawling switchbacks, where it becomes more intuitive and communicative, with only quick wrist flick steering inputs often required. One similarly soon adapts to its sensitive brake response with lighter, more measured inputs.

Compact but accommodating

Tidy into corners, the high riding Seltos well controls its comparatively light weight. Committed through curves, it is nonetheless flickable and adjustable, with its front-wheel-drive feeling fun and more consistent and predictable than a reactive part-time all-wheel-drive system. In addition to high revving engine, delicate steering feel and keen handling, the tested 205/65R16 tyres provided the right mix of slip and grip. Slightly firm on jagged lumps and bumps, the Seltos is otherwise mostly comfortable and vertically settled, while now standard Jordan spec 215/60R17 tyres should be slightly firmer and grippier.

Available with better looking black roof and no sunroof, or body colour roof and sunroof options, the former allows improved head room, which — along with legroom — is above average. Boot space is similarly well-packaged and expands with rear seats folded. With a good level of comfort and support, the Seltos offers a good driving position, while controls, instrumentation and infotainment are user-friendly. Well-equipped if not over-equipped, the Seltos cabin design meanwhile feels modern and upmarket for its price, with soft textures and piano black panels reserved for prominent places.


Engine: 1.6-litre, transverse 4-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 77 x 85.4mm

Compression ratio: 10.5:1

Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC

Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 121 (123) [90] @6,300rpm

Specific power: 76.2BHP/litre

Power-to-weight: 98.4BHP/tonne

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 111 (151) @4,850rpm

Specific torque: 94.9Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight: 122.5Nm/tonne

0-100km/h: 11.2-seconds

Top speed: 175km/h

Fuel capacity: 50-litres

Length: 4,315mm

Width: 1,800mm

Height: 1,620mm

Wheelbase: 2,610mm

Overhangs, F/R: 865/840mm

Tread, F/R: 1,572/1,595

Ground clearance: 190mm

Headroom, F/R: 1015/973mm

Legroom, F/R: 1,051/973mm

Shoulder room, F/R: 1,409/1,395mm

Lift-over: 746mm

Luggage volume, minimum: 433-litres

Kerb weight: 1,232kg

Steering: Electric-assisted power steering

Turning Circle: 10.6-metres

Suspension: MacPherson struts/torsion beam

Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs, 300mm/discs, 262mm

Tyres: 205/65R16

Price, on the road: starting from JD22,300 (no insurance)


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