Quick Spin: 2021 Kia Seltos

We were at the launch of the Seltos back in February. It was great in isolation, but fine details and opinions don’t often formulate in a single day, let alone one that involves a whirlwind of flights, slide shows, and chili contests. Now though, we have one for a week  on our home turf to see how it stacks up against the CUV competition. If you want to read more about the initial drive and all the in-depth facts, check out the original review. This review is going to be more of what the car is like to live with on a daily basis and will be a slightly different format that what you may be used to.

2020 Kia Seltos 1

Our SX 1.6T AWD tester was finished in Starbright Yellow, a color that drew eyes all week. The color accentuated the body very well, and with the contrasting black roof it looks far more expensive than most would believe. The LED daytime running lights and full LED headlights also add to the premium feel, and are excellent at night. The size of the Seltos also made it easy to parallel park downtown and maneuver in city streets.

2020 Kia Seltos 5

Inside our tester had black SOFINO seat trim. It wasn’t leather, and the absence of Kia’s typically value packed cooled seats was unwelcome in our steady stream of 90 degree days. The infotainment is, however, still one of the best in the business. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, as an excellently integrated wireless charge pad. The sound system is above its class, and the speakers pulse with the beat of whatever you’re listening to…even phone calls. You can turn that feature off however, and we did, because it gets distracting in the evening. The seats are comfortable, and we had no issues enduring a few hours on a road trip.

The Seltos is marketed as a rugged small SUV. The launch in San Antonio allowed us to check out the locking differential and experience it off road. This time, we focused on fuel economy and comfort over longer distances and daily commuting. Over the week, we put a little over 400 miles on the Seltos and got just under 28mpg in mixed driving. Oddly, our commute to work on local roads brought superior fuel economy compared to an extended highway run at 78mph, where it returned a less than stellar 25mpg. That brings us to our biggest drawback of the Seltos; the transmission. The 7 Speed Quick-Shift DCT is not programmed well here. Under light loads, the transmission frequently shifts extremely early to save fuel, and thus almost bogs the car down to the point where you seemingly lurch forward. A switch to Sport mode from the previous Normal or Smart modes seemed to quell the issue, but would lock out seventh gear. Once it gets going, the Seltos is more than adequate in its acceleration, but just make sure you’re using more than a quarter of throttle travel to avoid the weird transmission feel. We’re not sure if our car was the only one with this issue, but we’ve since heard others who have experienced similar feelings.

2020 Kia Seltos 4

The Seltos is sure to be a hot seller for Kia with its upmarket styling, excellent tech and attractive pricing. If you can overlook our transmission oddity, which could likely be solved with software flash from the dealer, then this is a compelling new SUV in all environments.

-Scott Villeneuve

2021 Kia Seltos SX 1.6T AWD

Starbright Yellow


Carpeted Floor Mats


Destination Charges

As Tested MSRP $29,485


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