Attack Of The Clones: Extended
Kia’s Seltos is the latest entrant into the entry-level SUV segment, and it seems to be equally blessed and plagued by the tropes that define this category. On one hand, it has more features and engine-transmission options than any other car we’ve seen before; while at the same the SUV struggles to find its identity in a market that is saturated with models that feature the same elements for the majority of their designs. Thankfully, you don’t have to judge the vehicle just by looking at it, since we had the opportunity to get our hands on it during their media drive in Goa, and are happy to give you the detailed scoop regarding the first offering from the reputed Korean brand.
Seltos is a strikingly beautiful vehicle, with a slim stature and a simple design. There are very few bulges that disturb this look, even though you do see the presence of a few strategically raised lines that highlight specific elements, like the wheel arches, side skirts, and the front and rear lights. Most of the focus in terms of design is kept on the front of the vehicle itself, which is the true selling point of the vehicle. The design has a similar base structure like its competitors, with a huge front grille that blends into the line of LED DRLs that in turn sit atop the headlamps. There is an equally large secondary scoop that offers a similar treatment to the fog lamps. Even though these elements aren’t as in your face as with bigger competitors such as the MG Hector and Tata Harrier, Kia still manages to give them a distinct look with its trademark tiger-nose grille and vertically partitioned DRL's that contrast well with the horizontally partitioned fog lamps. Even the rear lights get a similar geometric look that is accentuated by the big chrome strip that connects them. The option of different colour accents and alloy wheel designs in different variants is just the cherry on top. As long as you focus on these select few things, you won’t even notice that it is nowhere as big or as intimidating as some of the models it competes within this price range.
The interior offers a healthy blend of high-quality materials and somewhat predictable design language. The first thing you notice when you get in is the amazing fit and finish of the vehicle, along with the comfortable seats. All the places that people commonly interact with feature soft-touch plastics, even though the rest is more of the same. Depending on the variant you pick, you might get different colour options for the dashboard, the floor mats, and the seats; with specific models featuring specific colour and pattern for the stitching as well. However, once you get past the feel, the look is nothing to write home about. The layout is cluttered with dozens of buttons, switches, and dials in both touchscreen and analogue form, to the point where it’s hard to remember where each feature can be accessed from. Even the huge touchscreen seems oddly integrated into the dashboard itself, with the smooth fit clashing with the large bezels and clunky software UI. The rear seats offer further disappointment since bigger sized competitors offer far better legroom and under-thigh support in the same price range. Thankfully, this is not much of a problem for front passengers, who also get to enjoy cooled seats in higher variants, which will be a definite plus point in Indian summers.
Each new entry in this segment seems to take the feature list of all previous models as a base, which is true for the Seltos as well. This translates to a huge list of features that include things like keyless entry, start/stop button, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, voice commands, turn-by-turn navigation, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, fast charging, OTA updates, app-based monitoring, in-built SIM card, a secondary MID display, electric sunroof and much more. However, what will really sell this brand are the unique features that it calls its own, such as a 360-degree camera system, a HUD unit, a first of its kind air purifier with perfume dispersal, mood lighting as well as a dedicated UVO connect platform that offers emergency support as well as concierge call centre services. All of these features and more can be accessed through the 10.25-inch touchscreen, which is sadly the weakest link of the entire system. While the touch response is good enough, the software for the unit is still not smooth enough to be considered a finished product. You will have to stop the car if you want to successfully place a call to the call centre, and even then the chances of you getting an updated map in the first try are limited, as the map application is a bit buggy, and often misses the mark in terms of keeping track of your exact location and your next turn. Hopefully, with future updates, this will not be a problem anymore.
A lot of companies claim that their car has been designed specifically for Indian roads, and in the case of the Seltos, we might be inclined to believe them. The steering is light enough to flick the car around in city traffic while also being hefty enough to withstand curvy corners on hilly roads. The suspension is beautifully calibrated, as it doesn’t let you feel the majority of the bumps, even on uneven roads. The only time you will feel concerned will be while going over huge potholes at semi-low speeds, as the car often makes ominous-sounding thuds on these stretches. The brakes are some of the best in the segment, to the point that the entire car skids to a halt within seconds, even on steep inclines, which was a bit nerve-racking the first time we experienced it. We even tested the limits of the car by taking it on broken, single-lane rural roads, and it performed admirably on every twist and turn, even in the pouring rain. The one word of caution that we will give in regards to the drive is to keep in mind that it is still an urban SUV, which is not built to take curves and high speeds, or for serious off-roading, even if it may feel capable of that and much more.
Engine & Transmission
This is the one section where the Seltos differs radically from its competition, as it spoils potential customers with choices between 16 different variants that come in two different trim levels and feature three different engines and six different transmission options. The 1.5 petrol and diesel engines produce a similar 115PS of power, even though the diesel gets an extra 100Nm of torque. The 1.4 turbo-petrol pushes the power mark to 140PS, with an enhanced torque output of 242Nm. The engines offer impressive performance and rarely feel winded, no matter what speed you are travelling at. They are also BS6 compliant, which makes them future proof. All variants get a 6-speed manual option, which is smooth and responsive, even though the first gear is almost useless in the turbo-petrol, and you would hardly ever see the 6th gear within city limits. The turbo-petrol is also a bit lethargic in the lower end of the power band, so you will have to keep your foot down, lest you risk the chance of stalling the car in first gear, or even on highway stretches where some drivers are used to coasting on low speeds in a higher gear, with the clutch pressed down. You also have the option of going with one of the three automatic transmission options that are mated to the three engine options, i.e. IVT for the 1.5 petrol, 7-speed DCT for the 1.4 turbo-petrol, and a 6 Speed AT for the 1.5 diesel. The transmissions have been tuned well to match their respective engines, even though the DCT does struggle with some over-shifting at lower gears to keep up with the power delivery.
With an extremely competitive price range that sticks between 9.69 lakh – 15.99 lakh, despite 16 different variants on sale, Kia can expect to sell a boatload of Seltos SUVs in the coming future. In fact, opening sales so far have already beaten the debut of most of the other models launched in this segment. However, most of these sales are expected to be of the top two variants only, since the lower variants don’t come with a bunch of features that make this car worth buying. Thankfully, the great drive and handling are enough to cover the small gaps and make the purchase seem worth it. Despite these ups and downs, at the end of the day, it is the customer that makes the final decision, and if the customers are anything to go by, Kia Seltos seems to be winning the clone wars.