The 2021 Kia Seltos is the automaker’s newest crossover and the smallest in its lineup. It’s Kia’s answer for buyers who’ve asked for an all-wheel-drive Soul for more than a decade.
The Seltos is slightly larger than the Soul and strikes out in its own styling direction, although the most attractive part of the small crossover likely will be its low starting price of about $23,000 with all-wheel drive included.
It earns a 5.8 TCC Rating before safety is factored in. We’ll update this when official safety data is made available. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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For its first year on sale, the Seltos is available in LX, S, EX, and SX trim levels. An X-Line with more rugged off-road styling is likely to arrive soon, although Kia’s mum on those details.
The Seltos doesn’t look like any other Kia crossovers aside from its shared nose—and we’re OK with that. Although the Seltos is roughly the same size as the Soul, it’s taller and longer, with a European look that’s most apparent in its face and body sides. Deep creases in the hood and angular fog lights add to the continental flair, a “floating” roof completes it.
Inside, the Seltos is tamer with a practical layout that favors the driver. Most versions will be equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s perched on the dash, although a 10.3-inch touchscreen is available on SX versions.
Most Seltos crossovers will get a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 146 horsepower mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive is standard on most models except for one front-wheel drive base trim. We haven’t yet driven the base engine, but based on other experiences with it in other vehicles by Kia and parent-company Hyundai, we’re relatively sure it’ll be competent—although hardly speedy.
The optional engine is a 1.6-liter turbo-4 that makes 175 hp paired to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The engine feels willing, although the transmission hesitates at low speeds and can leave the uprated engine flat-footed.
The all-wheel-drive system is geared toward dusty trails and easy two-tracks, if the Seltos ventures even that far.
Four adults can fit comfortably inside the Seltos, five in a pinch. The rear seats recline for better long haul comfort and the seats are reasonably comfortable for the Seltos’ low price. There are more than 26 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and with those seats folded that space expands to more than 60.
Base versions of the Seltos skip automatic emergency braking, which our scoring system doesn’t favor. One step up adds automatic emergency braking and active lane control, which we recommend.
Kia offers two base versions of the Seltos—with all-wheel drive and fewer conveniences, or without all-wheel drive and a few more creature comforts—that start around $23,000. We’d step up to the $24,610 Seltos S with all-wheel drive for its active safety features, 17-inch wheels, and exterior accents that base versions skip. All crossovers get an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, cloth upholstery, and two USB chargers.
The top Seltos SX adds a 10.3-inch touchscreen, wireless charger, synthetic leather upholstery, the uprated turbo-4, and Bose audio for nearly $30,000.