Kia strengthens line with turboed Seltos

The Kia Seltos at the Dam Store in Big Thompson Canyon. (Bud Wells photo)

Since Super Bowl Sunday in very early February, interest has grown toward the 2021 Kia Seltos, the flashy little subcompact crossover which drew so much acclaim when it was featured in a commercial with the Las Vegas Raiders’ Josh Jacobs.

Styled similarly, in smaller measure and with a bit more boxiness, to the hot-selling Telluride midsize crossover, the Seltos sizewise is positioned between the Soul and Sportage in the Kia lineup.

What the heck is a “Seltos?” Kia says the name is inspired from Greek mythology and the legend of Celtos, the son of Hercules. Replacing the C with S in Seltos is to signify speed, sportiness and strength, the company says.

Another Seltos SX Turbo AWD finished in starbright yellow. (Bud Wells photos)

“Wow, I like the style of that one,” said Alex, the young man serving in the Starbucks window and referring to the new Seltos. “What is it,” he asked.

I explained that it is the new Kia subcompact crossover, Seltos, then asked Alex, “How about the color, do you like it?” It’s called starbright yellow, kind of a yellow/green mix.

“No, no,” he responded, “I’d want black or a lighter color, but I wouldn’t want this color.” I agreed with him.

Twice I was surprised by messages delivered into the Kia’s driver information center. The first was while sitting in a drive-thru line and after the car in front pulled ahead, the message read: “The leading car is driving away.” The second was while I sat in the idling Kia on a cold morning as Jan went into the pharmacy for a prescription, the message was: “Vehicle will be turned off automatically in 30 minutes.” Plenty of time.

The Kia Seltos is 172 inches in overall length on a wheelbase of 103.5 inches, with curb weight of 3,317 pounds. It is 3 inches longer than the key-rival Honda CR-V, 200 pounds heavier and owns a half-inch edge in ground clearance.

Plenty of performance pop came from a 1.6-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 175 horsepower and pairs with a 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Standard engine on less-expensive models is a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated 4-cylinder of 146-hp mated to a continuously variable transmission. The CVTs are good for our times; this quick-shifting 7-speed automatic is better, though, much better.

On a relatively quiet morning in the Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland, I pushed the drive mode button for Sport, slapped the shifter handle into manual-mode gate and the Seltos gripped the road surfaces and treated very nimbly these curves as though it’d been over them dozens of times. With fewer than 60 miles on the odometer, I knew it was a first-time trial for this Kia.

A roomy interior, including lots of rear-seat legroom, is a plus for the subcompact Seltos. Its cargo space behind the rear seats is 26.6 cubic feet; that’s 3 feet more than available in the Honda HR-V.

Besides the Honda, the Seltos will compete with the Subaru Crosstrek, Buick Encore, Jeep Renegade, Chevy Trax, Ford EcoSport, Mini Cooper Countryman, Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR and others.

The drive into the mountains and back averaged 28.3 miles per gallon. EPA rating for the Kia is 25-30 for the turbo engine and 7-speed automatic; for the cheaper AWD models with the non-turbo and CVT transmission the rating is 27/31.

In a walkaround and inspection of the model with Dustin Pew, general sales manger at Peak Kia North at Windsor, he pointed out the high-end equipment level on the SX, including LED headlights, 10.25-inch navigation touchscreen, adaptive cruise control and driving assist which can adjust speed according to the posted limits.

All these features and the Seltos’ sticker price remained below $30,000 – well, barely below at $29,935, which included a $700 sunroof.