There is no getting away from the fact that these are indeed gloomy times for the Indian auto industry as car sales are plummeting with no respite in sight. There is, however, one exception to this sorry trend — you guessed it right, it's the midsize SUV segment. Bookings are pouring in for every new SUV launch and so too is the case for Kia.
Thus, without doubt, SUVs are the only thing on the Indian car buyer's mind and it’s easy to see why. The lure of travelling induced by the relentless 'lifestyle' marketing push and worsening road conditions have worked nicely to make SUVs hugely popular.
It’s no surprise then that all the action is happening in the midsize SUV space. Perhaps the biggest launch of the year is also in this segment — the Kia Seltos. After months of anticipation, you will finally be able to buy a Kia car from August 22. The big question is, should you? We drove the Kia Seltos in its top-end 1.4 turbo petrol form to find out exactly that.
There is no mistaking the Seltos for anything else as while it does not have the mammoth proportions of either the Hector/Harrier, it instead, like a sharp suit, cuts a dapper look with embracing all of the latest SUV design trends so well. It is just the perfect size (slightly bigger than the Creta) and the front along with a big grille gets plenty of chrome and LEDs for a chiselled look.
It is edgy, filled with chunky lines and steers clear of a rounded look as instead it is wide and broad shouldered. The top-end with 17 inch alloys and the GT Line trim especially with the red accents looks even better. There are in total 13 colour options (including dual-tone) though we think white/maroon looks the best.
The first thing that smacks onto your face is the quality on offer. Kia Motors have nailed the fit and finish easily as it's the new benchmark. The interior while busy looking, is very tastefully designed. A big 10.25 inch HD touchscreen connected with the instrument cluster takes your attention at first and while the instrument cluster is not all virtual, it looks good nevertheless. There are two trims but the higher spec GT Line with red accents looks even better and lifts the cabin ambience quite a bit.
The front seats are comfy but it is the rear that surprised me. While not as huge as some other SUVs, it is wide enough for three (though best for two) and actually has a better rear seat than arch-rival Hyundai Creta. Even the boot is quite big and so are the bottle holders. There are no ergonomic faults here and everything is easy to access with plenty of physical buttons also along with the touchscreen.
Now onto the Seltos USP which is the features list as simply put, nothing even this side of Rs 30 lakh has so many features as the Seltos simply blows everything away. It gets, well, everything and we will do a separate article on this because it won’t fit here. From all the usual luxuries (sunroof, ventilated seats, powered seat etc) it also gets useful features like a HUD and a blind spot monitor along with a fantastic Bose audio system with 8 speakers.
However do note some features would not be available with the DCT at launch as some time later the car-maker would introduce the top-spec trim with the DCT. Thus you need to have the manual now if you want the extra features like the Bose audio system or even the electric sunroof with the 1.4 Turbo petrol.
Back to the overall features list and there is even an in-car air purifier and the connectivity feature (UVO) has 37 overall features embedded in it including remote functions and more! Also do note that Kia has done some India specific changes like a more powerful AC and credit where due as it worked beautifully on a muggy day.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If the Seltos doesn't cut it in the driving department then all those features won't make any sense. Thankfully it isn't the case. First of all, the sheer number of choices is never before seen on any car. Kia offers you two trims and three engine/automatic gearbox options plus the standard manual of course.
We drove the 1.4 Turbo petrol which only comes in GT Line spec since turbo petrol’s are the rage currently. There is also a pair of 1.5l petrol and diesel engines (all engines are BS6) though and it would form the meat of the range with the 1.4 turbo occupying the high end.
The numbers for the 1.4 turbo petrol are convincing on paper with 140 bhp and 242Nm of torque. Start it up and it is smooth with a youthful zest to it. At low speeds it is refined and power delivery is suited well for every day use.
There is thick torque coming in nice and early which makes driving less of a chore. Now I drove both the 7-speed DCT and the 6-speed manual. The DCT is the better option for sure and suits the car well. It's smooth and unhurried in the city but dial it up and it responds.
The DCT also gets drive and traction modes which alter the engine throttle response, gearbox and general driving characteristics. Like the Harrier there are traction modes too but being FWD this is not a hardcore off-roader.
In the sportier modes the Seltos DCT felt eager and sure footed but the engine gets a bit noisy when provoked. Thus it's best drive it a notch below and keep a middle level between sportiness and comfort. I would have liked paddle shifters in the DCT automatic but this is a fairly quick gearbox to satiate your every day driving needs and the odd 'sporty' drive.
The manual version showed the lag of the turbo petrol more and while it is capable in the city, the DCT is just much more sportier and effortless. It is also more efficient too- we got 8-10 in the city during hard driving with the DCT doing slightly better. This was not a proper drive and you will probably get more in a typical city scenario.
In terms of ride and handling, this is the most fun Korean car I have driven and counts as one of the most enthusiastic in its class. It does not have the old school SUV feel or the driving position as instead it is sharp and agile. For sure the body roll is much less than other SUVs of this class and the steering is also much more direct.
On tight roads the turn in was good with minimal roll. It did not feel hamstrung by the tightness of the roads and was comfortable in its own skin. In terms of ride quality it's slightly on the choppy side but the combo of the sportiness and overall ride is largely well looked at.
There is no doubt that the Seltos is the most complete SUV right now. It builds on the successful formula of the Creta but takes it to the next level. It is not an old school brawny SUV and trades agility for size. It is good to look at, is filled to the gills with features and drives with a sporting edge.
It is not an out and out enthusiasts car and nor does it have the 'hunk' like presence of some other SUVs but what it does have is presence of mind and finally an SUV that ticks all the boxes. Overall the DCT 1.4 Turbo petrol is our pick of the Seltos range.