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Kia Seltos: First drive review

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Kia Seltos: First drive review

We were in Goa to drive the much awaited Korean SUV from Hyundai's sister company Kia and we chose the 1.4-litre direct injection turbo petrol engined car with the 6-speed manual transmission to get a feel of the brand new car, specifically designed for India, and to be sold all over the world. With two trim lines on offer with three equipment levels in each, we picked the top variant of the Sports Line, the GTX as opposed to the top variant of the Tech Line that would have been HTX.

The Seltos is a Creta-sized car built on a modular platform that will also underpin the next generation Creta. In terms of size it is very similar to the Hyundai, just 45mm longer than its Korean sibling, and 20mm wider. Since the 45mm increased length also comes from a 20mm increase in wheelbase, it would be safe to say that the Seltos has more space inside, even though that might be marginal.

Talking about the exteriors, the Seltos looks as good as in the pictures. The signature tiger-nose grille is all that links the SUV to Kias of yore and even that looks contemporary and stylized. Otherwise, the SUV looks contemporary, has futuristic elements all around and catches the eye, no matter which angle one looks at it from. In the front it is the sweeping bridge LED DRLs that set the tone which is followed up by slim and sleek LED headlamps with a jewel effect, the 3D turn indicators that have to be the most stylish and unique to be seen in a car in India and the LED triple ice-cube design fog lamps. The side profile is muscular and well proportioned, retains the floating-roof concept that is very popular in cars these days and is muscular due to the extra cladding on the sides. The rear is as eye catching as the front with the theme from the front LEDs in the heartbeat design carried to the rear tail-lamps. The LED bar in the front gets replaced by the chrome bridge between the tail-lamps at the rear but the skid plates add the robustness at the rear as they do upfront. Of course, the GT Line trim adds that special touch with the red lining trim added to the skid-plates both front and rear, trim's emblem on the grille in the front and also on the rear as well as the red brake calipers that peek through the crystal cut alloys.

On the inside, this is one plush SUV with only the shiny black of the touchscreen looking overtly plasticky. The seats are comfortable although the seat squabs could have been bigger but for the driver, the cockpit feel is reminiscent of premium vehicles. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, the steering mounted controls, the 10.25in touchscreen is sharp and crisp better than some of the other HD displays one finds in cars. The screen can be split into different views and features in-built live navigation and is the controller for the Arkamys sound mood system that plays itself out through a 400W 8-speaker Bose audio system. The wireless charging pad is smartly built in on a ledge in the centre console so that the space at the bottom of the centre console can be utilized for other things including gadgets as it has a couple of USB sockets as well as a 12v socket. If that's not enough there is another high definition display in the centre of the instrument panel - used for displaying driving information, tyre pressures and fuel consumption on one hand and the left or right side-view image on the other on the use of the indicator. This is done by using the 360-degree view cameras mounted on each of the outside rear view mirrors. And if this wasn't all the displays, there is also an 8in heads-up display which shows important information like speed, navigation, warnings etc so that one does not have to take eyes off the road. The rear seats have plenty of leg room and also offer the flexibility of a two-step recline. And lest I forget, the front seats are air-cooled and thus prevent sweaty clothes no matter what the weather is like.

Not only does the car have striking light effects on the outside, the interiors are no less dramatic with not only ambient lighting in 8 colours but also multiple sound mood lighting - lighting to go along with the music! And then there is another set of lights visible to the rear passengers under the armrest in-between the front seats that is significant - the inbuilt air purifier with a HEPA filter.

Finally, much like the Hyundai Venue and the MG Hector, the Kia Seltos is a connected car with an inbuilt SIM that is free for 3 years and offers not only connectivity with a back end data centre but also to your phone whereby one can use it for over 35 functions including tracking the car, starting the engine and airconditioning remotely as well as checking to see if the car is locked.

The Seltos comes with a choice of two 1.5-litre engines and one 1.4-litre engine. While the first of these engines is naturally aspirated petrol available with an option of a CVT or a manual gearbox, the second 1.5 is a common rail turbocharged diesel engine available with an automatic or a manual, both 6-speed gearboxes. Our choice for the day is the 1.4 turbo petrol direct injection engine - like the 1.4 TSI offered by Skoda and Volkswagen on a variety of their cars couple with a 6-speed manual transmission even though it is also available with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. This engine not only produces 140bhp of max power but 242Nm of peak torque that is available from a low 1500rpm. All the Kia engines being introduced in India are Bharat Stage VI compliant from day one with the current fuel available.

Well, the SUV is very impressive in its looks, the equipment and features list but the best part is that it also drives the way one expects an SUV like it should. It has the go to go with its looks. The engine is rev happy and really very smooth with excellent NVH and with the peak torque available over a wide rev range, one does not even have to shift too much, despite the gearbox being super slick and fun to use. The steering is direct and well weighted and the car is easily manoeuvrable in city traffic. There are driving modes as well in addition to traction modes, a first in this segment of front wheel drive vehicles.

Not only is acceleration quick for a mid-sized SUV but in-gear acceleration is great as well and that makes the car fun to drive on the highway as well. The suspension is well balanced, offering a firm ride but at the same time ironing out most problems of the road surface. What I really like is that it drives like a car with minimal body roll but offers the ease and convenience of an SUV in terms of ground clearance as well as seating position and visibility.

Overall, the Seltos has equipment levels of vehicles not one but many segments higher and has a number of unique firsts that are not even found in India. An air-purifier integrated into the car or cameras on rear view mirrors used for turning visibility or lane-change - definitely segment and at times industry firsts. This is what I would like my car to be but the big question is at what price? Crucial will be the pricing of this SUV and even if it seems good value for money at Rs 20 lakh, Kia might just make the mistake of pricing it out of the market.