We all know what happens to you and me when we assume, and a lot of folks will assume the 2021 Kia Seltos shares its bones with the also-newHyundai Venue.
I know I did, and when I questioned Hyundai to fact-check myself, I didnâ€™t get a clear answer (as the two companies tend to silo their information from one another).
The assumption that the Seltos is just a re-boxed Venue is wrong. The Seltos, despite playing in the same class as the Venue and being similar in size, is actually based on a different Hyundai â€“ the Kona.
Yes, the Kona that Imostly like(intop-trim form) and Bark ripped (inlower trim) to shreds. The same Kona that Chris also dinged forÂ pricing problems.
Not that youâ€™d know it from looking at it. The Seltos has a busier, more futuristic look than the Kona, although it doesnâ€™t have the latterâ€™s odd headlight placement. Like the Venue, it offers two-tone styling, and at first glance it looks more like the boxy Venue than the wedge-shaped Kona.
Hence, the assumptions.
(Full disclosure: Kia flew me to San Antonio, Texas, fed me, housed me, and asked me to participate in Texas-themed games after dinner. I did not take home any gifts, save a notebook and pen. I did submit a chili recipe â€” the winners would be served for dinner â€” and did not win).
Like with the Kona, there are two engines on offer: A 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine making 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque that pairs with an â€œintelligentâ€ continuously-variable automatic transmission, and a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque and pairs to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.
(Get Kia Seltos pricinghere!)
Seltos bases with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available on all trims. The AWD system has a locking center differential.
For this drive, Kia only had one engine on hand â€“ the 1.6 in the top-trim SX guise. The 1.6L offers a kick in the spurs that registers as a pleasant surprise. Blazing fast it ainâ€™t, but thereâ€™s enough juice on tap for easy maneuvering around the big rigs that clog the interstates outside San Antonio. Even with the AWD system, the Seltos gets moving with little effort.
Unfortunately, the seven-speed is a bit brusque in operation.
To the extent that crossover buyers give a whit about steering feel, itâ€™s not bad â€“ artificial, sure, but with a pleasant heft and nice accuracy. A Sport mode livens things up by adding weight to the steering and response to the throttle, keeping the engine in the prime part of the rev band, but weâ€™re still talking about a compact city car here. Itâ€™s mildly more fun in Sport, but save your racer fantasies for that Miata you keep saying youâ€™ll buy (but never do).
Ride is stiff but smoother than Kona, although the roads deep in the heart of Texas arenâ€™t terribly rough. The few coarse surfaces I did encounter brought forth a bit of tire noise, and rainy/windy weather exposed some wind noise from the A-pillar at highway speeds.
Cabin materials are a bit nicer on the SX than the rest of Seltos, and theyâ€™re class-competitive. The infotainment system is officially Kiaâ€™s UVO but itâ€™s pretty close to whatâ€™s on offer in Hyundaiâ€™s new Sonata, including the available nature sounds. The menus offer the same user experience. An available wireless cell phone charger is a nice feature, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
Rear-seat room behind a tall adult will be tight, should said adult put the seat all the way back. Thereâ€™s under-floor storage in the cargo area, which measures out to 26.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 62.8 with the rear seats folded.
The exterior design is a bit strange, but it ends up being sleeker in person than youâ€™d expect. Almost handsome, even. A bit boxy, sure, and if one accused the lighting areas, especially out back, of being a bit too busy, Iâ€™d not argue. Still, thereâ€™s just enough curvature (especially the scooped doors) here to keep things interesting, and the overall look is cohesive â€“ arguably more so than Kona.
Kia took us to an â€œoff-roadâ€ course that amounted to little more than a farm road, so I can say the Seltos handles your standard gravel/dirt road just fine. There are skid plates, but don’t be fooled by them or the Kia marketing machine â€” light off-roading is probably all you can really do.
The overall experience is pleasant, yet unremarkable. The Seltos feels screwed together well, and itâ€™s not a snooze to drive. Yet, itâ€™s not so memorable as to be a class standout.
There are five trims available: LX, EX, S 2.0L, S 1.6T, and SX. Standard features include Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, USB port, Android Auto and 17-inch wheels. Available features include a 10.25-inch touchscreen for infotainment, satellite radio, navigation, up to three USB ports, wireless cell-phone charging, premium audio, blind-spot collision warning, blind-spot collision avoidance-assist, driver-attention warning, highway-driving assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, lane-departure warning system, lane-keeping assist system, lane-following assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, rear occupant alert, smart cruise control with stop and go, and safe exit assist.
Base price is $21,990 before D and D, and the loaded SX I drove added two-tone paint ($345) and carpeted floor mats ($130) for a final price of $28,365, including the $1,120 destination fee.
Seltos plays in a crowded class. Itâ€™s not only set to compete with its sibling, the Kona, but also against the Venue, the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Fordâ€™s EcoSport, Nissanâ€™s Kicks, Hondaâ€™s HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kiaâ€™s Soul hatchback, the Mazda CX-3 and CX-30, the Mitsubishi Outlander, and Toyota C-HR, among others.
Looking at that list, the Seltos places somewhere in the upper tier. Itâ€™s a nicely-done crossover that wonâ€™t shake up the market, and unlike cynical exercises like the EcoSport, itâ€™s well thought out.
Seltos is a solid effort that will be class-competitive. That assumption, I think, is safe.
[Images Â© 2020 Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]