The Seltos SUV is Kia’s ticket for its grand entry into the Indian market. But, given the complexity of the market, we couldn’t help but ask the inevitable question – can the Seltos truly succeed and establish the brand in the country?
The complexity of the Indian automotive market can be quite difficult to understand. But, with India firmly establishing itself as one of the biggest markets in the world – despite the current slowdown – no brand in the world can afford to stay away. So, why would Kia? Especially when its group company, Hyundai, has been enjoying unparalleled success in India, and is in the undisputed position of being the second biggest player in the passenger vehicle market.
Now, after the success of the Seltos concept at the 2018 Auto Expo, Kia Motors has been working furiously to get the product and retail strategy absolutely right. And going by our experience – I drove the Seltos briefly at their Anantapur plant a few weeks ago – I’d say that Kia is right on the money!
When you look at the final version of the Seltos, two things stand out – its commanding road presence and the detailed design touches that are the hallmark of Kia’s design language. Up front, a big tiger-nose grille is flanked by large LED headlamps, with fantastic LED indicators right under them – they really are a treat to watch in action.
The polished aluminium finish of the front grille, along with the knurled texture, gives the front of the SUV a unique and classy look. In profile, meanwhile, you get two strong shoulder lines – fore and aft – that merge into the head and taillights, making the sides look a lot more engaging and interesting. And the big 17-inch wheels of the GT Line version – the one that we drove first – further add to the appearance of the car.
The rear of the Seltos is dominated by large LED taillights, with a chrome garnish in the middle.
Packed to the brim
Of course, one of the highlights of the Seltos is the level of standard equipment that it’ll have on offer, along with the engine three options – a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol, 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel and, for enthusiasts, a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol. All three engine options will be available with manual and automatic options – Kia offers three different types of automatic gearboxes to suit each engine’s characteristics.
Additionally, the Seltos will have many segment firsts. For instance, all engines of the Seltos will be Bharat Stage 6 compliant. Additionally, the Seltos will also feature an 8-inch head-up display that works very well, a built-in air purifier with an air quality display, a 360-degree camera and an optional Bose audio system in some trim versions.
The interior of the Seltos evokes an intense and unavoidable feeling of being surrounded by quality. The fit-and-finish, the lovely quilted leather seats in black with red contrast stitching and the big 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia display, paired with a 7-inch colour display in the instrument cluster, exude luxe from its every pore.
During the limited time we had, we briefly tested two of the three engines – the 1.5-litre diesel engine with both gearboxes and the 1.4-litre turbo petrol – on the test track at Kia’s factory. The first thing that strikes you when you power up the 1.5-litre diesel engine is its refinement. The diesel clatter is simply non-existent, and there are virtually no vibrations inside the cabin. With 113bhp, the engine pulls quite well and has a very linear response.
The gearboxes also work quite well, with the six-speed automatic being in line with the other offerings in the segment. I must add that Kia has made specific improvements to lighten the pedal, and that’s evident in the very little effort that it actually requires.
I, however, was more interested and excited in the 1.4-litre turbo petrol, and after that short drive, I was left stunned by its performance. Of course, the engine is very refined. With 138bhp, the engine makes the Seltos fly along the road – in a way that’s very impressive for a car in this segment. The 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox also works really well, and I think, and not without reason, that it’s one of the highlights in the Seltos range.
Driving it in the manual version is even better. For the first time, we’ve got a shot at a sporty SUV of this size that has the performance to back up the visual cues of the GT-Line trim.
We also got to briefly drive the Seltos on a rough section on the track. And the ride-and-handling balance of the SUV – even in our short drive – felt very well setup. This could certainly be another highlight for Indian customers.
Given its quality levels, excellent design details and class-leading features, not to mention that 1.4-litre turbo engine, the Seltos does justify the hype it’s generated.
Not only does it have the potential to shake up the mid-size SUV segment, but it also has the potential to seriously challenge its arch-rival – and the vehicle it’s based on – the Hyundai Creta. With its launch slated in the third week of August (bookings for the Seltos started on the 16th of July), this space is undoubtedly going to offer the excitement of watching a boxing match right from ringside.
The Seltos range in India will be available at launch with three engines. The entry to the line-up will be a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol with 113bhp & 144Nm of torque, with the option of a manual or CVT gearbox. The 1.5-litre turbo-diesel will be available with a 6-speed manual or a torque converter auto, while producing 113bhp & 250Nm. Topping the range will be the 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine with 138bhp & 242Nm of torque. This engine will be available with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch transmission.