Road Test: 2021 Kia Seltos

Rugged, refined and right-sized, the new 2021 Kia Seltos has a personality unlike most other compact crossovers.  As a utility vehicle with an abundance of attitude, the Seltos enters the Entry SUV segment with modern styling and a penchant for adventure, whether that means everyday driving around town or in the wilderness on weekends. 

We were given the opportunity to sample a mid-grade version of the Seltos, which we don’t typically get to do, and which is also priced more affordably.


Similar to Telluride’s design theme, the Seltos is a marriage of bold design and delicate details, and stands apart from rivals with its strong, upright stance.  The tall front end and 7.2-inch ground clearance translate to a tough attitude and an adventurous spirit.

Its assertive presence is spearheaded by Kia’s signature tiger nose grille that includes unexpected diamond-like detail.  Chiseled surfaces and well-drawn lines lead back to a distinctive profile highlighted by a chrome beltline that melds into the D-pillar for a streamlined appearance. The sleek and tapering greenhouse conveys athleticism while eye-catching red wheel center caps hint at performance.


The Seltos’ interior design continues the theme of upscale adventure. The cabin is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, which pushes Seltos above its class. The wide instrument panel has a high-tech feel with an asymmetrical design that skews toward the driver.

The spacious and versatile cabin has generous hip, shoulder, leg and head room in both rows, offering more interior volume than most rivals.

Even back seat passengers will get to stretch out thanks to the rear reclining feature.  And while they’re kicked back and relaxing, you can lower the rear luggage board to increase cargo space.  When there’s nobody in the back and you need some extra room for larger items, fold the rear seat down and lift the luggage board for a flat loading surface allowing expansive cargo volume.  Whichever way you fold it, split it or lift it, the Seltos is a leader in its class when it comes to space and versatility. 

As we expect from Kia these days, the clean and sophisticated gauge cluster looks fantastic. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add to the premium feel.


Seltos is engineered to deliver a comfortable, capable and confidence-inspiring experience. Our S turbo model featured the 1.6-liter Turbo GDI engine which produces 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, paired with a 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).

The strong and rigid body is composed of 61 percent advanced high-strength steel and further enhanced with 374 feet of structural adhesives

Seltos offers a choice of three drive modes – Normal, Smart, Sport – each using specific settings for powertrain, drivetrain and steering mapping to provide the desired driving experience. Sport mode really makes the Seltos feel like a rocket.

Active on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD) system, similar in technological design to the Telluride, provides all-weather capabilities and enhanced driving performance with a center locking differential that splits power equally between the front and rear wheels for more severe environments. 

The AWD system also makes use of torque vectoring cornering control, which increases traction by predicting which wheel will best utilize power in a given on-road situation.  This enhances stability in corners and gives the Seltos more connection to the road.   


Seltos is packed with technology features, including the “Kia Drive Wise” suite of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems as well as a wide array of standard and optional equipment.  Tech highlights include blind spot warning, blind spot avoidance assist, forward collision avoidance assist, highway driving assist, lane departure warning, and lane departure assist.

Lane follow assist is something we didn’t get to evaluate on our tester but found it to work beautifully in other Kia vehicles. Smart cruise and rear cross-traffic were also not on our vehicle, but highly recommended.


Seltos is available with a large 10.25″ widescreen but our S trim came with the still large, and crisp 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. CarPlay worked perfectly and we find Kia’s infotainment systems to be some of the best out there.


After being impressed with our cloth seat, mid-grade trim Seltos, which only lacked keyless access with push-button start, we can say without a doubt that this would be the perfect compact crossover for most people. Packed with all the basic necessities, infotainment tech, all-weather capability, and important safety features, Kia value is strong in the new Seltos!

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling8
Powertrain and Fuel Economy9
Interior Fit and Finish9
Gauges and Controls10
Total Score86

Make: Kia
Model: Seltos
Trim Level: S Turbo AWD
Engine: 1.6L Turbo
Transmission: 7-Speed DCT Automatic
Options: Snow white pearl paint, floor mats

Base Price: $25,490
As-Tested Price: $27,085

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