A lot can change with a fresh set of eyes.
Previously positive impressions can go in an altogether different direction upon re-examination, and vice versa. Then there are moments of reaffirmation, when a second look simply cements the way we felt the first time around. Such is the case with the 2022 Kia Seltos, a subcompact crossover that’s aging well after a couple years on the market. It certainly has its imperfections, but in this rapidly expanding segment the Seltos delivers value like few others can.
Among this Kia’s finest traits is its ability to pack so much usable space inside such a small footprint. While there are similar entries in the segment as far as usefulness goes, including the all-new Toyota Corolla Cross, none of them does it much better than the Seltos.
At 752 L, the space behind the back seats is among the most in the segment, as is the maximum 965 mm (38 in) of rear legroom provided in spite of the deep cargo hold. Stowing the 60/40-split folding bench yields a massive 1,778 L. While the new Volkswagen Taos provides a little more space, both of these tall subcompacts – as well as the Corolla Cross – are generously sized for carrying stuff.
User Friendliness: 9/10
With a stature not dissimilar to that of the rather upright Subaru Forester, just scaled down, the tall greenhouse here means the Seltos provides plenty of headroom as well as good outward visibility in all directions. And with 185 mm (7.3 in) of ground clearance, access is as easy, requiring little more than a lateral move to enter or exit through its large doors. Those doors don’t, however, extend to the bottoms of the rocker panels the way they do with rivals like Corolla Cross and Taos, which leaves pant legs exposed to any gathered road grime – a rare disappointment here.
Inside, the Seltos is a model of simplicity, with all kinds of big and boldly labelled buttons and knobs to go with a straightforward infotainment interface. While the LX and EX trims make use of an eight-inch touchscreen, the 10.25-inch unit in the EX Premium and SX Turbo provides expansive real estate for map views through both the integrated navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections. While there was some lag in response to infotainment inputs in this particular SX Turbo tester, it marked a first in our collective experiences with this brand’s system, and is likely the result of the need for an update.
There are a few unflattering traits to be found inside, starting with firm and flat seats that aren’t especially forgiving. Wrapped in so-so synthetic leather upholstery here, it wasn’t long before leg pain crept in during a multi-hour evaluation drive to start this week-long test. That this SX Turbo’s 18-inch wheels were wrapped in winter tires only served to exacerbate excessive road noise noted in the past.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Suspension damping is such that ride quality skews a little towards the rigid side while still doing well to absorb road irregularities – particularly as the pace quickens. Generally, though, the demeanour is a firm and flat one, with the very structure of the Seltos feeling like it’s fighting the urge to flex.
There’s minimal body roll despite its upright shape, with steering that pairs nicely with the ride and a genuine sense that the front wheels are responding directly to the driver’s inputs. While it’s obvious that this is no sporty and fun Hyundai Kona N, that they share a platform and similar stance, with wheels pushed about as closely to their corners as possible, is equally apparent. The ensuing agility when cornering makes this one of the most nimble crossovers of its kind.
Matching nicely with the overall drivability is the top trim’s turbocharged motor that provides adequate pep. The 1.6L four-cylinder is the same one that motivates a whole bunch of Hyundai Group products, including the Kia Forte5 GT pseudo-sport compact, with 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque on tap. That the full serving of torque heads to all four wheels from just 1,500 rpm means it can scamper around in a hurry.
The engine is let down at least a little bit by the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that’s paired to it, with a propensity to sputter and shudder – especially when rolling away from a stop with little to no throttle input. It’s symptomatic of this type of transmission rather than just this one in particular, but it will undoubtedly feel unnatural to those switching from a conventional setup for the first time.
The rest of the Seltos lineup relies on a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that forgoes turbocharging and makes just 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. Paired with an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), previous experience with this powertrain has found it to be adequate if unspectacular, lacking the punch provided by its turbocharged contemporary but working well enough overall.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Of course, the turbocharged Seltos burns more gas, with a combined rating of 8.7 L/100 km compared to 8.2 for the less powerful engine (that number drops to 7.7 for the front-wheel-drive base model). While some do better, including Toyota’s fairly gutless Corolla Cross, this subcompact Kia crossover is competitive within the segment.
Better still, the Seltos has proven itself to be something of an overachiever, with real-world results that outperform its official ratings. Take this SX Turbo tester: an initial evaluation drive covering a little less than 200 km finished at 7.7 L/100 km – slightly better than the Corolla Cross managed on a similar route, albeit in far worse conditions. Meanwhile, the full week of testing finished at 8.5 L/100 km across a total of about 700 km.
Standard advanced safety equipment is lacking here, particularly next to competitors like the Corolla Cross or the useful little Honda HR-V, which come decked out with almost everything their respective brands have to offer from their cheapest trims. In the case of the Seltos, the entry-level LX trim has blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and a safe exit assist system that can prevent the doors from being opened in the case of traffic approaching from behind, but that’s it.
Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist with lane-following are part of the EX package, while the EX Premium and SX Turbo add adaptive cruise control and the brand’s highway driving assist function that helps guide the Seltos along within its designated lane of travel (with hands on the steering wheel, of course). The SX Turbo also gets a head-up display.
As for amenities, this entry is competitive in a way that’s typical of Kia. Heated front seats, touchscreen infotainment, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, roof rails, alloy wheels – it’s all standard. The EX trim adds stuff like a sunroof, synthetic leather upholstery, and a heated steering wheel, while the EX Premium and SX Turbo get full LED lighting all around, a larger touchscreen, wireless phone charger, ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats.
Looking at it from the outside, little sets the SX Turbo trim apart from the rest of the Seltos lineup – and the EX Premium trim in particular. Here, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, with a new-for-2022 burgundy interior that’s simply spectacular. It’s a no charge upgrade that adds a classy splash of colour to the cabin – welcome considering how subdued it looks otherwise.
The outside is equally unobtrusive, not doing much to stand out – especially not in this shade of Gravity Grey paint ($250) – but then that’s perfectly fine in a segment full of surprisingly diverse entries. Rather than short and squat like the Honda HR-V or Hyundai Kona, this inoffensive Kia has perfectly pleasant proportions and just enough style to still look good in five or 10 years’ time.
Simplicity and spaciousness are among the Seltos’s finest traits, but where it manages to lead the segment outright is with the value it delivers. That’s true at the top of the lineup in particular, with the SX Turbo trim brimming with features most rivals don’t offer – all for about the same asking price.
Officially, it rings in at $34,990 before tax but including a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,795. That’s a little bit less than a fully loaded Toyota Corolla Cross XLE, which goes without a turbocharged engine, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, or a head-up display, among others. Then there’s the Volkswagen Taos Highline that has stuff like a digital instrument cluster and panoramic sunroof, features not offered by Kia, but rings in at a few thousand dollars more.
Further down the lineup, the Seltos LX starts at $25,390; all-wheel drive is a $2,000 upgrade. Then there’s the $29,990 EX trim, and the $32,990 EX Premium that gets just about everything from the top SX Turbo minus the engine, including all-wheel drive. The cheapest Corolla Cross is about $1,500 more (with and without all-wheel drive), while the cheapest version of the cramped Mazda CX-30 starts around $30,000 but comes with all-wheel drive.
The seats inside the 2022 Kia Seltos could be a little more comfortable (although they’re markedly improved compared to Kia models of old), while the brand needs to do a much better job introducing advanced safety features earlier in the lineup. Those are two areas a competitor like the Toyota Corolla Cross has the edge, but the Seltos strikes back with across-the-board affordability, not to mention a little more character and better amenities.
Some in the segment do better in certain areas; the Subaru Crosstrek’s ride quality, for instance, or the Honda HR-V’s flexibility. But with the Seltos, it’s about the totality of the package. It may not be perfect, but this subcompact crossover remains a fairly outstanding entry in an expanding segment where an emphasis on value is key. That Kia has managed to combine all that’s good about the Seltos – spaciousness, simplicity, decent driving manners, and available turbo power – in such an affordable package makes the few areas it falls short a little easier to live with.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||175 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||195 lb-ft @ 1,500–4,500 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||9.4 / 7.9 / 8.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||752 / 1,778 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2022 Kia Seltos SX Turbo|
|Price as Tested||$35,340|
$250 – Gravity Grey Paint, $250