Given that it sits between two other small SUVs in Kia’s lineup—the Soul and the Sportage—the 2023 Seltos might seem redundant, but instead it has carved out a niche. The Seltos’s dimensions place it at the larger end of the subcompact SUV segment, giving it an advantage over tinier offerings such as the Hyundai Venue and the Nissan Kicks when it comes to interior volume. It also offers a more engaging driving demeanor than those crossovers, and it’s also quicker than those rivals when equipped with the optional turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The entry-level powertrain in the Seltos is a less potent 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but all-wheel drive is standard on most models. A plethora of features are available depending on the trim. Following Kia’s value-oriented formula, the Seltos comes standard with popular driver-assistance tech.
What’s New for 2023?
Kia has added new acoustic glass windshields on all 2023 Seltos to help reduce road noise. Meanwhile, the value-oriented S trim now comes standard with rear cross-traffic alert with automated emergency braking and a blind-spot collision avoidance system. The S can also now be ordered with the larger 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation as an option.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The best value lies with the Seltos’s EX trim. The SX model comes loaded with almost everything, but the EX is well-equipped, too, and much cheaper. It includes a sunroof, premium faux-leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, a wireless smartphone charging pad and the larger 10.3-inch infotainment system with in-dash navigation. All-wheel drive comes standard on all but the S trim.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Kia offers two different four-cylinder engines in the Seltos: a 2.0-liter that makes 146 horsepower or a turbocharged 1.6-liter that pumps out 175. We were able to sample the Seltos with the turbocharged 1.6-liter and found its power to be more than adequate. Our test vehicle snapped off a quick 6.6-second run to 60 mph. While the base engine is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the turbo comes with a seven-speed automatic. All-wheel drive comes standard on all but the S trim. The Seltos offers a firm but mostly smooth ride, and handling is sharp for an SUV—it’s far more entertaining and composed than rivals such as the Jeep Compass and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates that the Seltos will deliver fairly efficient MPG figures. Highway fuel economy is estimated to be as high as 35 mpg for front-wheel-drive models with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. On our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test route, an all-wheel-drive Seltos with the turbocharged 1.6-liter managed 30 mpg. For more information about the Seltos’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the Seltos offers noticeably more space for people and cargo than the Kona. The materials used throughout the cabin are well chosen and refined enough to seem right at home in the showroom next to the brand’s excellent Telluride SUV. Interior ambient lighting is standard on the upscale SX model and can be set to pulse along with the music like the system Kia offers in the smaller Soul SUV. During our test drive, the cargo area easily swallowed our suitcases, backpacks, and photo bag; in our testing, we fit eight carry-on suitcases in the cargo hold and 20 with the rear seats folded.
The Car and Driver Difference
Infotainment and Connectivity
All Seltos models have a touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, but the optional 10.3-inch unit is the one to get, and it’s standard on all but the LX and S trims. Navigation is optional and offers the capability to split the screen so you can view the map and directions at the same time you’re making changes to the radio station. Depending on which model you choose, the Seltos can also be equipped with a wireless smartphone-charging pad, up to three USB ports, a head-up display, and a 7.0-inch color display in the gauge cluster. An eight-speaker Bose audio system will also be optional and features fractal-textured speaker grilles.
How to Buy and Maintain a Car
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Kia offers a standard suite of driver-assistance tech on the Seltos, but higher-tech features such as adaptive cruise control and cyclist detection are limited to the range-topping SX trim. For more information about the Seltos’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control and cyclist detection
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia’s warranty is the best in the industry, and the company continues to offer the 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain coverage on its models. The only other rivals that can match it are SUVs from sister company Hyundai.
- Limited warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED
$29,485 (base price: $29,010)
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
97 in3, 1591 cm3
175 hp @ 6000 rpm
195 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 11.0-in vented disc/10.3-in disc
Tires: Kumho Majesty 9 Solus TA91, 235/45R-18 94V M+S
Wheelbase: 103.5 in
Length: 172.0 in
Width: 70.9 in
Height: 64.2 in
Passenger volume: 99 ft3
Cargo volume: 27 ft3
Curb weight: 3271 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
Rollout, 1 ft: 0.4 sec
60 mph: 6.6 sec
100 mph: 19.5 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.0 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.5 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.0 sec
¼-mile: 15.3 sec @ 91 mph
Top speed (C/D est): 125 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 160 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.84 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 21 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 30 mpg
Highway range: 390 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 27/25/30 mpg
More Features and Specs