Kia Motors debut car for India hits the sweet spot, says Girish Karkera after driving one
What is this?
This is an all-new SUV purpose-built for Indian market by Korean car maker Kia. This midsized SUV competes in the same segment that has Hyundai Creta, Renault Duster and Suzuki S-Cross, Tata Harrier, MG Hector and Mahindra XUV 300. The Seltos was designed to be Kia’s debut vehicle so it had to appeal to Indian tastes yet not be a departure from its global design language. Not surprisingly, Kia has gone for a slightly boxy look which is typical of quintessential SUVs. Of course, this is rounded and there are enough curves and flashy chrome to give it a modern, more premium look. The face is unmistakably Kia characterised by the typical open-mouth grille with a prominent Kia badge. The headlamps are a complicated design and add to the distinct look. In profile, the Seltos looks squatter than a Creta and visually much longer. The roof has a slight slope towards the rear. Similar to the horizontal chrome strip that ends into the DRLs at the front, there is a prominent light strip that runs on the hatch too. Unless if you are one of those who likes a minimalist look, Kia’s design and road presence will leave you impressed
Ground clearance: 190kg
Kerb weight: NA
Turning radius: NA
Tyre size: 205/65 R14 (HTE, HTK, HTK+) & 215/60 R17 (HTX, HTX+, GTK, GTX, GTX+)
Fuel tank: 50 litres
Boot space: 433 litres
There are three engines – two petrol and a diesel - and four gearboxes on offer. All engines as BS 6 emission compliant. The newest amongst this is a 1.4-litre turbo petrol unit that outputs 140ps of peak power and 242Nm of peak torque. This is a very smooth engine, revs freely and feels significantly meaty thanks to an all-new seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that is being offered. This box feels quick and smooth, even in slow-moving traffic. Easily the best pick of all engine-gearbox combinations on offer unless if you are looking at outright fuel efficiency. There is a six-speed manual gearbox option too. The other petrol is a 1.5-litre unit. Although displacement is higher it makes significantly less peak power (115ps) and peak torque (144Nm). This too comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The automatic option on this is a CVT type (Kia calls it iVT) which is cheaper to maintain and more suited for relaxed driving. The diesel unit is a 1.5-litre common-rail turbo diesel with 115ps of max power and the highest 250Nm of max torque. Can be mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic which is a torque convertor type. The diesel, as mentioned is BS6 emission compliant which only comes into effect next year. Kia assures it is engineered to not be affected by current BS4 diesel that we get at our fuel pumps. The diesel is also effortless going through the gears. It’s very quiet and incredibly refined. The gearbox is slick and shifts are smooth. Pick-up is effortless thanks to the loads of torque on offer.
Engines & Gearbox
G1.4 T-GDi: Petrol, 2WD, 1353cc, 140ps @ 6000rpm, 242Nm @ 1500-3200rpm, 6M/7A
G 1.5: Petrol, 2WD, 1497cc, 115ps @ 6300rpm, 144Nm @ 4500rpm, 6M/AT
1.5L VGT: Diesel, 2WD, 1493cc, 115 @ 4000rpm, 250Nm @ 1500-2750rpm, 6M/6A
On the road, Seltos feels decidedly confident and pliant like a reasonably-sized SUV should. The steering weighs well and assures the driver is always in control. The ride is pliant and absorbs potholes voraciously. The suspension could be quieter but most of the vibrations and judders do not reach the cabin. Seltos comes with an option of 16- or 17-inch wheels basis the variant. In either case ride is sorted and so are the grip levels offered by the tyres. They suit this vehicle, well. You would appreciate the steering heft of the diesel variant more thanks to the added weight at the front. The petrol feels a tad lighter at high speeds. More weighing up would bring it at par with the former. In India, you can’t discount braking abiity because that is what we do more than acceleration on urban roads. Seltos manages this well – in other words without much drama. It gets disc brakes at the front across the range but the lower variants get drum brakes at the rear. The test drive cars were all higher variants. So, with discs all-around Seltos manages panic braking amazingly well. More so on the automatic variants where engine braking also comes into play without the driver having to intervene. Of course, ABS, ESP and other stability programs have been included.
Top speed: NA
The Seltos offers one of the most-spacious and well-appointed cabins in its class. It looks premium and is elegantly laid out. Be it the quality of plastics, chrome inserts or other trim materials. It does feel like you are in a premium car. There are a host of unique touches too such as the in-built air purifier and sun-screen blinds on the rear door for added comfort and privacy. There are two kinds of seat trims available for the two trim lines – GT and Tech. The latter looks plusher while the former is a Spartan and sportier design. The rear seat has acres of legroom and makes you feel like you are sitting in a much bigger vehicle. Three can sit in comfort here. Even the centre passenger has enough room to place his/her feet on the floor as the rear air-con vents fit snugly much further ahead between the two front seats. The dashboard looks high-tech with a gimmicky layout completed by a chunky D-cut steering wheel. A 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen dominates the dashboard. Even the touch feel is an intuitive and effortless as a high-end smartphone. Seltos also features UVO (short for ‘Your Voice’) that brings in more connected car qualities. This allows remote engine switch on/off and one can even lock/unlock the doors via a smartphone. In an emergency a switch on the rear view mirror can also connect the occupants to a call centre for requesting help. To spell out the variants – it starts with GTE followed by HTK, GTK, HTX and GTX. The latter two come with an additional pack option too. Yes, plenty of variety.
If you are in the market for a stylish SUV that goes beyond getting the basic right, you have come to the right place. A good-looking vehicle with loads of space, features and high-tech engine/gearbox combinations make it a one-size-fits-all kind of SUV. The only thing missing is some serious off-road credentials. So, no 4x4 option for now but it is clear the customer for those kind of SUVs is pretty different. They also are a smaller bunch. For everyone else, the Kia Seltos could well be the only car they will ever need. The usual “cutting corners” isn’t apparent which is a welcome change. It is comfortable, spacious and has all the attributes expected from an everyday, family SUV. Amongst the many firsts is heads-up display and optional BOSE sound system. While the top trims are a tad expensive, the Seltos makes a fantastic value proposition if you look at the mid and even lower variants.