Kia Motors Philippines, under the distributorship of Ayala’s AC Motors, officially launched the Kia Seltos subcompact SUV last November. Despite being launched near the end of 2019, the South Korean brand managed to sell 324 units, making it the fourth best-selling model in Kia’s line-up locally.
An amazing feat indeed, and it also shows just how much our market is seriously into anything that offers a higher seating position and more ground clearance. We now finally got the chance to try out Kia’s popular SUV to see what makes this popular among consumers.
The one thing that Kia truly nailed with the Seltos is its styling. With prices starting at P1,098,000 for the LX variant, it doesn’t look like anything at its price point. In fact, there’s not much separating each variant in terms of aesthetics. They all wear the same 17-inch alloy wheels while going up the trim ladder adds gives the Seltos more styling embellishments. EX and SX variants are equipped with LED daytime running lights, with the SX running all the way towards the middle of the grille. LED headlights and foglights are also unique to the top-of-the-line SX. At the side of the Seltos are a rising window line and a character line that fades in the middle of the vehicle. Meanwhile, the rear fascia features a sporty design with a chrome strip running across the width of the Seltos, blending neatly with its taillights.
It’s largely the same story in the interior as well, featuring a reasonably stylish design that’s largely shared across all three trim levels. You won’t feel like you’ve bought a bargain-basement vehicle when opting for the LX variant. The plastics used are mainly the hard variety, but that’s pretty much on par for the class. At least the graining is nice and all the interior pieces are well screwed together. Fabric seats are standard in the base LX trim while climbing up the EX and SX trim adds part-leather upholstery. Passive entry with push-button start is exclusive to the top trim SX, but what’s nice about the Seltos’ equipment list is that an 8-inch touch screen infotainment system is standard on all variants.
As for safety, the SX is well-equipped with six airbags, electronic stability control (ESC), ISOFIX child seat anchor points, and hill descent control. We just wish that Kia also equipped the LX and EX with ESC as well.
Kia’s 8-inch touch screen infotainment system is one of the best in its class, offering a responsive interface that responds promptly to your inputs. It’s an interface that’s largely shared between the Hyundai-Kia duo, so it’s no surprise that in its application in the Kia Seltos is flawless. Menus are well laid out, plus the addition of physical shortcut buttons make it a joy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also equipped as standard.
Driving the Kia Seltos first time on the early stretches of NLEX is a relaxing one. The PH-market Seltos is powered by a 2.0-liter inline-4 Atkinson Cycle petrol engine that produces 149 hp at 6,200 rpm and 179 Nm at 4,500 rpm. It is then mated to Kia’s Intelligent Variable Transmission, which is their version of a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Drive Mode Select. Power is adequate for the vehicle’s size and weight, plus the CVT does its best to simulate actual gears so you don’t get the usual engine droning the cabin.
The Kia Seltos also does a good job of keeping road and wind noise at bay. It’s one of the most refined and quiet in its class, plus the body of this small SUV felt rigid and planted both on smooth and rough pavement. The suspension, while it’s on the firm side, deals with bumps pretty well. The upside of the slightly firm suspension is with the way the Seltos deals with corners.
By the time we went through the twisty roads, the Kia Seltos handled competently. No, it’s not going to put a Mazda CX-30 or CX-3 anytime soon, but it grips the road solidly without any fuss. Steering is light for the most part but it does not feel dead, making it easy for most drivers to get accustomed to its handling.
Now as a passenger, the Seltos can be regarded as a very roomy crossover SUV for the class with 4 people on board. Measuring at a little over 4.3 meters long, the Seltos is on the larger end of the subcompact (B-segment) SUV market–managing to offer one of the most spacious cabins in its class. There’s plenty of head and legroom, plus the body is quite wide for its class so the middle passenger won’t suffer much in terms of shoulder room. As for trunk space, it’s not exactly the most generous in its class due to Kia’s engineers giving cabin space a higher priority. Still, a set of luggage for five on a weekend trip is feasible to do.
With all these said, we think we can finally tell why the Kia Seltos has proven to be a popular choice for consumers. Firstly, at its P1,098,000 starting price, it’s one of the most spacious offerings out there, whereas many competitors at this price point tend to have considerably smaller interiors. Next is the amount of features, which isn’t exactly plentiful on the lower variants–but most the necessities of the modern Filipino are all there. Lastly, with the way it drives, we think it’s one of the best in its class in terms of comfort and refinement.
No, the Kia Seltos does not revolutionize the segment. What it does is offer the qualities of a bigger SUV at a price point where your options tend to be too small for some people’s needs. We think the Kia Seltos is not a subcompact-sized crossover. Rather, it’s a “right-sized” crossover at the right price that considers the right needs of the Filipino consumer.
Kia Seltos LX: P1,098,000
Kia Seltos EX: P1,198,000
Kia Seltos SX: P1,505,000