A quick drive at Kia's test track gives us lot of interesting insights.
What is it?
Ever since Kia presented the SP2i Concept at the 2018 Auto Expo, customers, enthusiasts, and potential rivals have been waiting to see the final model.
The reason for all the interest and excitement is easy to understand; SUVs are all the rage right now and a majority of consumer interest is concentrated where the Seltos sits.
So, when Kia invited us to drive it, we were thrilled. Unfortunately, it was only a brief drive at the company's test track at its plant Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, but here’s what we discovered.
What’s it like?
Something that we really loved when we first saw the Seltos was its striking front end, and out here in the sunlight, it looked even better. The knurled-effect chrome trim around the grille doesn't look over the top either. The blue shade catches light really nicely, lending the SUV an electrifying look. With the sharp headlamps, ice cube-effect fog lights, squared-off wheel arches and LED tail-lights, the Seltos is sure to get second glances.
Kia is expected to launch the SUV with four variants, with each offering a Tech Line and GT Line option. While both lines is understood to offer similar features, the GT line will have sporty cosmetic touches like red calipers, red bumper inserts and red piping on the seats.
The Seltos can be had with either all-black interiors or beige, and both look nice. Interior quality too is top notch and, while Kia says the units we drove were prototypes, the finish levels were right up there with what you’d expect in a final product. Both the front and rear seats are large and quite comfy, and what’s neat is that the ones in the front are ventilated. There’s a lot more equipment too, like a Bose sound system, a heads-up display that’s 8 inches in size, an embedded SIM with a full connectivity suite, a large 10.25-inch touchscreen, cabin air purifier, a sunroof, and ambient lighting that can also be synchronised to the music (some are sure to find this gimmicky).
Hyundai and Kia share their R&D, and the Seltos is built on what is essentially the next-generation Creta platform (due in 2020). Compared to the current Creta, the length has been increased by 45mm, the width by 20mm, while the height drops by 45mm. The wheelbase has been lengthened by 20mm and this has liberated legroom for rear passengers. Despite the lower height, headroom seems to be as much as that on the current Creta, while boot space, at 433 litres, is 28 litres more than the Hyundai.
What’s it like to drive?
The Seltos gets a list of powertrain options – two petrol engines and one diesel, and all offered with the choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox or an automatic. The 1.5-litre petrol that puts out 115hp and 144Nm gets the choice of a CVT auto, while the 1.4-litre direct-injection turbo-petrol that puts out 140hp and 242Nm of torque, has the option of a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. On the 1.5 diesel unit that makes 115hp and 250Nm, the auto option is a 6-speed torque converter.
We got to sample the 1.5 diesel and the 1.4 petrol, with both the auto and manual gearbox options.
In the 1.4 turbo-petrol manual, power comes in quite early at 1,500rpm and the delivery is very linear with the redline at 6,800rpm. It's not a very free-revving unit but you have a healthy amount of power on tap. The gearbox feels identical to the Creta's, with nice shifts and a neat 'click-click' engagement sound. As for the auto, the dual-clutch unit is noticeably better and livelier and I think this would be a good option for those looking for convenience as well as a peppy drive.
The 1.5-litre diesel on the Seltos SUV feels instantly more refined and is noticeably quieter than the diesel Creta. The driving experience is typically diesel with good low-end torque, which comes in at around 1,200rpm and quite gently so. Essentially the same unit, the manual gearbox feels identical to the petrol Seltos' and the Creta's, while the auto is very smooth, as you’d expect from a torque converter.
All engines get Drive and Traction modes – 'Drive' has Eco, Normal and Sports, while 'Traction' has Mud, Snow/Wet and Sand. The drive modes alter the engine, gearbox (auto) and steering, and while Kia didn’t outline the details of the traction modes, it’s likely to alter the powertrain and ABS settings. This is something we will get to test thoroughly when we take the Kia Seltos out on the open road.
Kia's test track is two straights with a circular turn at each end, so we can’t tell much about ride and handling, but a few trips over the durability testing area indicate a firmer setup than the Creta and less body float as well. However, we’ll have to see if this will have an effect on ride quality. The steering feels nicer than the Creta's, and the setup points to better body control.
Should I buy one?
It may be too early to say, but like a good appetiser, the brief drive in the Seltos has really whetted our appetite and we can’t wait to experience it on the road. The car looks striking, it's well loaded with a lot of segment-first features, the powertrain options seem promising, and interior quality is very good. Moreover, Kia is promising a very aggressive price tag. Should the competition be looking over their shoulders, judging from this quick drive? Yes!
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