Photographs by Kaizad Adil Darukhanawala
Last month, I had a go in what was Kia’s pre-production model for the new Seltos that’s now been launched in India. And let me tell you this: launches don’t come any better. The effort Kia’s put in to make the Seltos every kind of car you want to be is really quite commendable. I know that I’ve given away most of the story at the start itself, but when it comes to a car as good as the Seltos, you don’t really mind not beating around the bush as much. Everything I’d noticed, be it the scrupulous attention to detail, the finicky manner in which every operation was running as smoothly as possible, and the multiple insightful Kia personnel I met along the way that were more than happy to dish out any information I needed on the Seltos points to the fact that Kia is taking the Indian market very seriously, indeed. Kia isn’t coming into this half-baked. It’s done a lot of research, taken its time, studied the market intensely and is entering it with arms and eyes wide open.
How can I tell? Well, primarily because of the car you see on these pages: the Seltos. If you think back, you may remember the SP2i concept that Kia brought for us at the last Expo, and based on the amount of interest it garnered, I think it’s the right move to bring this in as its first product. And why not? It’s an SUV, and we certainly seem to love SUVs to bits. It’s large, stylish, imposing, and it stands out from the rest of the cars. That, I believe, is as good a start as any already. And having had a go in the car in a torrential Goa where it was almost impossible to get any shots of the car (these photographers and their complaining…), I can tell you that it’s been absolutely worth the lengthy wait.
In person, the Seltos looks great. The front’s got a very neutral look to it, but it’s the chrome around the grille that makes it really pop in the sun. Kia’s certainly made it easy to have a second look at the Seltos thanks to features like the sharp headlamps, the ice-cube effect fog lights, the squared-off wheel arches and the LED tail-lamps. When it hits the floor, the Seltos should be sold in four variants, with each offering a Tech Line and a GT Line option. The difference between the two being that the latter gets a few extra cosmetic touches like red callipers, bumper inserts, and red stitching on the seats. You’ll be able to pick between all-black interiors or beige. Personally, I’d go with the all-black option. It just lends itself better to the way the interior’s been designed. Speaking of which, everything on the inside feels made to a very high level of quality. The buttons click well, the steering feels nice and meaty to hold, and the equipment levels are really quite good. The front seats are ventilated, there’s a Bose sound system, a head-up display, and embedded SIM with a full connectivity suite, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, a cabin air purifier (!), a sunroof and even ambient lighting that can be synchronised to the music you’re playing. The seats are really comfortable and the legroom is quite impressive at the back. The Seltos is, of course, based on the next-gen Creta’s platform, so the length is up, as is width, but it’s shorter by 45 mm.
As for the drivetrain options, well, you’ve got a lot to choose from. There are two petrol options and one diesel, all with the option of a 6-speed manual or an automatic. The 1.5-litre petrol puts out 113 bhp and 14.6 kgm gets the option of a CVT, while the 1.4-litre turbo petrol that puts out 138 bhp and 24.6 kgm gets the much-fancied 7-speed dual-clutch auto. The 1.5 diesel makes 113 bhp and 25.4 kgm, and this gets a 6-speed torque converter. Phew. Confused yet?
I’ll break it down one by one. The 1.4 turbopetrol manual is quite a lovely thing. Power delivery is linear and comes in quite early (at about 1500 rpm). It’s very easy to get along with the ‘box and the clutch isn’t heavy enough to cause you stress during traffic situations. As for the dual-clutch auto, it’s a nice ‘box with plenty of pep, so it might just be one of the best compromises for city traffic and expressway jaunts. The 1.5 diesel, on the other hand, feels immediately more lively compared to the petrol. There’s an ample amount of torque low down, and it builds quite nicely upto a respectable rpm. What I couldn’t get too comfortable with, however, was the manual ‘box. The shifts felt a bit clunky and not as refined as the petrol manual.
What’s neat is that all the engines get three Drive and Traction modes to toggle from. Drive gets Eco, Normal and Sports, while Traction gets Mud, Snow/Wet, and Sand. The drive modes alter the engine, gearbox (auto) and steering. What the Traction modes altered wasn’t quite explained, but it’s safe to assume that the ABS settings get a rejig. Probably the biggest standout feature of the Seltos is the way it rides. It absolutely demolishes any imperfections on the road, and even when you try to hustle it into a corner, it’s fairly flat all the way through. Quite confidence-inspiring, that.
What’s crucial here is that Kia’s done its homework. It’s styled it extremely well, hasn’t skimped on features, and offered plenty in terms of power train and gearbox options. This is what you’d call a very good start. And with the prices ranging from Rs 9.69 lakh to Rs 15.99 lakh, Kia’s just knocked it out of the park.
Displacement: 1363cc, i-4, turbo petrol, 1493cc, i-4, turbodiesel
Max power: 138 bhp@6000 rpm (P), 113 bhp@4000 rpm (D)
Max torque: 24.6 kgm (P), 25.4 kgm (D)
Transmission: 6-speed, manual, 7-speed, auto, 6-speed, auto
L/W/H (mm): 4315/1800/1620
Wheelbase: 2610 mm
Ground clearance: 190 mm
Kerb weight: NA
Fuel capacity: NA
PRICE: Rs 9.69 lakh to Rs 15.99 lakh (ex-showroom)