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2019 Kia Seltos (Prototype) First Drive Review


We drive Kia’s SUV, the Seltos, in prototype guise. The Creta rival clears the air on what to expect from it

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

Should I buy it?

Hang on! Hang on! We don’t have the prices yet and the Seltoses we drove were prototypes. Honestly, in terms of quality and finish, they felt pretty much showroom-ready to us, but Kia insists the quality of the cars was not the final spec.

Woah! Feels good, huh?

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

It really does. At first glance, there’s a bit more wow packed in here. Of the two variant lines, the GT Line is the more sporty looking one. Red brake calipers, red accents on the body and 17-inch crystal cut alloy wheels give it the sportier touch. The Tech Line maintains a more mature stance, skipping the red trim and opting for a more subtle look for the bumper design too.

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

On the inside the quality of materials as well as the fit and finish make it feel properly premium. The leatherette wrap for the flat-bottomed steering wheel, the switches and the chrome finish was upmarket. In terms of features, the 8-speaker 400W Bose sound system was plain delightful. It felt perfectly balanced and properly loud too. Surprisingly, the Arkamys sound system didn’t feel lacklustre either. There will be plenty of choice with the Seltos, and good ones too. In the rear seats, better under-thigh support will be desired. However, the two-step recline adjustment and ample knee room will be appreciated.

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

The Tech Line and  GT Line feature differences on the inside too. The former will be the more family-friendly offering. But no need to worry as you can get the panoramic sunroof in that too. Other highlights that buyers will hanker after include the handy 8-inch head-up display (HUD), ventilated front seats and a 360-degree camera.

Okay, which engine did you like?

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

Of the six drivetrain options that Kia will offer on the Seltos, we got to drive four. That is the 1.5-litre diesel with the 6-speed manual transmission and the 6-speed automatic (planetary, like on the Creta). We also drove the 1.4-litre turbo-petrol with the 6-speed manual and the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission options. The ones missing were the CVT and manual transmission options of the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol. A pity, I was really looking forward to it.

Didn’t you like the others?

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

I did. Strangely, it was the diesel I liked the most. Like we said for the Hyundai Venue, the diesel feels very petrol-like to drive. It is smooth, refined and responsive from low RPMs. However, if you choose the manual transmission, you will have to run one gear lower as the gearing is really tall! No doubt this will help bump up fuel efficiency, but it also means that you will end up shifting down into second gear instead of third to do the 20kmph slog. However, the light clutch makes the job easier. The gearshifts could have been smoother, though.

What about the diesel automatic?

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

Now, this one got me hook, line and sinker. Calm when you wanted it to, prompt at other times and unstressed through it all. This to me felt like the all-rounder combo that you would want from a family SUV. The 6-speed gearbox was snappy and shock-free, so much so that you didn’t miss having paddle-shifters at all.

What about the petrol engine?

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

First, don’t think of the 1.4 turbo-petrol as the red-hot option. It felt like a sensible option with the right amount of performance to tackle city and highway duties. The bite of the clutch seemed a bit sharp and took some getting used to, but aside from that, the petrol was hassle free from a commuting or cruising standpoint. The engine revs freely to its 6800rpm redline, and you will have to rev it up when you need to change pace, a tendency which won't change even when you opt for the fast-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission. The auto also packs in bells and whistles like the drive modes which change the gearbox logic and the steering weight to make it more engaging in Sport mode and more relaxed in others.

Fun to Drive!?

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

Not really. Kia seems to have dialled down some of the sporty, youthfulness on the dynamic front. Driving over the rough-road sections at Kia’s test track in Anantpur, the Seltos seemed well suited to tackle potholes and speed breakers. However, the petrol Seltos felt a bit soft through the bends and rolled around a bit. The diesel variants felt a bit nicer on this front as the suspension felt firmer, causing them to roll less. Since the steering felt quite numb, the sense of connection that enthusiasts yearn for is muted further. No, it did not feel sloppy. The grip from the tyres was solid and the Seltos held its line well. And the disc brakes provide solid stopping power, which Kia claim is going to be best in the segment.

Should I wait?

2019 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

For sure! If these prototypes are examples of what “half-baked” means in Kia’s books, then there’s a lot of promise here! We feel the Kia Seltos has traded some of its European DNA to suit Indian road conditions better. But in regards of quality, it feels absolutely spot on. So, while the Seltos is a bit different from what we anticipated it to be, our expectations from this Kia have only gotten higher. The Kia Seltos has been launched and prices range from Rs 9.69 lakh to Rs 15.99 lakh for all the detailed prices of the many variants click here.

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