8.0/10Score

Score breakdown

8.5

Safety, value and features

8.0

Comfort and space

8.0

Engine and gearbox

8.0

Ride and handling

8.0

Technology

Things we like

  • New turbo-petrol powertrain
  • Practical, thoughtful cabin
  • Rear air vents standard
  • Good ride and handling balance

Not so much

  • Scratchy interior plastics
  • No hybrid powertrain
  • Incessant speed assist

8.0/10Score

Score breakdown

8.5

Safety, value and features

8.0

Comfort and space

8.0

Engine and gearbox

8.0

Ride and handling

8.0

Technology

Things we like

  • New turbo-petrol powertrain
  • Practical, thoughtful cabin
  • Rear air vents standard
  • Good ride and handling balance

Not so much

  • Scratchy interior plastics
  • No hybrid powertrain
  • Incessant speed assist

The Kia Seltos arrived triumphantly in 2019 to plug the small SUV gap in the Korean carmaker’s range. In those three years, the Seltos has ingrained itself in the segment, regularly trading places in the sales race with Subaru’s Crosstrek (XV).

With the Seltos, Kia launched what was really the first truly practical, family-friendly little crossover – the Goldilocks of small SUVs, if you will – and is a recipe that rivals have been scrambling to fill. The Mazda CX-30 and Toyota Corolla Cross come to mind as two of the best in the segment, but there are also Chinese rivals including the Haval Jolion and MG ZS.

The Seltos and Corolla Cross, though, have a lot of similarities: boxy bluff small SUVs not trying to be coupes, instead tough little cubes that maximise cabin space. Thing is, Kia’s updated Seltos pulls off the visual appeal much better than the Corolla Cross and is now one of the most eye-catching in the class.

Much of the sheet metal on a Seltos remains the same but in its new hero Pluton Blue/Midnight Black two-tone colourway, the GT-Line looks the part.

The grille has been broadened, the lower air dam redesigned with a more pronounced skid plate and the GT-Line features new LED lighting signatures that emphasise the SUV’s width.

Aside from fresh looks, all-wheel drive (AWD) Seltos grades score a new turbo-petrol engine and – drumroll please – an eight-speed torque converter automatic in place of the dithering dual-clutch.

The Seltos also brings Kia’s connected services ‘to the masses’ (following the debut in its electrified – and pricier – Niro showroom sibling) with a seven-year subscription thrown in with the purchase. Take note, Toyota.

During the Australian launch of the updated Seltos, we took in some urban, highway and great country roads to the west of Sydney. We split time between two popular variants: the GT-Line turbo AWD which is projected to take 25 per cent of sales, and the Sport+ FWD.

Kia didn’t have any S base models with 16-inch alloys or mid-spec Sport variants on launch, so we’ll be sure to get those through the garage for full reviews shortly.

The Pluton Blue GT-Line pictured here is also becoming a Wheels long-termer in the hands of Peter Anderson, so stay tuned for future insights.

JUMP AHEAD

  • How much is it, and what do you get?
  • How do rivals compare on value?
  • Interior comfort, space and storage
  • What is it like to drive?
  • How much fuel does it use?
  • How safe is it?
  • Warranty and running costs
  • VERDICT

How much is it, and what do you get?

And what’s the cost of all this extra Seltos? Well, not that much. Kia hasn’t gone all price-gougey on us punters.

The entry-level S is up by $2400 to $31,690 drive-away, and while that seems a steep jump, the S does gain much-needed added safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with braking and safe-exit warning as standard.

2023 Kia Seltos S features

16-inch alloy wheels Auto halogen headlights
4.2-inch digital cluster Cloth upholstery
6-speaker sound system 8.0-inch touchscreen
Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Rear air vents

Value improves as you go up the range, too. Take the Sport ($35,390 drive-away) as an example. It’s up by $2600 but you get seven years of connected services and the safety pack (previously $1000) thrown in free, much more sound deadening and a fresher technology package built around a pair of 10.25-inch screens.

2023 Kia Seltos Sport features (in addition to S)

16-inch alloy wheels Auto halogen headlights
10.25-inch digital driver’s display Cloth upholstery
10.25-inch touchscreen Kia Connect
Wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Leather steering wheel trim
Auto-fold mirrors DAB+ digital radio

Lower grades are only available with the 110kW 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder, but the top trims can be had with either engine.

The Sport+ is up by $2200 for FWD ($38,490 drive-away) or AWD ($41,990 drive-away) and the flagship Seltos GT-Line AWD ($47,690 drive-away) is bumped by $2400, with the GT-Line FWD ($44,590 drive-away) now offered as a permanent variant after the success of last year’s special edition.

2023 Kia Seltos Sport+ features (in addition to Sport)

Navigation Premium cloth/vinyl upholstery
Smart key Auto-dimming rear mirror
Covered central storage bin

2023 Kia Seltos GT-Line features (in addition to Sport+)

18-inch alloy wheels LED headlights
LED daytime running lights Electric front seat adjustment with memory
Heated and cooled front seats Vinyl upholstery
8-speaker Bose sound system LED interior lights
Heated steering wheel Power tailgate
Qi wireless phone charging Rear-seat centre armrest

Only fitting an auto-down switch for the driver’s window is one of the few letdowns for what is an otherwise very full spec sheet. Given Kia listened to feedback with the latest update by adding rear air vents and USB-C charging across the range, hopefully, some two-dollar auto-switches make their way into the cabin soon.

Kia’s technology package looks sharp, too, with customisable dial colours and looks tied to drive modes. The in-built sat-nav comes with 10 years of free map updates, but it’s a shame Kia still doesn’t support wireless smartphone mirroring in the big-screened trims.

There are a host of cute features including ‘Sounds of Nature’ ambient noise generator built in, and the Seltos brings Kia’s Connected Services to the masses. Via a smartphone app, its telematics features enable the owner to remotely start the car, keep track of fuel levels, location, lock status and pre-condition the climate settings before driving away.

Kia Seltos: The basics

Feature Seltos FWD Seltos AWD
Drive front-wheel all-wheel
Engine 2.0L, MPI I4, DOHC, Atkinson cycle petrol 1.6L, DI I4, DOHC, CVVD turbo-petrol
Power 110kW 146kW
Torque 180Nm 265Nm
0-100km/h (claimed) 10 seconds (estimated) 8.5 seconds
Transmission continuously variable 8-speed torque converter
Body steel, 5-door, 5-seat small SUV steel, 5-door, 5-seat small SUV
Weight 1375kg 1495kg
Fuel consumption (tested) 6.7lL100km 8.7L/100km
Boot space 433L (S 468L) 433L

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How do rivals compare on value?

Traditionally, the small SUV has offered less-than-stellar value compared to hatchbacks, but sales charts suggest that isn’t enough to put anyone off.

In the case of Seltos, the base small SUV commands a $4700 premium over a Cerato (when the hatch is equipped with the necessary $1500 safety pack). For those looking to save without sacrificing, it pays to look beyond SUVs.

But because 13 per cent of Australia’s new-car sales (18 per cent when you throw smaller ‘light’ SUVs in) come from small SUVs, they’re clearly here to stay.

The 2023 Kia Seltos compares favourably to the latest player in the space, Toyota’s Corolla Cross. That starts at $33,000 before on-road costs, which makes a Corolla Cross GX about $5000 dearer drive-away than the Seltos S without offering a larger touchscreen or slicker cabin materials.

Looking at the top of the range, Mazda’s sharp and premium-feeling CX-30 is an attractive option, but once you add on-roads to the G25 Astina’s $45,190 price (about $49,699 drive-away) and Toyota’s Corolla Cross Atmos 2.0 FWD $43,550 ($47,693 drive-away), the $47,690 drive-away Seltos GT-Line AWD looks right on the money.

Of course, for those looking for absolute bargain SUVs, your money will go towards a more bulging spec sheet on a Mitsubishi ASX, Haval Jolion or MG ZS, but none of those has been blessed with Kia’s Australian ride and handling program.

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Interior comfort, space and storage

For all the value the Seltos offers, there’s definitely some style worth talking about too. The three top trims have their infotainment interfaces and instrument panels near-seamlessly integrated into a pair of screens.

High-traffic touch points are generally nicely appointed, including the satin silver-look door handles and soft leatherette steering wheel (with sporty perforations and a flat bottom on the GT-Line). Build quality is sturdy, too.

Look further afield, though, and there is still a lot of scratchy black plastic. The door tops – even in the front of GT-Line – are hard, and the dash’s solid moulding means this is quite a glary car in the Australian sun, though luckily the glare doesn’t impact the legibility of the digital driving display.

From Sport+ up the Seltos has a covered central storage cubby. Every grade has two cup holders and a two-tiered storage compartment ahead of the gear selector. In the GT-Line, the top level houses a wireless phone charging pad, but in every grade there’s a USB-A slot for phone communication, a USB-C fast-charging slot and a 12-volt socket easily accessible.

The door bins are fairly spacious, but not generous enough for a one-litre camping bottle.

Seating is a mixed bag in the Seltos. Lower grades get manual front seat adjustment that the driver can set nice and low (but the passenger misses height adjustment).

Meanwhile, the GT-Line’s vinyl-trimmed seats with electric adjustment sit much taller in the cabin. They are comfortable and do have three-stage heating and cooling for much-needed temperature regulation. The result being, the Sport+ has all the comfort you need with lower-set seats with premium-feeling patterned cloth upholstery.

Jumping into the back seat is typically where the Seltos has the Mazda CX-30 licked, and the facelift is almost no different. At 188cm I have generous knee- and toe-room, with enough headroom to be comfortable.

You could fit three slender people across the back if needed, and for securing child seats, the 2023 Seltos has three top tether anchor points plus ISOFIX ports for both outboard seats.

The rear backrest of the Seltos has two positions to choose from, but no sliding base. For the facelift, Kia has sprinkled air vents across the whole range, great in a hot country like ours. There are also USB-C charging points to keep kids’ devices charged.

Material quality, though, is not so stellar. The door plastics are very firm to the touch, and the back of the driver’s seat has no vinyl padding – it’s just black PVC. The GT-Line exclusively gets a back seat centre armrest.

2023 Kia Seltos boot space

Another boon for Seltos is its boot, which again, is unchanged and still the biggest in class. The base Seltos S has 468L of cargo space, growing to 1428L with the seats folded. As Sport and above Seltos trims get full-size spares in 2023, their boot space is 433L (climbing to 1393 with the second row down).

2023 Small SUV boot comparison

Kia Seltos 433L-468L
Haval Jolion 430L
Toyota Corolla Cross 425L-436L
Mitsubishi ASX 393L
Volkswagen T-Roc 392L
MG ZS 359L
Mazda CX-30 317L

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What is it like to drive?

So the Seltos is an impressively packaged SUV that offers great value, and as we know from before, is one that doesn’t fall apart on the road.

Kia hasn’t messed with the suspension and steering settings of the Seltos for the facelift as it deemed the chassis more than adequate, something with which we agree.

Instead, Kia focused on making the drive smoother in a number of ways. Starting with sound – there’s more absorbing material behind the pillar and door trims, as well as under the carpet and in the wheelarches. The result is suspension that feels quieter in its operation and less noticeable road noise.

The big headline is the new powertrain for the AWD Seltos. Gone is the 1591cc 130kW/265Nm petrol engine, and instead we have the 1598cc Smartstream unit found in the Hyundai i20 N and i30 N Line sedan.

Power is up by 16kW to 146kW, while torque is unchanged. The result is a 0-100km/h sprint a tenth faster (now 8.4 seconds) but an 80-120km/h interval taking 5.7 seconds, half a tick faster for much-improved overtaking performance.

An all-alloy four-cylinder, it employs continuously variable valve duration technology to help it achieve better power and efficiency. It’s also a quieter unit, with the old engine’s high rpm buzzy resonance banished.

The 2023 Seltos AWD uses an eight-speed torque converter automatic from Aisin, which doesn’t have the old dual-clutch unit’s tendency to roll back and deliver jerky shifts.

Sometimes the new transmission refuses manual gear changes, and even in Sport mode will only hold a gear to a maximum of 6000rpm before changing up (the redline looks to be at 6500rpm), but as a small SUV rather than a performance car, it’s not such a big issue.

The other engine remains unchanged, a 2.0-litre multi-point injected Atkinson cycle petrol developing 110kW/180Nm. The outputs sound pretty lazy but are adequate for urban running. The front-drive Seltos remains a surprisingly sweet companion around town, but the new 1.6 turbo is a more enticing option.

Also, the AWD 1.6 Seltos is blessed with multi-link independent rear suspension that offers a more supple, fluid ride than the occasionally hoppy torsion beam in the front-drive cars.

Out on the twists and turns through the Blue Mountains and over the Great Dividing Range the Seltos performs admirably. The chassis is firmer in its tune than the Corolla Cross, but more compliant than a CX-30. Cornering support is good, and the Seltos is a fluid and talented companion on a country road.

If there’s one complaint, on the Seltos GT-Line’s bigger 235/45R18 wheel and tyre combo the secondary ride can be abrupt, especially over urban imperfections. The Sport+ and Sport’s 17-inch alloys are shod in 215/55 R17 Kumho Ecsta HS51 tyres that better cushion your coccyx from potholes.

The Seltos has Australian-tuned steering and it’s good on the whole, though there’s still some vagueness on-centre. But once in the meat of the rack, things improve and make the Seltos a confident handler.

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How much fuel does it use?

The combined ADR 81/02 consumption figure for the 2023 Seltos front-wheel drive is 6.9L/100km.

According to the trip computer on the car we drove during the Australian launch, we managed to better its claim, returning 6.7L/100km, which is pretty impressive for a naturally aspirated four-banger.

While the new Smartstream turbo is cleverer, the combined fuel efficiency creeps down by two-tenths to 7.4L/100km.

We saw 8.7L/100km in the AWD Seltos, potentially reflecting its portlier 1495kg tare weight and extra driveshafts when compared to the front-driver’s 1375kg claim. No Seltos has a stop-start system for fuel saving.

Given the swelling hybrid options in this space, it’s a shame the Seltos is petrol only. As it uses many of the same underpinnings as the Niro, the engineering complexity would – theoretically – not be too huge. But Kia execs have all but ruled out a hybrid Seltos until a new gen arrives around 2025.

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How safe is it?

Kia has improved safety across the Seltos range, and banished the $1000 safety pack, opting instead to dump extra kit onto the base car.

The 2023 Seltos S is equipped with lane-trace assist, safe-exit warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and emergency call contact.

This is in addition to auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, rear occupant monitoring and six airbags that were fitted to the pre-facelift cars.

As the S is not fitted with a radar sensor (its AEB system uses cameras only), the S is no longer available with adaptive cruise control, front junction AEB or cyclist detection.

The Seltos Sport mirrors the S, while the Sport+ and GT-Line score the radar sensor meaning adaptive cruise control, front junction and cyclist detection for the AEB and lead vehicle departure alert are added.

No Seltos is available with a surround-view camera and Kia has not integrated Sportage’s clever blind-spot cameras into the Seltos’s digital cluster. Also, Kia’s lane-keep aid is still not the best in the business.

The Seltos has also picked up a new feature called ‘intelligent speed limit assist’.

Like lane-keep, this defaults on every time you spark up the engine. The system either subtly trims the Seltos’s throttle inputs to match the speed limit (obtained from traffic sign recognition cameras) or plays a constant chime when breaking what the car thinks is the current limit, even by small 1-5km/h increments where your true speed is within the posted sign.

This may be helpful to some, but I’ll bet a crisp pineapple that having to jump through three menu layers to switch it off will wear thin very quickly.

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Warranty and running costs

Kia maintains its seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia.

Once industry-leading, it is slowly being adopted by more manufacturers, including Skoda and GWM/Haval, while Mitsubishi offers a 10-year/200,000km warranty when the car is serviced at a dealer.

Servicing for the front-wheel drive Seltos is due every 12 months or 15,000km and will cost $2072 over five years, or $3040 for seven.

The turbo-petrol Seltos requires maintenance a little more regularly, at 12 months or 10,000km, at a cost of $2178 for five years and $3479 for seven.

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VERDICT

Revamped, more handsome and now with a better AWD powertrain, the Seltos is really only missing a hybrid to totally challenge the best in the small SUV segment.

It’s a great little SUV to drive, with abundant practicalities and an extensive spec list. The facelift has amped the cabin ambience, but there’s still a way to go to match the gorgeous CX-30 and premium-feeling Volkswagen T-Roc.

The inclusion of connected services for seven years is also a great deal for prospective Seltos buyers. Kia says there will be stock in dealers later this month, but as with all cars at the moment you’ll probably be waiting a while.

Still, the Seltos is well worth putting on your shortlist. This is a small SUV that will weather the rigours of family life.

As cool as the GT-Line looks, our money would go to the Sport+ with either powertrain.

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Kia Seltos FWD Kia Seltos AWD
DRIVETRAIN
Engine 4cyl, dohc, 16v, Atkinson cycle 4cyl, dohc, turbo, direct-injected 16v
Layout front engine (east-west) FWD front engine (east-west) + single motor, AWD
Capacity 1999cc 1598cc
Power 110kW 146kW
Torque 180Nm 265Nm
Gearbox CVT automatic 8-speed automatic
CHASSIS
Body steel, 5 doors, 5 seats steel, 5 doors, 5 seats
L/W/H/W–B 4385/1800/1635/2630mm
Weight 1375kg 1495kg
Boot 468L/1428L (S) OR 433L/1393L (other trims) 433L/1393L
Fuel/tank 91 RON/ 50 litres 91 RON/ 50 litres
Economy 6.9L/100km (ADR81/02) 7.4L/100km (ADR 81/02)
Suspension Front: struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar. Rear: coupled torsion beam axle Front: struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar. Rear: multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering electric rack-and-pinion electric rack-and-pinion
Front brakes ventilated discs (280mm) ventilated discs (305mm)
Rear brakes solid discs (262mm) solid discs (284mm)
Tyres Kumho Ecsta HS51 Kumho Ecsta HS51
Tyre size 215/55 R17 OR 235/45R18 (GT-Line) 215/55 R17 OR 235/45R18 (GT-Line)
SAFETY
ANCAP rating five stars five stars
PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h 10.5sec (estimated) 8.4sec (claimed)

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