The 2021 Kia Seltos Bowls Over Its Hyundai Cousin with Size
Kia's new Seltos is bigger than the related Hyundai Kona, but slightly less funky.
Bigger is always better, even amongst vehicles whose entire reason for being is to be small and wieldy. The 2021 Kia Seltos is a good example. It is technically a subcompact crossover, along the same vein as the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and its close mechanical sibling, the Hyundai Kona. Yet, it's notably larger overall than the Kona—as well as the CX-3 and HR-V. That vaults the new Kia into a fledgling size class between subcompact and compact SUVs where the similarly plus-sized Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Rogue Sport, and Jeep Compass live.
In this 'tweener class, entrants are priced as affordably or as close to affordably as mainstream subcompact offerings, yet sized larger than those. Most aren't all that appealing, with the exception of the rugged Subaru, which seems like it could inspire anyone to replace their entire wardrobe with outdoor lifestyle pieces and to acquire a dog companion. The Seltos is decidedly more urban in theme, but manages to appear upscale and handsome—two descriptors no one in their right mind would apply to the Nissan Rogue Sport or the Jeep Compass.
The Seltos's style is no accident. Kia needed to split the gap between the smaller Soul, which is a cheeky and stylish box, and the somewhat ambitiously styled compact Sportage, and do so without creating something boring. While the Seltos certainly isn't pushing any boundaries, it manages to appear larger than it is—a win, we figure—and refined. The vehicle's rear, in particular, wears blistered sheetmetal and bold taillights that give an impression of substance, while the front's array of precise-looking features give it a technical, grown-up vibe. That vaguely upscale feel extends to the interior, which doesn't take any huge risks, stylistically, but as such comes off as mature and well-assembled.
Underneath, the Seltos borrows its two available engine choices and platform from the smaller Hyundai Kona. (Kia has yet to release official specs for the Seltos, but based on the version sold globally, it should be at least 5.0 inches longer than the Hyundai, as well as several inches taller.) Entry-level LX, S, and EX models use a 146-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission; the Kona's 175-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and dual-clutch automatic transmission is optional on the S and standard on the SX. All-wheel drive is optional across the board. As on the Kona, front-drive Seltoses employ a twist-beam rear axle, while all-wheel-drive versions upgrade to a multi-link independent setup.
With its greater size comes greater cost. The 2021 Seltos is expected to start at around $22,000—nearly $4000 more than the least-expensive Hyundai Kona, yet not entirely out of line amongst subcompact crossovers. That figure also ensures that the Kia undercuts nearly every compact SUV available, including the Sportage, if only just. With the expected smattering of the latest safety gear, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and other bacon-savers on offer, the Seltos checks every box for small crossover buyers. We'll have to wait and see when we drive it if there's some spice hidden within—after all, the more flamboyant Hyundai Kona drives rather well, a trait we hope carries over to the Seltos when it goes on sale early in 2020.