2021 Kia Seltos SX new car reviews

Photography Courtesy Kia

Built on the same platform as the Kia Soul and the Hyundai Kona, the Seltos is one of six SUV-like options available from Kia (seven if you want to count the new Carnival MPV).

We test drove the top-trim SX that comes standard with a turbocharged inline-four, all-wheel-drive and a dual-clutch transmission.

Does that formula make for an engaging drive? Read our review below.

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

A bit of a swing and a miss on this one for me. Taken completely out of context, the Steltos we tested seems like a nice enough small SUV. It’s not fancy, but a base price below $23,000 takes some of the sting out of the lack of swank.

But our test car cost waaaay more than that. Loaded up with all-wheel-drive and comfort and convenience functions, our test Steltos flirted with 30 grand, and, the thing is, none of the extra fluff seemed to be adding much to the experience.

The DCT never seemed to be able to find the right of gear—especially below about 40mph. At highway speeds, it was a bit better, but still not doing itself any favors. And—perhaps most disappointingly—we barely managed to crack 20 mpg with the Steltos which…hang on…I’m being told is actually called the Seltos and I’ve been saying it incorrectly this whole time. Ehh. It doesn’t matter, it’s still not great.

Look, I guess in the spirit of neutrality and objective journalism I’m supposed to come up with some redeeming attributes of the…one sec…Seltos, to balance out my overall ennui at its existence. But I can’t. Except to say that you should look at literally any of the other Kia small SUVs like the Sportage or the Niro or the Soul or the Sorrento, because I’ve been nearly universally impressed with all of those from both a value and experience perspective.

So, Kia is clearly capable of building solid, value-laden cars that seem powerfully underwhelming for way too much coin.

Kia, I love you guys, so you get a pass on this one, but a loaded $30,000 small SUV that gets 20 mpg and feels more like a stripped $24,000 SUV is doing you no favors. I’m perfectly willing to pretend this never happened the next time I drive a Sorento or a K5.

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No Time
No Time SuperDork
10/18/21 8:35 a.m.

We looked at the Seltos in the spring when we were shopping, but ended up going with the Sportage. 

The Seltos seemed nice enough in the show room, but my wife found enough little things she didn't like that we never even drove it. 

As for the Sportage, we went with the Nightfall Edition and have been happy with it. We've put >6k miles on the Sportage, including trips to VA and NJ with a 12 and 18yo in the back seat. 

While it took a little time to get used to all the electronic features and nannies, I actually appreciate the blind spot notifications. 

It lacks the space of the Sedona it replaced, but still fits luggage for 4 passengers or hockey bags for 2 kids without intruding into the passenger space (except the hockey stick).

NickD MegaDork
10/18/21 8:53 a.m.

The front end styling on these makes me think of a Skoda.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/18/21 8:54 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

But despite Kia's updated styling, they have retained the pinched grille. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/18/21 7:27 p.m.

The control arms on these look like they could widen the front track of an FC by a few inches, but the aftermarket has not picked up on these yet and new and even used ones are crazy expensive.

Iusedtobefast Reader
10/18/21 8:28 p.m.

I have a 2021 Seltos. Just the LX with the 2.0 4 cylinder. I get 30 mpg on the expressway and I'm a lead foot.If I go easy I can get a little more but what fun is that. I use it as a work car. I carry extra clothes, rubber boots and a grease gun with other small tools in the back. Have had no complaints. Yeah it's no rocket ship but I didn't expect it to be. I'm waiting for winter so I can see how the AWD does. A friend of mine, his daughter bought a 2020 when they came out. She has the turbo 4. She has had it back at the dealer at least 4 times. Always the same problem, go out to leave and it doesn't start. The dealer is stumped as is KIA. They have changed a bunch of modules and other electrical on it. Last I heard they were talking about a buy back. When I took mine in for an oil change, the writer said KIA might take it and disassemble it to find what's wrong. Is that common for car companies to do? I don't know, but I really like mine so far.

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