Kia Seltos 2023: First Drive Review

Kia’s mid-size SUV, the Seltos, gets a healthy serving of features in this facelifted model

When it was first introduced in 2019, the Kia Seltos immediately won favour among customers with its excellent value for money proposition. It offered a ton of features in a well-designed package with a number of powertrain options. Since then, rivals have caught up and even outdone the SUV in the features department. The facelifted Seltos then is an opportunity to remedy just that.

Headlining the new additions, is an ADAS Level 2 suite that makes it the best-equipped in the segment, when it comes to active safety tech. That aside, there is a large, curved glass panel that now houses the infotainment display and instrument cluster. Rounding off the major changes is the new 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine that makes it the quickest (0-100kmph) vehicle in its class.

As with other Kia models, the new Seltos can be had in a mind-boggling 18 variants spread across three trim lines – Tech Line, GT Line and the top-spec X Line. With so many permutations and combinations of engines, gearboxes and features to sift through, the new SUV promises to offer something for just about everyone.

Earlier, it stood out for its looks, when it was first launched. To keep it looking fresh, Kia has made a host of subtle changes that add immensely to the new design. Kia, unlike most other manufacturers, makes minute adornments and changes that help differentiate between trim levels. These changes range from elements on the grille, the bumpers to even the exhaust tips. The brand’s ‘tiger nose’ grille is now larger, there’s a new bumper, tweaked headlights, new LED DRLs that extend into the grille and a new design for the fog lamps.

On the side, the changes are minimal with 18-inch alloys offered for the upper trims and some changes to the cladding. At the rear, a light bar now spans the width of the tailgate, new vertical tail-lights with sequential turn indicators are offered, along with a new bumper. A new ‘Pewter Olive’ shade has also been added to the Seltos’ long list of exterior paint options. It is important to note that it is one of the few cars on sale in India today with significant visual differentiation based on the trim levels. The higher trims get different body kits to the Tech-line trim with elements like different grille inserts, bumpers, skid plates and larger 18-inch alloys.

On the inside is where you will see significant visual changes. The curved dual-screen setup for the cluster and the infotainment is executed well and makes the whole cabin look cleaner. The two 10.25-inch screens are high-res and are very responsive too. The dials transform based on what drive mode you are in as well. There is wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with new Hinglish voice commands for basic functions.

Quality of materials on the inside remains good with the rotary dials on the dash and the upholstery standing out. In the GT-Line trim, the red details have been given a miss and what you get is a black and white combination which should appeal to more people. The seats themselves continue to be comfortable, both front and back.

The Kia Seltos was the benchmark when it came to features on offer when it first launched. In this update, it is trying to outdo the competitors once again. There’s a large panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control (first-in-class), the two screens for the infotainment and the gauges, a full ADAS suite and an electronic parking brake. Additionally, there’s a new 360-degree camera and a blind-spot monitor, while the head-up display, auto headlamps and wipers, a Bose audio system an onboard air purifier and wireless charger continue to be offered. Apart from the ADAS features, six airbags, disc brakes all around, ESP, hill-hold assist and a TPMS are standard on all variants of the SUV.

ADAS is a key addition and an important differentiator here. The Seltos uses a LiDAR based sensor suite that gives it Level 2 ADAS capabilities. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, auto emergency braking and more are now available on the top-spec Seltos. It is easily the most equipped in its class when it comes to self-driving capabilities.

With five cameras and three radar sensors, there are now a total of 17 ADAS functions. We did get to test pedestrian auto emergency braking and rear cross traffic braking while on a pre-built test track. The features worked as expected with the car coming to a complete and safe stop in both tests. You can even switch off the ADAS features here, unlike in some other cars.

Mechanically, there are incremental updates. Gone is the old 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine and in its stead is a 1.5-litre unit that produces 160PS of power. The other two engine options have been retained – 1.5-litre petrol and diesel units. With an uptick in power comes a measurable difference in outright performance. As mentioned before, this is now the quickest SUV in its class. While most buyers of the Seltos wouldn’t care so much about 0-100kmph times (8.9 seconds, if you are curious), but it makes a big difference when it comes to drivability. When you first start driving the Seltos, there isn’t a surge in power or acceleration. Instead, what you get is linear progress, and it is only when you look at the speedo that you notice the sheer pace it has gathered. This performance makes the SUV a breeze to drive on highways. There is enough and more performance for high-speed cruising. Overtakes are breezy and you rarely have to extend your right foot to make good progress. And that translates to a seamless driving experience all around. We drove the variant with an iMT gearbox which meant that the clutch action was taken care of by the computers. Out on the highway, it took very little time to get used to the iMT and soon enough, the effortless shifting action and the quick response from the sprightly engine made for a fun driving experience.

We also sampled the tried-and-tested 1.5 diesel engine with a 6-speed torque converter with 116PS and 250Nm. While lacking the power of the turbo-petrol unit, this engine is refined and extremely efficient. Together with the silky-smooth shifts via the torque converter unit on our review car, you can cruise through the city and highway effortlessly.

On a 100km drive from Nagpur to the Pench Tiger Reserve, we were able to extract over 17kmpl with the diesel motor. Though it has to be mentioned, the nature of the engine does prompt you to drive far more sedately when compared to the turbo-petrol. Refinement levels are good for both the motors with the latter being a bit quieter while cruising at similar speeds.

The Seltos now gets 18-inch wheels on the higher trims. While that does help with the stance and also fills up the wheel wells, it also has an impact on ride quality. Its supposed improvements on the suspension front also end up not being noticeable due to the increase in wheel size. It still takes road imperfections at speed very well but at low speeds, quite a lot tends to filter through to the cabin. Ride is now a lot firmer than I remember in the pre-facelift model without much of an improvement in handling characteristics. It still corners very well with well controlled body movements and is enjoyable on twisty roads. On the models equipped with the 17-inch wheels, ride is a lot better.

With important feature additions and changes to the design and the interior, Kia have managed to keep the Seltos fresh. More importantly, it is seriously well equipped now, much like it was when it first launched. With prices starting at Rs. 10.89 lakh for the base variant, and going up to Rs. 19.99 lakh for the top-spec X-Line variant, the pricing is competitive as well. After a slight dip in interest, the Kia Seltos is likely to recapture the public’s imagination with this update.

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