ECONOMIC YARDSTICK: Compact SUV that packs in style and value
Those who say money can’t buy happiness obviously haven’t driven a Porsche.
The sad fact remains most of us don’t have the disposable income to splash on a prestige car, while many also don’t care to throw away coin on a rapidly depreciating asset.
When it comes to chasing top value, Kia has been at the forefront over recent years. First to offer a seven-year warranty, that move put Kia on the consideration list for many buyers. Now it’s the sixth most popular car brand in Australia and is hot on the heels of Ford.
While the most expensive Kia will see buyers spending nearly $65,000, this Seltos SUV remains tough to beat at the other end of the spectrum.
Offering reasonable space, strong performance and good looks for $26,990 drive away, those who spend an extra $1000 can get a safety pack which provides some of the best protection money can buy.
This is where the Seltos range begins, so ambience is somewhat low-rent compared to the upper echelon models. That doesn’t mean the cabin lacks appeal, with an eight-inch touchscreen featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connected to a six-speaker stereo, 3.5-inch mono driver instrument cluster for various trip and driving information and manual aircon.
From the outside there is one let-down and that’s the 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. You don’t often see them on any new cars nowadays, even on pint-size offerings.
When it comes to colour options, bright yellow doesn’t cost any extra. Blue, orange, grey, black or white will add $520 to the bottom line.
Kia’s warranty was previously the best at seven years and unlimited kilometres, but Mitsubishi has just swooped with a 10-year/200,000km offer.
Capped price servicing for the Seltos on average costs $402 with annual intervals or every 15,000km. The turbo engine in other variants is about $65 more per service and requires maintenance every 10,000km.
With the ability to automatically apply the brake if a frontal collision with a vehicle or pedestrian, the Seltos has a five-star rating across the range.
By paying the extra $1000, that incorporates other equipment which can also be a life saver. Included is driver assist that monitors various inputs to see if drowsiness is beginning to take hold and advises of a timely break, while radar cruise control maintains preset distances from other vehicles and is a Godsend when stuck in boring traffic. The upgraded AEB also looks out for cyclists and it also has better brakes courtesy of discs at the rear as well as an electric park brake.
The 2021 models also have junction assist to warn of oncoming traffic when vision is impaired at intersections.
One item missing is front parking sensors, which are only standard at the rear.
Basic and functional, there is little chance of getting lost within the Seltos operations.
Manual dial aircon controls, analog tacho and speedometer for the driver, all the vital infotainment is stored within the touchscreen which is equally utilitarian.
With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless connectivity, that means easy access to your phone’s primary functions. Using the voice commands, it’s easy to make calls, respond to text messages verbally along with fast access to Google maps, podcasts and your own music. Banish bad radio forever.
There is no push-button start at this level, shock horror you have to turn a key and use the stalk when downpours arrive because rain sensing wipers are only available on the GT-Line. But the lights turn on automatically when dark. How lazy we’ve become.
While the steel wheels and deep-walled tyres may not look the greatest, the ride is impressive. Quiet under most circumstances, occupants are well insulated from bumps and lumps.
Interior space is also generous for a compact SUV. Adults have no issues fitting in the back as long as those in the front don’t slide too far rearward. The seats do lack some contouring, especially the rear bench.
One of the benefits of a space-saver spare in this model is extra boot space. It has more than 30 extra litres of space and 468L easily swallows a family grocery shop. The seats also fold 60-40 to make easy work of carting sporting equipment or furniture.
There is only one USB port for those who like to stay charged, and the takeaway coffee is safe in dual cupholders in the console while there is also a bottle slot in every door.
Peppy and responsive, the four-cylinder petrol engine provides some decent grunt. From a stationary start it gets under way with linear acceleration despite having a continuously variable automatic transmission — which are notorious for being slow responders.
The steering is light but generates enough feeling for the driver to maintain confidence for when the going gets twisty.
Running on standard unleaded, the Seltos is a thrifty operator. The official consumption figure from Kia is 6.8 litres/100km, yet we managed 6.1 with a good mixture of conditions — dipping to 5.5L on one highway trip.
Fitting nicely within the beer income, there are some champagne features here which are surprising for the money.
Having an SUV is a must nowadays. The Seltos has good looks and functionality without causing immense financial heartache.
Mitsubishi ASX ES $27,240 D/A
Another spacious compact SUV with a 110kW/197Nm 2.0-litre 4-cyl under the bonnet. Can’t match the Kia’s on-road prowess. Has 18-inch alloys, eight-inch touchscreen and the big inclusion of a 10-year/200,000km warranty with capped price servicing.
Hyundai Kona Go $26,490 D/A
Slightly smaller offering from the sister company to Kia. The Kona is a groovy SUV powered by a 110kW/180Nm 2.0L 4-cyl. Has similar features to the Seltos and also runs on steel wheels.
AT A GLANCE
KIA SELTOS S SAFETY PACK
PRICE $27,990 drive away (impressive package)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 7yr/unl’td km w’ty (great), $1914 for 5 years (fine)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl 110kW/180Nm, CVT, FWD (lively)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, blind-spot alert, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise (good)
THIRST 6.8L/100km (6.1 on test)
SPARE Space saver (not great)
BOOT 468L/1428L (excellent, benefit of space saver)