Apparently named after the son of Hercules, Celtos, the Kia Seltos adds to its strengths with a mid-generation update. Jam-packed with the latest features, it’s a youthful, small SUV that sits between the smaller Stonic and the bigger Sportage.
The local lineup remains unchanged from the previous model, with four variants; the entry level S, the midrange Sport and Sport+, and the range topping GT-Line.
Two powertrains are still on offer. The first is a front-wheel drive, 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder petrol engine with power unchanged at 110kW/180Nm. It can now be paired with all trim levels. The superior powertrain is an all-wheel drive, 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine that has had its power increased from 130kW to 146kW, with 265Nm of torque. It is available in the Sport+ and GT-Line specs only.
For those looking to save some money and exercise their left leg, sadly, no manual transmissions are on offer. Instead, 2WD/2.0-litre models get a CVT auto, and the all-wheel drive/1.6-litre turbo comes with a new eight-speed auto. The previous seven-speed dual-clutch is gone.
2023 Kia Seltos Sport+ 2.0L: Specifications
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Output: 110kW@6200rpm / 180Nm@4500rpm
Gearbox: CVT auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 17×7.0, 215/55
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1375kg
Power-to-weight: 12.5:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 6.9L/100km
Our consumption: 7.5L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 50L/91 RONPower efficiency: 15.94kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.62 seconds*
0-100km/h: 9.36 seconds*
60-110km/h: 6.43 seconds*
1/4 mile: 17.00 seconds at 137.7km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.542g*
100-0km/h braking: 39.20m in 3.08 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.332g*
Decibel at idle: 40*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 86*
Starting price: $35,800
2023 Kia Seltos GT-Line: Specifications
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 146kW@6000rpm / 265Nm@1800-4500rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×7.5, 235/45
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1495kg
Power-to-weight: 10.23:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 7.4L/100km
Our consumption: 9.4L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 50L/91 RONPower efficiency: 19.72kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.80 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.72 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.10 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.86 seconds at 144.8km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.759g*
100-0km/h braking: 39.03m in 3.10 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.459g*
Decibel at idle: 38*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 79*
Starting price: $44,900
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Kia Seltos: How much does it cost?
We have spent some time with the Sport+ in 2.0-litre form (black), and the GT-Line in 1.6T form (Pluton Blue). Like with most new vehicles at the moment, prices have increased for the Seltos. It’s jumped up from $26,690 to $29,500 for the base S, peaking at $44,900 for the GT-Line 1.6T.
The Sport+ represents great value, starting from $35,800, or up to $39,300 if you want the AWD running gear and turbo engine.
2023 Kia Seltos: Interior & packaging
We love the Seltos’s fresh and funky look. For the update, it has been neatened up with sharper headlights and a front grille that integrates longer LED daytime running lights, new-look, darker alloy wheels, and redesigned taillights that now join together to do away with the previous chrome joining lip. To keep the fun levels high, Kia continues to offer an array of vibrant new paint colours, including a contrasting black roof available with some such as this Pluton Blue example.
Space on the inside is surprisingly expansive for this small SUV market. Helped by a notably airy and non-protruding interior design. The dash doesn’t jut out towards you, and the centre console is low and narrow, so you don’t hit your body on any surfaces. That higher SUV roofline goes a long way to maximise headroom, too. Ground clearance has decreased by 7mm to 170mm in all models. But that handy SUV height still makes it simple to enter/exit.
Whether you have shot-gunned the front seat or have been summoned to the rear row, there is a heap of legroom for four adults. Five adults will be snug, but suitable for shorter distances. The Sport+ and models below score a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat with height adjustment and cloth trim, and the GT-Line upgrades you to an artificial leather, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support and memory, and an 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat.
Kia is well-versed in making a simple yet contemporary interior layout. It feels modern with strong and premium materials used, while being very straightforward to navigate. The GT-Line steps it up with more soft-touch materials, a wireless charging pad, and interior mood lighting that connects to the beat of the sound system. It’s a bit gimmicky, and doesn’t exactly respond with every beat. We appreciate the many cupholders and crannies, including a smart, two-level storage area in front of the gearstick, and large door pockets.
If boot space is a high priority to your lifestyle, the Seltos scores well. At 433 litres or 1393 litres with the rear seats folded down, it pretty much leads the class. In comparison, the Mazda CX-3’s boot is 264 litres, Mitsubishi ASX’s is 393 litres, Hyundai Venue’s is 355 litres, and the Toyota C-HR’s is 377 litres. This includes squeezing in a full-sized spare alloy wheel (excluding the base ‘S’), which is also a rare inclusion across all car segments.
All Seltos models score a suite of safety tech as standard. You get forward collision warning with pedestrian avoidance, active lane-keeping assist and departure warning, driver attention detection, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, safe exit door warning, lane-keeping aid, auto headlights with auto high beam, and tyre pressure sensors.
Other standard inclusions include a six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, an 8.0-inch touch-screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and now alloy wheels across the range (16-inch steel wheels are gone).
The Sport+ adds bigger 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.25-inch centre touch-screen with sat-nav, Kia Connect with seven years of updates, climate control with auto window defog, lead vehicle departure alert, auto emergency braking that adds cyclist detection and junction turning assist, a smart key with push button start, and heated electric side mirrors.
Then the top-spec GT-Line adds even bigger 18-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights and LED headlights, a smart powered tailgate, tilt and slide sunroof (with single-tone paint only), a colour head-up display, an eight-speaker Bose premium sound system, that interior mood lighting, and heated and ventilated front seats.
2023 Kia Seltos: Powertrain & handling
It goes without saying the 1.6-litre turbo engine is our favourite of the two units. Especially now that power has increased from 130kW to 146kW; increasing the gap to 36kW more than the 2.0-litre engine. It can sprint from 0-100km/h in 7.72 seconds according to our Vbox, with the 2.0-litre version achieving the sprint in 9.36 seconds.
The big setback from the 2.0-litre engine is the lack of torque. It struggles up hills with its 180Nm – 85Nm less than the 1.6 with its turbo boost. The turbo spans peak torque across 1600-4500rpm. Whereas the 2.0-litre engine only peaks at 4500rpm, making a world of difference in liveliness and spark. You really need to dig your foot in hard to evoke anything close to a thrill, which then creates a thrashy affair all too easily.
With the better engine, you also gain a new eight-speed auto over the constantly variable transmission (CVT). The eight-speed replaces the previous seven-speed dual-clutch auto and its pesky take-off delays. However, the delay seems to have moved up the ratios.
When already rolling with momentum and the need to accelerate arises, it seems to get stuck in a higher gear and won’t let it go unless you really sink your foot in. By this time, it drops a ratio or two more than you need. It’s horribly noticeable when driving calmly out of a roundabout or entering a freeway. Nonetheless, it’s still worlds apart from the dull CVT auto as the CVT makes the engine sound shrill and like it’s suffocating with its linear buzz and lack of sporty progression.
Although our testing will be tougher than official tests, we achieved a fairly meagre fuel consumption average of 7.5L/100km in the front-wheel drive Sport+. Its official average is 6.9L/100km. With no turbo, you’re inclined to put your foot down more in our opinion.
As for the GT-Line’s fuel consumption, it seems the increased power output has caused a steep increase in fuel use. Officially, the average is 7.4L/100km. But we could not get it lower than 9.4L/100km. Even with a power boost and an extra two wheels to turn, that figure is too high. Both engines are compatible with the cheaper E10 blend fuel, so that’s frugal.
In terms of driving dynamics, the 1.6T models feature the superior multilink independent rear suspension instead of a torsion beam setup; and of course, all-wheel drive. All Seltos models have a remarkably sturdy, nimble, and peaceful feel on the road. Local engineering and testings mean the ride is fine-tuned to suit our rougher local conditions.
But with the independent setup, you can tackle corners just a little more confidently as it exhibits less weight transfer sway and slightly less body roll. It is notably quieter going over harsh bumps and more traction is gained with the all-wheel drive. All models provide a good amount steering feel at all speeds.
A behind-the-wheel quirk worth a mention is the horrendous beeping every time you exceed the speed limit. The biggest issue is, it’s based on what it reads from speed limit road signs you drive past. If you proceed into a new speed zone and haven’t driven past a speed limit sign yet – perhaps due to entering a new street – it will incessantly beep at you. If you’re outside school zone hours and exceed 40, it will beep at you. You can turn it off in the settings but you need to do it every time you restart the car. Manufacturers should not enforce these safety warnings if they are based on unreliable data.
2023 Kia Seltos: Key attractions/reasons to buy
The Seltos mid-life update is certainly a mini-Hercules when it comes to space, practicality, fresh design and ease of use. It has a big boot for a small SUV. On road dynamics are a winner, and the 1.6T engine is strengthened by increased power and a smoother eight-speed auto.
There are also lots of different models to suit many budgets. All of which are generous on standard features. Lastly, the Seltos is covered by one of the most generous warranties on the market; seven years and unlimited kilometres.
2023 Kia Seltos: Key considerations before you buy
There are a couple of oddities that irritate us too much to crown it the best-in-class. Like the relentless speed limit beeping, acceleration delay in the 1.6T engine, and its hefty average fuel consumption. Also, in the 2.0L models, the CVT auto is dull and makes the engine sound thrashier than it already is.
Interestingly, the 2.0-litre engine requires servicing less often, at 15,000 or 12 months. Whereas the 1.6-litre turbo engine requires one every 10,000km or 12 months. The two engines also come with differing pricing for the capped-price servicing plan.
2023 Kia Seltos: 0-100km/h & exhaust sound video
How does it rate against its rivals?
The 1.6T-GDI Seltos should be a serious contender for anyone after a funky small SUV with a bit of extra spark. But we can’t ignore the fuel consumption hike, annoying acceleration delay, and incessant speed limit beeping. For the more budget conscious the 2.0L petrol still rewards you with the practicality, generous feature listing and that fresh design.