Kia helped pioneer the subcompact SUV segment. The brand created it by introducing the first-generation soul over a decade ago. That car preceded other early entries like the Nissan Juke and Subaru Crosstrek. Now, Kia’s lineup includes a full range of SUVs, all of which rank at the top of their respective classes. The Soul continues to hold down the fort at the entry-level end but now has company in the form of the Seltos. Added to the lineup two years ago, the 2022 Kia Seltos slots between the Soul and Sportage, putting it on the larger side of the subcompact spectrum. While that makes it seem compromised, that’s far from the truth because this car benefits from all of the experience Kia possesses in making SUVs, especially subcompact ones. Let’s take a closer look and see how it does that.
2022 Kia Seltos: Mini Telluride!
If you looked at the 2022 Kia Seltos and thought it resembled a small Telluride, you’d be right. Kia went for a rugged look on this rig and it results in an attractive crossover with excellent proportions. The Seltos dons the brand’s latest corporate face where the headlights and grille form a single element. An LED light tube runs nearly the entire width of the front fascia, meaning you’re not mistaking this for any other vehicle. Additional cool details include three-dimensional LED taillight patterns and diamond etchings on the silver grille surrounds. Since this test car is a Nightfall Edition, it includes a unique grille, matte black 18-inch wheels, silver lower door accents, and black roof rails.
As with the latest Kia vehicles, the Seltos features a simple yet attractive interior design. Interesting touches like the dark blue insert on the dash and three-dimensional diamond patterns on the speakers spice things up. Leatherette upholstery with cloth inserts featuring interesting horizontal line patterns gives the cabin a bit more pizzazz. However, the fit and finish land squarely within the mainstream realm. You find more hard plastics throughout the cabin but they’re nicely textured and sturdy. Only the armrests and center console bin get soft padding. The cabin also needs a bit more sound deadening because of excessive exterior noise entering the cabin at highway speeds.
The Seltos easily accommodates five passengers and their gear. You get plenty of head- and legroom, allowing the car to better fit people of all sizes. Nifty storage areas below the center stack provide a tray for your smartphone and extra space for other small items. A two-level cargo floor adds extra flexibility for tall items. Dropping the 60/40 split-folding rear seats expands the overall cargo capacity to nearly the same amount as some compact SUVs.
Technology for Everyone
Don’t think for a second that Kia skimped on tech features on the Seltos. Every model comes with a generous list of standard driver assistance features, all of which work well. Lane centering and steering assist gently re-center you when you start drifting. The latter also helps you navigate gentle turns on the highway even in models without adaptive cruise control. Additionally, the EX, Nightfall Edition, and SX grades all get blind-spot monitoring and evasive steering assist. Highway Driving Assist, Hyundai and Kia’s semi-autonomous driving aid, comes only on the range-topping SX trim. It’s the same version found on the latest Sportage and Sorento, meaning it works beautifully and does a great job proactively following traffic flow and reacting to vehicles around you.
Every version of the Seltos except for the base LX grade gets a 10.25-inch touchscreen. As expected, it offers quick responses and clear graphics. The lack of submenus minimizes the learning curve and enhances the user-friendliness of the interface. A standard six-speaker audio system provides a decent listening experience but the SX grade’s eight-speaker Bose unit greatly enhances that with improved sound quality. Range-topping SX models also get a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display replacing the tiny 3.5-inch unit on the other versions.
2022 Kia Seltos: Well-Rounded on the Road
The Seltos’ upright proportions suggest that it’s a little tipsy but in reality, that’s not true. This little guy possesses great road manners with nicely controlled body motions and accurate steering. Throw the Seltos into a corner and it happily turns in. It won’t beat you up either since the suspension does a fantastic job of filtering out harsh impacts on rough roads. Even with 18-inch wheels, the tires get generous sidewalls, adding an extra layer of isolation from harsh impacts.
Kia’s 1.6-liter turbo-four makes 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque in the 2022 Kia Seltos. It’s paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. As a result, you get lots of usable power thanks to the engine’s broad torque curve. The transmission shifts quickly and responds right away when you put your right foot down. Things get a little unrefined at city speeds. Since the gearbox lacks a torque converter, you feel the clutch packs engaging. This means the car gets a bit clunky when you’re crawling in traffic due to the clutches slipping as they start to couple together.
LX, S, and EX grades use a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter I-4 paired to a CVT. Although it’s down on power at 146 hp and 132 lb-ft, it’s smoother in operation especially in the city. This also gets the highest EPA fuel economy rating at 29/35/31 mpg city/highway/combined for FWD models. AWD variants are rated at 27/31 mpg. The turbocharged engine offered on the Nightfall Edition and SX grade is good for 25/30/27 mpg.
When it’s time to stop, the Seltos provides a nice, firm pedal feel. You know how much stopping power you’re inputting thanks to the linear delivery. During hard stops, the car remains confident and doesn’t dive too much.
2022 Kia Seltos: Experience Pays Off
Starting at $23,885 for the base LX grade, the Seltos brings a strong value game to the equation. The range-topping SX trim manages to stay under $30,000 even with an extra-cost exterior. This Nightfall Edition test car costs $28,455. While that’s a good deal considering the long list of standard equipment, I think the SX remains the best value of the bunch. It adds a host of features including a power driver’s seat, LED headlights and fog lights, Highway Driving Assist, interior ambient lighting, and a wireless charger. Every trim except for the S grade comes standard with AWD too. The only thing missing is a hybrid powertrain option. Since the Seltos shares its underpinnings with the Hyundai Kona, it can use the 139-hp hybrid system used in the Niro and Elantra Hybrid. Having that powertrain in the Seltos gives it more appeal because it’ll increase the SUV’s efficiency.
Simply put, the 2022 Kia Seltos reaps the benefits gained from vehicles like the Soul and Telluride. It takes the virtues of the latter and puts it in a package that’s slightly larger than the former. That results in a class-leading subcompact SUV that does nearly everything well. It’s practical, pleasant to drive, user-friendly, and attainable. Other than the hybrid powertrain mentioned above, this rig brings the complete package.