Pros: Loads of space; great technology; exuberant acceleration with turbo engine; clever design throughout; strong safety ratings
Cons: Turbo engine’s subpar fuel economy; weak base engine
Go ahead and forget the name for a second. Actually, it’s probably best to always forget about the name, maybe even call it something entirely different – whatever you concoct will certainly be better than 2024 Kia Seltos. And frankly, this little SUV deserves better than to sound like a drug advertised during “Jeopardy!” with spooky side effects. It’s one of our top-recommended subcompact SUVs, a fantastic example of not needing to spend a lot to get a lot. It provides loads of passenger and cargo space for the price, exceptional tech, a rare engine upgrade option, and attractive style, especially inside.
The Seltos gets its first major update for 2024, including a subtle restyle that makes both the front and rear a little less busy. The corner-to-corner LED taillight strip is probably the most obvious change. The interior gets the same curved, twin-screen housing as other Kias, with the screen size determined by trim level (most get the bigger combo). There’s a new Seltos X-Line trim level that gets a more rugged-looking grille and raised roof rails for easier accessory fitment. It also gets the same turbo engine upgrade as the SX, which receives an extra 20 horsepower for 2024 along with a conventional eight-speed automatic in place of the old dual-clutch automated manual.
All told, the Seltos is an even better choice. The excellent new Chevy Trax and Buick Envista have taken a serious chunk out of Kia’s value proposition, but the Seltos nevertheless offers more equipment (including the option of all-wheel drive), a higher-quality cabin and an engine upgrade. The Seltos is also a compelling alternative to our other recommended choices in the subcompact SUV segment, the Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen Taos, while surpassing the popular-but-underwhelming Honda HR-V and Toyota Corolla Cross. Well, except for that name. Ick.
What’s new for 2024?
The Seltos gets a subtle, but substantive update for 2024. You can read about the highlights above or take a deeper dive in our 2024 Kia Seltos First Drive Review.
Seltos SX interior with “Brown” color choice; Seltos S blue seat option; base Seltos LX with smaller screen combo
What are the Seltos interior and in-car technology like?
If there’s one area where the Seltos betrays its relatively low price, it’s the quality of its interior materials. The door sills, dash tops, center console and cargo area are all hard plastic – there’s far more throughout than you’ll find in Kia’s Sportage or even Niro. To be fair, this isn’t unusual for the segment and there’s actually higher-quality materials present than the widely lauded Chevy Trax/Buick Envista twins. Like those, though, Kia’s designers cleverly made up for its accountants’ dictates by elevating several key areas with upgraded materials and distinctive design elements. The 3D geometric pattern of the speaker grilles, the metal-look passenger grab handle, the sleek silver trim piece surrounding the air vents and starter button, and optional upgrades that include distinctive seat colors and, on upper trim levels, matching simulated leather dash trim. It definitely looks more expensive than it is.
Also helping the interior’s visual appeal is the new-for-2024 curved twin-screen housing that stretches across the dash. The base LX gets a combination of 4.2-inch instrument panel and 8-inch infotainment screen with bordering physical buttons; all other trims get 10.25-inchs screens for both the instruments (complete with four design choices) and infotainment system. The latter’s physical menu controls and knobs migrate down below the climate controls, which sounds weird, but puts them quickly at hand. Although the base system is certainly easy enough to use, the upgrade is one of the better, most feature-packed and easiest-to-use infotainment systems out there. We also like the two-tiered storage solution intended for smartphones: the smaller tray above meant to grip and store a phone (it’s also a wireless charger in upper trims) and the deeper bin below with two USB ports that can store another phone or whatever you want. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cannot be wirelessly connected, but the wired versions are standard.
How big is the Seltos?
The Seltos may be a subcompact SUV with significantly smaller exterior dimensions than its bigger, “compact” Sportage sibling, it still offers plenty of interior space. Indeed, its one of the few choices in the segment that would be well-suited for small families. There’s sufficient room for a giant child seat, and the squared roofline and rear doors make loading and unloading that child easier than in several competitors. For those sans kids, the back seat provides ample comfort and space for full-size adults without the low roof and claustrophobic view out of some rivals. The eight-way power driver seat found in the EX, X-Line and SX trim levels provides an abundance of adjustability and space.
Cargo space is also very good for the segment. There’s a generous 26.6 cubic feet back there, which allowed us to secure five suitcases with room to spare. While not best in its subcompact class (the Ford Bronco Sport and VW Taos are bigger), it’s right up there. Its maximum cargo capacity of 62.8 cubic feet is generous as well and speaks to its boxier dimensions that should make hauling bulkier items easier.
The Seltos LX, S and EX are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a modest 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It is paired to a continuously variable transmission that simulates eight gear ratios. Front-wheel drive is standard on the S and EX; all-wheel-drive is optional on those and curiously, standard on the base LX. Kia claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 8.8 seconds with standard front-wheel-drive, and 9.6 seconds with optional all-wheel drive. Those would be among the slowest figures in the segment. Fuel economy with FWD is 28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. Those drop to 27/31/29 with AWD. These figures make it among the most efficient in the segment, though differences are slim.
The X-Line and SX get a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 195 hp and 195 lb-ft. Few choices in the segment offer anything close to this. The 0-60 time is listed at a relatively modest 8 seconds by Kia, but Motor Trend clocked it at 7.3 seconds – a time that seems more aligned with just how quick the Seltos feels with it. All-wheel-drive is standard with this engine along with a traditional eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy falls to an unremarkable 25 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. We managed only 23.5 mpg in just over 100 miles of mixed city and highway driving.
What’s the Seltos like to drive?
We have yet to test the Seltos with the base powertrain. We found it to be underpowered in the lighter Kia Forte sedan – which probably isn’t a good sign – and the “IVT” transmission to be unusual. It simulates gear ratios during most driving conditions, making it feel normal enough (a bit like the Turbo models’ dual-clutch gearbox, actually), but when accelerating hard, it’ll hang onto revs as a CVT would before eventually “upshifting” a ratio. It’s weird, but again, we haven’t tested it in the Seltos.
The Turbo models are a different story. It offers the sort of power that would be above-average for the segment above, while blowing most subcompact competitors out of the water. Sure, fuel economy takes a hit, but the ample low-end grunt and (relatively) rapid acceleration should be a welcome trade-off for many. The new eight-speed automatic for 2024 basically went unnoticed during regular driving, which is generally a good thing, possessing none of the unusual behaviors of the base engine’s CVT or the outgoing turbo’s dual-clutch automatic. When more aggressive downshifts are needed, though, the transmission isn’t as quick to respond as that old dual-clutch. Engaging Sport mode also doesn’t change the car acceleration character as much as it used to, either. For most drivers, though, we think this is ultimately a net positive.
The rest of the Seltos driving experience is typical for a Kia: capable, composed but not especially memorable. The ride sops up bigger bumps surprisingly well for an inexpensive crossover, perhaps in part due to 18-inch wheels being the biggest size available. At the same time, its chassis shows poise around corners and we could pleasantly hustle it along a mountain road without it feeling like a hopeless fish out of water. It never transcends into the sporty realm as the Mazda CX-30 does (or even the Chevy Trax), but that’s more a fact than a complaint. There’s also a fair bit of road noise inside, another tell-tale sign of its price point.
What other Kia Seltos reviews can I read?
2024 Kia Seltos First Drive Review
We detail all the changes made for 2024, including the upgraded turbo powertrain and new X-Line trim level.
Kia Seltos Luggage Test
We find out how much the Seltos’ 26.6-cubic-foot cargo capacity translates to in terms of actual stuff.
Kia Seltos First Drive Review
Our first take on the Seltos. Although there have been changes since then, you can read more about its engineering. There’s also some pictures of it with deer.
What is the 2024 Seltos’ price?
Because the Seltos LX comes standard with all-wheel drive, it’s only $600 cheaper than the otherwise better-equipped Seltos S. In a way, that gives the Seltos two entry level choices: one that prioritizes all-weather traction and the other comfort/convenience features. A similar situation exists with the EX and X-Line models: the former has a few more creature comforts like a power driver seat and a wireless charging pad, while the latter has the turbo engine and adventure-friendly roof rails. The SX, meanwhile provides near-luxury levels of tech and features for the price of entry-level compact models.
All prices below include the $1,325 destination charge. As all-wheel drive is tied to trim level more than other SUVs, we’ve indicated below which include it as standard.
LX AWD: $25,785
S FWD: $26,385
S AWD: $27,885
EX FWD: $27,185
EX AWD: $29,385
X-Line AWD: $30,085
SX AWD: $31,385
Every 2024 Seltos includes standard forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, a driver inattention warning system and automatic high beams. All but the LX include blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems. Only the SX adds Kia’s excellent adaptive cruise control system with steering assistance (“Highway Driving Assist”).
The NHTSA had not crash tested the 2024 Seltos at the time of this writing, but it’s unlikely the result will be different than last year’s result: four out of five stars for overall and frontal protection; five stars for side protection. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t tested the 2024 Seltos, but did name last year’s a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible crash protection and prevention ratings. Its standard halogen headlights netted a “Poor” rating, while the SX’s LED upgrade got the best-possible “Good.” These headlights are the same for 2024.