Named after Hercules's son, the Kia Seltos spells strength and speed

Kia Seltos. Photos: Kamlesh Pednekar
It wasn’t by design, but sitting in the spot right next to where I had parked the Kia Seltos was its sister SUV, the Hyundai Creta. Even from a distance the resemblance in their barebones’ framework is impossible to miss.

The arches over the wheels, square shoulder, large grill, the extended front, the robustly designed rear and the overall stance all come together in the format that’s become de rigueur for auto hot-sellers in today’s cut-throat market — the city SUV.

The Seltos — derived from the Greek word “Celtos”, the name of one of Hercules’s sons — is among the several city vehicles that have hit the roads in recent months, the MG Hector being the other one that’s grabbed consumer attention.

Smartly equipped with upholstery in leather composites and high-end plastics for the panels, the Seltos’s interiors feel more premium than the Rs 16 lakh the car is priced at in its top variant. The price range starts at Rs 9.7 lakh.

Thick front row seats with internal air conditioning, fancy floor carpets and a large entertainment and control panel give it the feel of a luxury German car. The other bells and whistles include Bose speakers, a sunroof and a mechanised seat adjuster for the driver’s seat.

If that isn’t enough, hit the lane change indicator and you are presented with a reverse camera that throws up real-time images of everything behind you. The last time I saw that was in the new Honda Civic, which is in a separate and higher price category.

Hit the start button and the Seltos’s competent and smooth petrol engine comes to life. The manual gear shift is a little tricky and being a six-speed setup, the reverse slot is positioned to the front, parallel to where the first gear is. What this means is that if you’re not careful, you can accidentally push the gear knob into the wrong slot and either upshift or downshift to the wrong gear.

This takes a minor amount of getting used to but once you’re conditioned to it, the transmission is buttery smooth and a pleasure to move through on bigger roads and highway.

It’s typical to expect larger engines such as 2-litre units for cars the size of the Seltos. However, advances in modern engineering mean it’s about punch, not weight — and that’s one reason why the Seltos’s 1.4-litre engine is able to churn out 140 hp that propels the substantially heavy vehicle onto respectable speeds in an instant.

New models get unabated attention, and that’s the case with the Seltos too, which drew enquiries wherever I drove it. What car is this? Who makes it? What’s it priced at? Is it petrol or diesel? These were some standard queries thrown my way and while it took a little time to explain the connection between Kia and Hyundai, it’s worth noting that while worldwide the Kia is positioned as a less premium brand than Hyundai, here it’s the opposite. The Seltos top-end range is priced higher than the Creta.

While the manufacturer does not share details of the car’s weight, it’s not light by any stretch of the imagination — given that the fuel tank seemed to dip faster than I’d expected. Again, this is a largeish SUV, a little bigger than the Creta even, and it’s not surprising that it guzzles more fuel than its counterparts. The Seltos’s size and weight is another reason for its comfortable and pliant ride across pot-holes and uneven roads.

The Seltos scores high on a variety of parameters: ride comfort, engine performance, look and feel, and even the way the doors shut when you close them behind you. In standard, everyday vehicles you get used to some niggling sounds, like a window pane being a little loose or the minor rattle here and there.

With the Seltos, even when I slammed the door firmly shut, all I got was a smooth, subdued whoosh, which indicated that the rubber, plastic and metal were all finely meshed to ensure minimum sound and maximum operational efficiency.

Impressive? Yes. And while the Seltos is a great entry product for Kia, it’s important that the company get other similar products rolling in if for no other reason than this: dealer networks cannot service their customers unless they have a pipeline of products to spread costs around.

Meanwhile, Hercules’s son has ample reason to act god-like.

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