Entering text into the input field will update the search result below

My New Favorite SUV: Kia Seltos, $23,110 Plus Tax

Anton Wahlman profile picture
Anton Wahlman's Blog
Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.


  • Kia Seltos is a new SUV that sits ever-so-slightly below the best-selling “compact” SUVs such as the Toyota RAV-4 and Honda CR-V.
  • It has a refreshing design inside and out, with all equipment that you might want, already included in the $23,110 base price, before taxes and discounts.
  • Most impressively, the 2.0 liter naturally aspirated base engine mated to the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a marvel in every way, especially fuel economy.
  • It is rated at 31 MPG but I achieved a whopping 40 MPG in a week’s worth of driving.  All the while, the engine was supremely smooth.
  • With nothing but superlatives to report on all fronts, the Kia Seltos SUV is simply the best SUV in the market for anywhere near its $23,110 price.

NOTE: A version of this article was first published on or about January 2, 2021, on my Seeking Alpha Marketplace site.

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of a base Kia Seltos, which entered the U.S. market around March of 2020. It is an SUV, otherwise referred to as a “crossover” which plays in the so-called “compact SUV” segment.

As things go, given the skyrocketing popularity of all things SUV, the “compact” SUV segment is no longer a single segment. It’s being sliced into thinner and thinner sub-slices.

The best-selling compact SUV entries include the Toyota (TM) RAV4 and Honda CR-V -- but there is now a market for an ever-so-slightly smaller “compact SUV” that fits just a tiny hair below the equivalent of such a Volkswagen Tiguan, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox, Subaru Forester or Ford Escape. You would be excused for failing to see the nuance here, even without squinting too much.

In Kia’s lineup, the Seltos therefore sits ever-so-slightly below the Kia Sportage and its Hyundai Tucson larger brothers. Hyundai has two smaller SUVs (“crossovers”) still -- the Kona and the Venue. The Kia Seltos is somewhat based on the Kona -- but it’s been enlarged to simply be… larger.

You will see a lot of YouTube reviews of the Kia Seltos, and almost all of them will be of the more expensive version, which has a 1.6 liter turbo engine and a DCT for a transmission. In the briefest terms, you have two mechanical choices when buying the Kia Seltos:

  1. Front wheel drive (AWD) and all wheel drive (AWD).

  2. That 1.6 liter turbo engine (with DCT) and a naturally aspirated 2.0 liter engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which in the new Kia-Hyundai terminology is called “IVT” with the “I” standing for “Intelligent.”

Let’s focus on that second engine choice for a moment -- the 2.0 liter with the IVT -- for a reason that will soon become evident. The same engine-transmission combination is also found in the Kia Soul, Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra. A variant of this -- but with 1.6 liters, no turbo just like the 2.0 liter, and the same IVT -- is found in the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent and Hyundai Kona. Confused already?

It was this 2.0 liter with IVT version of the Kia Seltos that I drove for a week. It has a US mainland starting price of $23,110 before taxes and discounts. According to the EPA label, you can achieve 31 MPG.

In my driving, I managed a whopping 40 MPG, and that was not under ideal conditions -- although far from adverse circumstances either. It is rare vehicle that outperforms the EPA rating for fuel economy by that much.

40 MPG in real-world results also matches another amazing benchmark: The Toyota RAV-4 hybrid, which is an ever-so-fractionally larger form of compact SUV. However, the RAV-4 hybrid starts at $29,675, or 28% more expensive than the Kia Seltos.

The Design: Great!

The exterior and interior design alike beat the Toyota RAV-4. It’s subjective, but put these cars next to each other and I think the vast majority of people will prefer the Kia Seltos from every angle.

Moving into the interior, I prefer the esthetics of the cockpit in the Kia Seltos over the slightly larger Toyota RAV-4. The Seltos interior looks more restrained and more modern at the same time, without moving away from traditional knobs and buttons as the main controls of choice. It is the easiest-to-use cockpit in the industry, with Nissan perhaps an extremely close second.

Driver comfort: Very good

The driver’s seat may or may not be the very best in its class. It’s certainly very good, and surely better than the average. The seating position isn’t a problem with most competitors either, but again the Kia Seltos is above average.

The drive: On par with the best

The naturally aspirated 2.0 liter engine paired with the IVT transmission is as smooth as anything in the business. It doesn’t skip a beat -- but your heart may skip a beat when you’re tooling around town and you keep averaging 40 MPG for days in a row. How is this even possible, with a powertrain that’s not even a mild hybrid?

Beyond the powertrain, the overall calibration of the so-called “driving dynamics” also leaves nothing for the want. From steering to suspension, there is not a single thing to complain about. Granted, many other competitors are also very good here, so I don’t think this sets the Kia Seltos apart in an absolute sense.

The overall verdict: The best value in the business

I could not find a single weak spot with the Kia Seltos. Okay, if I had to be really picky, I would have preferred at least another couple of USB outlets. Not the end of the world. But other than that, the Kia Seltos delights in positively every way:

  • It looks great, inside and out.

  • The cockpit layout and driver comfort ergonomics are tied for the best.

  • The drive experience is as good as anything near this class.

  • The powertrain in this 2.0 liter IVT base version is simply phenomenal, both in terms of its character and especially in terms of its real-world fuel economy, which I measured at an eye-popping 40 MPG, dramatically ahead of its 31 MPG rating.

  • All of that for $23,110 before taxes and discounts. Forget about any more expensive version of the Kia Seltos: The base version is what I would buy. I was not missing anything.

There are so many wonderful cars in the market these days, including in and near the class in which the Kia Seltos plays. However, adding up all the strengths of the Kia Seltos, including its superior price and warranty, I would look no further and I would be delighted to have it as my daily driver in my garage for a very long time to come. I give it my very highest recommendation of all time.

Analyst's Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a short position in TSLA over the next 72 hours.

At the time of submitting this article for publication, the author had no positions in the market, long or short. However, positions can change at any time. The author regularly attends press conferences, new vehicle launches and equivalent, hosted by most major automakers.

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

Recommended For You

To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, please enable Javascript and cookies in your browser.
Is this happening to you frequently? Please report it on our feedback forum.
If you have an ad-blocker enabled you may be blocked from proceeding. Please disable your ad-blocker and refresh.