Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com got the chance to get behind the wheel of the KIA Seltos in rain-splattered Goa, and can't get over the experience.
Packed with segment-first features and boasting of premium quality, it's a challenge to other SUVs in the segment, he says.
A big factor will be the pricing, which we will know when the car is formally launched in India on August 22, till then here's how the car drives.
Photographs/Videos: Rajesh Karkera.
The Seltos is KIA’s first Made in India car. And its freshness and style boast attention to detail inside out and sets a new trend for its competitors.
The sporty looks makes it look a bit bigger than the others in the segment, and the attention given to details starts coming across when one looks at the projector headlamps which are called Crown Jewel headlamps, the Ice cube LED floodlights and the turn indicators and the DRLs which they call Heartbeat DRLs that run right up to the centre of the grille in some variants where the bold KIA badging starts. This is a sight to behold at night.
When you look at the car you just can’t miss the signature tiger-nose grille that comes in all KIA cars worldwide. And the chrome, OMG! Indians can now lap up all the chrome they want in their car and not add it later as aftermarket accessory which sometimes ends up looking quite patchy.
But before I go on about the car, let us see what is available to drive.
The Seltos will be available in 2 big trims -- the Tech Line and the GT Line -- in 3 different engine options: two petrol Engines and one Diesel engine.
All the engines will have 6-speed manual option and one automatic option, and KIA is offering a total of 16 variants between diesel and petrol having different trims! Now this will be a carpet of offers that KIA will let the Indian consumers choose from. The rivals in this segment will have to look out for tough competition.
What’s best is that All of KIA’s engines are compliant with BS6 norms, and not just BS6 ready. The company claims that they will be compliant from day 1. Plus, KIA claims that their BS6 cars will run fine on the current fuel too. No other automobile manufacturer in India has claimed this so far.
Now over to the vehicle.
Enter the car and even before you sit in the driver’s seat one can feel the premium quality and attention to detail. The layout for the driver's seat is amazing in terms of gadgets and features.
But what impressed me very much is the built-in air purifier called smart pure air. Now, this has recently been available as an aftermarket in some of our cities, so to see an automobile manufacturer give this as standard is fantastic.
Plus, it also shows the Air Pollution Level (AQI) in the rear display behind the centre console.
There is also an inbuilt perfume diffuser with three options, Ocean, Lavender and Forest, which you can change at your service intervals.
The 10.25 inch connected touchscreen is amazingly clear and intuitive. It can be split into 3 different views and almost all the features -- like the audio system, the air purifier, android auto and Apple car play, to name a few -- can be operated from here.
The 7-inch instrument cluster, too, is fantastic and gives you every information you need in a car and more.
In the top end, there is a segment first 8-inch Heads Up Display (HUD), which is bigger than the ones available in the premium cars today. Totally impressed!
The automatic climate panel which sits just below the air vents adds a premium touch and overall one can't help but feel happy to just be in the driver's seat.
I tried looking for something that sticks out like a sore thumb. But everything is so perfect in the driver's seat that I just couldn't find anything wrong. Every design detail has been maintained.
Now for the drive
The Seltos 1.4 GDI Petrol GT line starts with a purr. The cabin is amazingly silent as it cruises in the rains in Goa. Push it a bit and the turbo kicks in and really enthralls in its ride and handling.
Without doubt, the KIA Seltos has come into India with amazing ride quality and handling, and the hand-stitched flat-bottom steering feels fantastic to hold.
The HUD in the 1.4 TGDI petrol is a fantastic feature to use while driving (see video above).
But driving the diesel manual, though, was a much much better experience for me. With the turbocharger kicking in early, the driveability is amazing even at low speeds.
It makes driving in the city quite easy and effortless. Although there is the diesel grunt after 3500 rpm, it's not a deal-breaker if you are used to driving torque-y diesel engines.
And the top variant of the Tech-line diesel manual comes with ventilated front seats, which is again a first in this segment, and a sunroof too.
These features will be available in the Trim variants that you choose.
The lower variants of the Seltos will get the Arkamys sound system, which didn’t really inspire much.
But the higher variants will get the Bose 8 speaker setup which includes a subwoofer, and the sound is just amazing. But it still can’t beat the JBL sound system of the Tata Harrier, I feel.
A big highlight is a 360-degree camera, which will even show you what is beside the car while you drive, and when you put on the right or left turn indicator, on the instrument cluster in front of you.
Also, the Seltos is a connected car like all the others coming now. This uses an e-sim from Vodafone and comes with UVO, an app on your phone that will control options like climate control, door lock and unlock and start-stop engine of your car. Without you being anywhere near it.
The UVO app also gives you the car's health report.
This is an optional feature and is free for the first three years and after that one will have to pay the data charges as applicable depending on the package offered by Vodafone/Idea.
Most of these features which KIA is offering have never been seen before in a car from this segment. So what will it cost, is the big question.
KIA’s sister company Hyundai already has the hot selling Creta in this segment, and they wouldn’t want to be cannibalised. So personally I would say they will surely price the Seltos about a lakh more than the Creta and create a bang in the automotive market. What it means is a price band of Rs 11 to Rs 17 lakh ex-showroom, possibly.
We will know for sure on August 22, when the car launches in India.