Kia’s Big Little SUV – 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo All-Wheel-Drive

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel for a Video on the
2021 KiaSeltos SX Turbo AWD

Kia’s new small SUV, the 2021 Seltos more SUV than most of the small boxes on wheels that we see out on the road. The Seltos has a lot of the what its too Kool for Skool brother, the Kia Soul has, just in a more mature and sophisticated way, and it has all-wheel-drive which the Soul does not. This is a great vehicle for those families with members who may have mobility impairments, as well as for people of an age where easy in and out, comfort and usability are key in their automotive purchase decision, especially at under $30K for a well-equipped AWD SUV.

2021 Kia Seltos Right Rear

Not Just A Souped Up Hatchback

Most of all the Seltos is not a glorified hatchback sedan, as are some of the small crossovers and SUV competitors. The height, width and length of the cargo space, as well as height of the Seltos make this an easy vehicle to load items in and out of. A special plus is the adjustablity of the rear cargo floor to hide things out of prying eyes, even something as big as a briefcase. This simple detail is a great bonus on any vehicle. 

The Seltos comes in five trim levels  LX and S Trim both starting at $21,990, the LX being more luxury and the S being more sporty, The EX at $25,290, and the S-Turbo at $25,490.  The SX Turbo starts at $27,890.  Our tester, is the SX Turbo AWD in Starbright Yellow with the black roof, a $345 option, and $130 for carpeted floor mats. Priced out at $29,485, which includes the Inland Freight and handling fee of $1,120.

Features include:

  • LED headlamps and fog lights
  • 10.25-inch touchscreen with the KIA UVO system and Built in Navigation
  • Bose Premium Audio with Sound Connected Mood Lamp
  • Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go
  • Safe Exit Assist
  • 7-inch LCD Colour Instrument Cluster
  • Sofino Synthetic Leather Seat Trim
  • Heated front seats, with a Power Driver Seat
  • Smart Key with pushbutton start and remote start
  • Wireless Phone Charger
  • Auto Temperature control
  • Available sunroof or two-tone painted roof
  • Auto Dim rearview mirror

Options are pretty basic and look to be mostly dealer installed, though items like the available $700 sunroof, $275 puddle lights, $295 Illuminated Scuff Plate, $300 Interior light kit may are some of the other add on-s we would put on this vehicle.


The Kia Seltos is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and 175 horsepower. This is connected to a 7-speed quick shift DCT (Dual Clutch) automatic transmission. This little engine has enough power to handle most situations and this was just fine for highway driving, passing, and urban trips. Never did we question if we would have enough power. We did find the DCT was a bit jerky at slow speeds, but once on the road, no problem.

FIRST Impressions

First impressions of the Seltos: That’s a funny name, Seltos. More a name from a galaxy far far away, though some said that with the intense Greenish Yellow color it was more like a very lickable lollipop.

What stands out from the front on the 2021 Seltos are the front lights, driving light bar and grill. There is no question, from the front that you know this is a Kia. While other manufactures tend to use the exact same design language on the front of their entire line up, this Kia, stands out as a Kia, even though it is different from the other models.

A distinctive LED lamp bar on either side of the upper front grill is what really makes this Seltos stand out, While the LED headlamps and fog driving lights are only available on the top of the line SX. Other Seltos trim levels offer incandescent headlamps, and no driving/fog lamps.

The characteristic front grill design is carried out elsewhere within the car. You will find it on the speaker panels on the insides of the doors , as on some of the interior trim pieces.

The size of the Seltos quickly captured my attention. Like many of the small SUVs in its market segment, it is big, just that the proportions of the exterior keep it trim looking and not bulky. The attention Kia’s designers gave to the Seltos for easy access door and a spacious interior, especially in the area of leg and knee room for rear seat passengers is a plus, and something that others in its market segment do not seem to have.

Exterior Features

The hood of the Seltos takes up the entire top of the front of the vehicle, giving it a smooth one piece look. And it is large, and I found it a bit awkward to see over in a parking garage, something that we never even noticed on other small SUVs we have driven. Though in a collision that space is a good crumple zone and will help protect the vehicles occupants.

2021 Kia Seltos in Starbright Yellow has a large hood
2021 Kia Seltos Right Front Door swings wide
Wide Doors are a key feature

There is plenty of glass all around the vehicle giving excellent viability. The smooth side design lines marry the front of the Seltos to the rear hatch. And while you can not get an automatic open and close, or a “swing the foot to open” operation for that rear hatch, it was not at all hard to reach out the old fashioned way and unlock, open or close the rear hatch.

The doors and rear hatch swing out but are not hard to reach if you are sitting inside the vehicle to close, not an easy feat when you have generously sized openings.

Interior Features

The Seltos has a very easy to use cockpit with a simple and easy to read dash screen. And a center console display with radio, navigation, yes navigation is still included on this vehicle while others you have to connect your phone to access a navigation application.  A familiar automatic gear shift selector with manual mode, moving it to the left.

The Seltos features clear and easy to read gauges and controls.

As you slide in on the Sofino Leatherette seat. Yes, I said it folks this Seltos has the finest SoFInO Leatherette available.  So fine, mind you, that Kia has even named it – So Fine O. Will it ever be as fine as Corinthian Leather?  But Mark my words, SOFINO will be the top level of Leatherette.  Though the feel of this plastic leather is supple, and with the center perforated SoFIno Leatherette is great for this level of SUV. And if you have dogs, you know that you want a supple and giving seat trimmed, as opposed to a woven fabric that claws catch in. Though I do wonder if you got a claw in one of the fine holes in the SoFINo leatherette if it would give or tear?

2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo Front Seats
Fine Korean SoFInO synthetic leather seating surfaces in the Seltos SX Turbo.

There is a lot of hard plastic trim around the interior, though it is a very well done hard plastic trim, and feels a bit more in keeping with the SoFINo Leatherette.  Detailing is nicely done in high gloss black plastic and a brushed chrome look plastic.  The doors have a nice design, especially over the speaker grills.

The interior features glossy black plastic trim that provides clean contemporary lines

Front seat passengers have plenty of room, much as we would expect in most SUV’s of its size, but what impressed me, was even with the front seats at a reasonable set back for my normal driving style, the rear seat passengers were not at all crowded in the legroom department. And still, there is plenty of cargo room in the way-back.

We noticed the buttons and switches on this Kia to be similar to the ones in other products from Kia and Hyundai. Which makes sense as they are corporate cousins, though the Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis brands are totally different in so many ways.

2021 Kia Seltos Dash and Console

While the transmission shifter is a standard console floor mounted one, With a manual shift mode by moving the shifter into drive then to the left then forward or back to shift gears manually.  There is a round selector knob that has a less than secure feel, but it changes it from Sport, Economy and …

This is where I was thrilled to see so much thought given to the often-forgotten – rear passenger space.  Leg Room – YES Legroom in a mid-size SUV, even with the front seats set to a reasonable location for the driver. Even a lone USB outlet for power, and of course plenty of cup holders, one in each side door.  And two cup holders in the fold-down center armrest.  Yes, a large center armrest (does it have a storage cubby?) That when folded up would accommodate that slim center passenger, but if just taking two passengers, both have plenty of rear-seat room.

Where the Kia engineers cut costs:

  • There is only one rear map pocket (who uses them anyway, what is a map?) on the back of the right side passenger seat, interestingly though the center of it has a slip of hard plastic there, which the center would be the part that would take a beating and be punctured by an odd-shaped object placed inside.
  • And only one, ONE small clothing hanger hook, on the left side.  While this makes total sense, you do not want things hanging over the right rear window if you are the driver, it blocks the view of what might be out there. And when you go to the laundry and get in and out with your shirts on hangers, it would normally be on the left side. But both rear sides to have access handles to help you get in an out of. Though I wonder how often they are ever used.  But they seem solid and made to hold up to rough use. And many folks use them to hang clothes hangers on anyway.

Where the Seltos Could Improve

When parking, the large hood and front end, it is hard to gauge space especially in a tight parking garage. And sadly none of the Seltos models offer parking aids or that wonderful 360 camera view which would be helpful. On the positive side of having a larger front end, in the event of a collision, there is plenty of hood and body to absorb a frontal impact.

Overall Opinion

We put a few hundred miles on this 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD and have found it to be much like other Kia products, solid, strong, and individualistic. One thing I have noticed about the South Korean designed vehicles, is that they take their design language a step further. Be it on the outside or inside. Sometimes it is just on the edge of a direct copy of other manufacturers’ designs. Thus Kia’s past has been a mashup of muddled designs without much thought about transition. Today, that is not the case. For sure in this Seltos, or any other contemporary Kia vehicles, you see practical and individualistic designs, that are affordable, and offer a lot of technology and safety.

There are a few of the other features that Kia has put into the Telluride that would be helpful on this model, especially the rear-corner-view traffic on the lower part of the dash screen, and of course parking sensors, features that will benefit this car.  Less of the gewgaws like do we need a optional mood sounds in our SUV? 

Not sure we need sounds of nature in our SUV, check out the YouTube Video for more info.

Would I buy this 2021 Kia Seltos? Yes I would for the value, the space and the functionality of this well-sized SUV.

Take A Test Drive For Yourself

In all the Kias Seltos is a mid-sized SUV that is priced under $30K. Check with your Kia dealer for other discounts that include financing, military incentives, and others that you may qualify for.  Go on to the website to build your own model, and then set up a test drive of the new 2021 Seltos at your local Kia dealer.

William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret

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I am William West Hopper, please follow me on Twitter at wwhopper.  On Instagram at DCCarGuy and look forward to sharing more automotive lifestyle information with you in the near future.


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