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2021 Kia Seltos: First Look

  • The 2021 Kia Seltos is an all-new subcompact crossover slotted between the Soul and the Sportage.

  • With a sophisticated available all-wheel drive system, the Seltos appears to have some real off-road chops.

  • This SUV will be available in the first quarter of 2020 with a starting MSRP under $22,000.

“Yeah, it’s great, but I wish you could get it with AWD.” It’s something that just about everyone seems to say about the Kia Soul. The Soul is a great little crossover, it’s very popular for good reasons and if you’ve always wanted one with AWD, then Kia has come up with a solution in the form of an all-new model. Meet the 2021 Kia Seltos, a new subcompact SUV with some of the charm of the Soul but with a more rugged and adventurous flair. Yes, you can get it with AWD.

Rugged Refinement

It’s not always easy to blend rugged off-road capabilities with a refined and comfortable driving experience, but that’s what Kia is aiming to do in a small package with the Seltos. Think of it as a miniature Telluride. Its intention is to be refined and comfortable on the street, but also not afraid of the occasional jaunt off the beaten path. The Seltos has the look to match its rugged attitude with 7.2 in of ground clearance, wheel arch cladding, and front and rear skid plates. As for the finer details of its design, it does a nice job standing out in an increasingly crowded field of small crossovers.

As for the refinement side of the rugged refinement equation, the Seltos is borrowing one of the greatest virtues of the Soul — a lot of space in a small vehicle. Kia is claiming class-leading space and versatility with plenty of room for back seat passengers and cargo to boot. You even get standard reclining back seats in the Seltos, which is a pleasant surprise in this segment. There will be tons of available tech like the Kia Drive Wise driver-assist technology suite, multi-Bluetooth connectivity allowing for multiple connected devices, up to three USB ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless charging and, for the first time in a Kia, a Bose 8-speaker audio. We’ll know more about what tech is standard and available on which trims when we get closer to launch.

The Nuts and Bolts

When it comes to what lies under the hood, the Seltos is similar to the Soul. It will be available with the same two engines: a base 2.0-liter inline four and an optional 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four. The base engine makes 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, and the turbo engine makes 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The base engine’s transmission is a CVT, and the turbo engine is linked to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Sorry enthusiasts — there’s no manual option.

But what is optional is AWD. It’s an active all-demand AWD system that claims to be similar in design to the AWD system available in the Telluride. It has a center locking differential that splits power equally between the front and rear wheels. This optimizes traction in severe environments, whether that be an especially snowy road or an especially muddy trail. The Seltos will be the smallest and most affordable Kia SUV you can get with AWD when it debuts in 2020.

When Can I Get One?

The 2021 Kia Seltos goes on sale in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2021. We don’t have specifics on pricing quite yet, but Kia says you’ll be able to get an LX AWD model for less than $22,000, and the S front-wheel drive model will have a similar starting price. The trims will be the base LX, the midrange EX, the sporty S and the top-end SX. The turbocharged engine will be standard on the SX trim and optional on the S model, and AWD will be available on every trim.

The Seltos is shaping up to be an exciting entry in a very popular segment. We’re looking forward to letting you know how it performs both on-road and off. Find a Kia for sale

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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