That headline only makes sense if you’re looking at the 2021 Kia Seltos in Starbright Yellow, like this one, but maybe you’ll get the odd and totally random 80s reference here.
This is little – the Kia Seltos is squarely in the subcompact SUV with a starting price point (around $21,990). That makes it more accessible to a younger crowd that’s looking for a truly URBAN vehicle.
This is yellow – as I mentioned, this SX Turbo AWD came in the love it or hate color, Starbright Yellow, with a black roof. Alone, I’m not sure how I would have felt about. Topped with the black roof, the contrast made it look sharp and it was a color that stood out.
This is different – it’s meant to be an approachable and affordable SUV that doesn’t have to necessarily be a family vehicle. You’re young. You’re hip. You just like a little extra cargo space.
But the Kia Seltos is not just for the young, urban crowd. It represents why so many people are drawn to Kia – there’s a lot of value for the money.
What I Loved about the 2021 Kia Seltos
Let’s start with that color. A fun car should come in fun colors. And likewise, fun colors make a car more fun. You’ll have options like Mars Orange, Neptune Blue, and Starbright Yellow ( don’t worry – there are “regular” colors available too). And the two tone option adds some needed contrast for the body style. (Note: note all cool colors are available on all trims).
Once inside, it’s high tech all the way. Kia gets that today’s younger and/or savvier buyers see tech as a necessary feature, not an optional upgrade.
One of my favorite features is the Instrument Cluster. On this model, it’s a 7″ LCD color display but that’s not what makes it so clever. It’s that it knows what kind of driver is behind the wheel.
For better or worse (mostly worse), drivers are more distracted than ever. The Seltos has features and warnings to let you what’s going on. Like, when you’re at a stop light and the car in front of you starts pulling away. You shouldn’t be looking down at your phone, but you probably are. It reminds you to get moving. And it reminds you to check the back seat. And all of the other helpful warnings to keep us focused.
You’ll also get an upgraded touchscreen measuring 10.25″ (8″ is standard) with a high intuitive interface (save for the ambient lighting – I could NOT figure out where the settings were for that).
In the rear, you’ll find your passengers are well taken care of. Along with a USB charging port, LED lights overhead, and plenty of legroom, they give you air vents! This may not seem like a big deal but it is to your backseat passengers if they AREN’T there.
Overall, it’s a nicely executed, fun to look at, fun to drive, high tech, subcompact SUV. And it is an SUV. In fact, it has what I would consider best in class cargo space as compared to the competitors named by Consumer Reports. It comes in at 26.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and total cargo capacity of 62.8 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. Bonus that it had a high platform in the cargo area.
In terms of the drive, it’s a zippy engine, nicely powered for this size vehicle. This model has a 1.6L 4-cylinder turbo engine putting out 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Add in AWD, you get observed gas mileage of about 27 mpg. Nothing to write home about but not bad for a turbo.
So far so good, right? Well, there are a few things you need to know if you’re considering the Seltos for yourself.
What You Need to Know about the 2021 Kia Seltos
The Kia Seltos gets a solid 8 out of 10 from me. You get a surprisingly high quality vehicle for an “entry level” SUV. So where do the points come off?
Well, I’ve got to talk price. This Kia Selos is the SX Turbo AWD – with pretty much every option imaginable. It comes in just a hair under $30k. I’d like it to be less and it CAN be. You can get a brand new Kia Seltos S (in my area) for just over $20k. You have to decide if you want an entry level SUV at an entry level price or if you want to spiff it up for another $10k. I do like that you have options though.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. For the trim levels, you have the LX, S, and EX. And then you have the S Turbo and SX Turbo. I highly recommend you use the Specs – Compare Trim on the Kia website. It’s not a linear progression.
But I do want to mention my two biggest beefs with the Kia Seltos I drove.
1. Those door cupholders
Some might say I’m a little obsessed with cupholders. And I might be included to agree with those people. The door cupholder is what I reserve for “overflow” drinks. You have a nice cup or mug of something you bring in the car and your water bottle goes in the door for safekeeping.
Except nothing actually fits in that door. Maybe a super skinny, flexible bottle of spring water but that’s it. It’s minor but it’s an annoyance. Did anyone actually test that cupholder?
2. Some serious (but questionable) turbo lag
If you’re thinking about a Seltos and NOT looking at a turbo, this probably won’t concern you. But the car I drove has a serious and sometimes scary hesitation when acceleration from a stopped position.
I suspect it’s turbo lag but I can’t discount the start/stop function either by itself or coupled with the turbo engine. And I also have to mention that one of my YouTube viewers emphatically claimed that the hesitation was the result of the 7-speed Quick-Shift DCT (a dual clutch transmission). I found it to be less pronounced when driving in Sport mode.
It was enough of an issue that I had to mention it. I don’t like cars that don’t go when I want them to go. I’ve researched a little bit and have only found a few other mentions of this issue. It’s likely only an issue with the Turbo trims. Even if it’s the transmission, the other trims use an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT).
I want to end on a high note though and let you know that I loved the Kia Seltos but I’d definitely want to do some serious test-driving and researching before purchasing a Turbo.
What’s with the Creepy Location?
Did you happen to notice the weird crumbling buildings in the background? I’ve used this location for a few photos shoots, including my review of the Kia Sorento a few years ago.
It’s part of the Springfield Mental Hospital founded in the early 1900s. Many of the buildings are still part of an active hospital system so no photography is allowed onsite (HIPAA and all) but these abandoned buildings sit as a cool backdrop waiting to be used.
You can’t enter the buildings – signs from the police and warnings about asbestos are enough to keep me away. But it’s fascinating to visit the crumbling buildings and wonder about the history of the campus.
We’re not crazy. We swear.
Video Review of the Kia Seltos
Seeing is believing so let me show you my point of view on all things Kia Seltos.
Read all of my real car reviews for real car buyers right here!