KIA’s Seltos midrange crossover has been a rip-roaring success ever since it launched locally in February. That’s unsurprising, really, as the Seltos offers more space and visual appeal than many of the crossovers jostling for attention in this crammed-to-the-hilt segment. However, the range had been lacking some diversity, with only a naturally aspirated 1,6-litre petrol (well priced but somewhat of a sluggard) and top-spec 1,4-litre turbopetrol enticing buyers who have nearly half a mill to spend. The brand’s now plugged the gap with a diesel option and Juliet and I sampled the new addition across the hills and dales of the Western Cape as we visited family-owned businesses Rialheim (Robertson), Soill (Swellendam), Rotterdam Boutique Hotel (Buffeljagsrivier) and JD Wines & Bistro (Napier).
DIESEL IS DELIGHTFUL
Offered in two trim grades (EX and EX+) and two transmissions (a manual or auto, each sporting six ratios; the EX+ comes only with the latter), the new 1,5 CRDi is the pick of the Seltos bunch. Boasting 86 kW and a feisty 250 N.m of torque across 1 500-2 750 r/min, the oil-burner is nicely hushed and punchy. Don’t be fooled by the comparatively low power output; in the diesel stakes, torque talks and the CRDi mill offers strong acceleration from low revs sustained all the way to the furthest reaches of the rev range. KIA claims 11,5 seconds to leap from standstill to 100 km/h, which feels conservative. It’s simply a great powertrain that pairs especially well with the six-speed self-shifter (although the manual’s shift action is slick and light).
STYLISH OUT AND IN
The Seltos looks great, all aggressively contoured face and strongly accented profile. It’s got presence in spades, even shod with EX trim’s modest 16-inch alloys (you gain an inch when opting for EX+) wrapped in chunky rubber that does the ride on tar and gravel all kinds of favours.
Hop inside and you’re greeted by a slab of dashboard that you’ll either love or loathe (it looks a tad dated to me and the gloss plastics attract dust and fingerprints). Set in the middle is an eight-inch touchscreen controlling an easily mastered infotainment system equipped with smartphone mirroring. Air-con is the manual variety, which is the only major spec oversight in a cabin filled with convenience features (handily including a USB port for the second row).
Spend R18 000 more for the EX+ over the EX auto and you gain leather trim (feels like the real thing, which isn’t often the case), auto-fold side mirrors, those bigger wheels and a centre armrest.
Like I mentioned, the cushy ride is one of the Seltos’ best features. We drove it on pockmarked tar and gravel and it didn’t put a foot wrong. The steering is excellent, too – direct and well weighted – and the Seltos doesn’t fall to pieces in corners (although there’s the expected pronounced body roll).
And what of its drinking habits? Well, over two days and nearly 500 km, we averaged in the low sixes per 100 km, which is excellent considering Juliet and I didn’t exactly pussyfoot around. Drive more considerately and you’ll easily dip into the fives.
SO, WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
The new Seltos diesel is a standout performer in a KIA range that has the measure of its competitors. The question of which model to get is one of preference: do you prefer leather trim, or not? My money would go to the 1,5 CRDi EX auto, which isn’t only the pick of the Seltos range but also one of the market’s best-balanced, most appealing midsize crossovers (I’ve driven the upcoming Volkswagen T-Roc and my statement stands).
Seltos models ship standard with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre (yep, you read correctly) warranty and a service plan of the same timespan over 90 000 km.
1,6 EX manual: R391 995
1,6 EX auto: R409 995
1,5 CRDi EX manual: R421 995
1,5 CRDi EX auto: R439 995
1,5 CRDi EX+ auto: R457 995
1,4 T-GDi GT-Line DCT: R482 995