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2021 Kia Seltos Performance

U.S. News Best Price Program

2021 Kia Seltos Performance Review


Performance: 7.4

The 2021 Seltos gets great fuel economy, but neither of its available engines provide swift acceleration. The optional turbo engine provides more oomph, but it's paired with an unrefined dual-clutch automatic transmission. Handling receives mixed reviews.

  • "The Seltos is as quiet and smooth as anything else in the segment, but the powertrain could be improved. The Seltos can feel gutless in certain driving situations thanks to an engine that doesn't come alive until the middle of its rev range and a transmission that's always a couple of gears too high." -- CNET
  • "Regardless of engine, the Seltos has a compliant and confident ride. While its size makes it a star in the city, we wouldn’t hesitate to take it on a longer trip." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "When the roads get twistier, the Seltos behaves less like the Soul that inspired it and more like the crossover that it is. It exhibits more perceptible body roll in the corners, and its tires are clearly intended to foster efficiency rather than sporty dynamics. This may read like a lukewarm appraisal, but we actually found the Seltos quite pleasant to drive." -- Autoblog

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque
  • Available engine: turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: standard all-wheel drive; available front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard continuously variable automatic (CVT); available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic

With its base engine, the Seltos offers smooth acceleration from a stop, but it can struggle to get up to higher speeds. The standard CVT is efficient and refined. The optional turbocharged engine is more powerful, but an inconsistent and hesitant transmission hampers overall performance.

  • "While the lower-power option isn't slow necessarily, it does run out of grunt noticeably sooner on the freeway, particular when it comes time to overtaking another car. The more powerful choice is the right one for us, even though the peppier powertrain isn't as smooth at low speeds, and shifts seem to be a little slower than you would expect from a dual-clutch transmission." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The turbo lags a beat or two from a start, then kicks in with force faster than you can back off. And the seven-speed had occasional lapses on downshifts, sometimes hesitating even at partial throttle and, when pressed harder, pulling two pronounced downshifts to find the appropriate gear. … The base powertrain might better suit many buyers." -- Cars.com
  • "While Kia's dual-clutch automatic still doesn't operate as crisply as some examples, it calls little attention to itself and generally does an admirable job of making the most of the 1.6-liter's output. However, we did notice an occasional clunky shift at stop-and-go speeds." -- Car and Driver

MPG Estimates

The 2021 Seltos gets some of the best fuel economy estimates in the subcompact SUV class.

  • 2.0-liter, FWD: 29/34 mpg city/highway
  • 2.0-liter, AWD: 27/31 mpg
  • 1.6-liter turbo, AWD: 25/30 mpg

Handling and Braking

Steering response and ride quality are a bit of a mixed bag with the Seltos. Some critics think this Kia provides a good amount of steering feedback, while others say the steering is dull. Also, the Seltos can ride a little stiffly.

  • "Steering and handling in the Seltos are also mildly disappointing. …The steering wheel is poorly weighted, and there isn't any real feedback for the driver. What's more, body lean as you go around a turn is more pronounced." -- Edmunds
  • "Cornering grip is perfectly reasonable for a small crossover SUV like the Seltos and the suspension keeps excessive body roll at bay, even when you get spirited on a curvy road. And, critically, steering is appropriately weighted and delivers consistent and precise motions. Braking performance satisfies, as well." -- Autoweek
  • "The first thing I noticed is how well the steering was weighted on the SX 1.6-liter turbo. There's such responsive feedback and balance that the Seltos can challenge Mazda for the best-handling small SUV title. … Unfortunately, only the 1.6-liter has that steering feeling. We had a chance to briefly drive the base 2.0-liter and didn't notice the same kind of balance, feedback, or weight that we saw on the SX 1.6." -- Motor Trend
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2021 Kia Seltos

MSRP: $21,990 - $27,890

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