Seltos of the Earth: 2020 Kia Seltos Is Global SUV With American Affinity

Competes with: With the high-tech features highlighted at the unveiling, it would compete with higher-end subcompact SUVs (think Hyundai Kona, Subaru Crosstrek in U.S.) and hatchbacks (Kia Soul, Toyota C-HR), as well as match up with some compacts (Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5).

Looks like: A traditional SUV shape with upscale modern trim and lighting details

Drivetrains: U.S. specs are unknown; global offerings varying by market include a 175-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engine; a 147-hp, 2.0-liter gas engine; and a 134-hp, 1.6-liter diesel. Transmissions include a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, a six-speed conventional automatic and a continuously variable automatic.

Hits dealerships: Late 2019 in global markets; no word from Kia on when (or if) it will arrive in the U.S.

Kia has unveiled the classy new tech-loaded Seltos small SUV, saying it would be rolled out in global markets, though a Kia Motors America spokesman told that the automaker has not officially confirmed that the U.S. will be one of them. But that being said …

Related: 2020 Kia Soul Review: Same Funky Formula, Just Better

Given that Kia is bulking up its SUV lineup in the U.S. — most recently with the well-done new Telluride three-row — it’s hard to imagine that Kia marketers would let an appealing product in the hot small SUV category be withheld. And it was the head of Kia’s American design center who gave the pitch for Seltos styling at the unveiling. Also, Kia officials stressed the technology features of the Seltos, saying it was aimed at young, tech-savvy professionals — and what automaker isn’t chasing that growing group of shoppers here?

Also left unanswered by the Kia event, Kia press release and a Kia spokesman is whether the Seltos will be a true SUV (i.e. offer all-wheel drive in any market) or instead join the growing segment of city-sized hatchbacks with SUV-like styling and practicality.

The Seltos was revealed at a surround-screen, Bollywood-worthy event in India that also celebrated Kia’s entry into the market there (the event is streamed here). Production is planned for Kia’s new factory in India, as well as in South Korea, and the Seltos will roll out in global markets in the latter half of 2019.

In the meantime, here’s what we can glean from the global specs, photos and other materials:


The Seltos styling is a toned-down (but not by much) version of the Signature Concept that Kia unveiled as a “production preview” in Seoul in March. While size specifications were not provided, the five-seat SUV appears larger than sister brand Hyundai’s little Kona SUV but smaller than the Kia Sportage compact.

The overall silhouette has a traditional longer hood and flat SUV roof with a kicked-up beltline. A wide grille that stretches into the headlights retains a vestige of the signature Kia “tiger nose” grille shape and is filled at the top with a diamond pattern. Full LED headlights, daytime running lights and foglights give it an upscale face. The daytime running lights also are accented with a distinctive three-hockey-stick pattern. The horizontal taillights also are LEDs and are connected by an aluminum accent. The roof is divided by trim at the back pillar, and contrasting roof colors will be offered. Wheel sizes range from 16 to 18 inches.


The interior is where Kia really shows off the tech features. The cabin shown at the event (photos were not provided) has a driver-centric horizontal dashboard with a high panel cluster that houses an oversized 10.25-inch touchscreen with split-screen capability and an instrument cluster with a 7-inch configurable display; an 8-inch head-up display also will be offered. And notable for a small SUV, the Seltos will offer a 360-degree camera system.

An eight-speaker Bose audio system will be available, as will a Sound Mood Lighting system that Kia said was aimed to mimic a “club experience.” Similar to the system in the 2020 Soul, the Seltos system lights up 3-D panels in the doors in eight colors and six themes, and pulses to the beat of music on the sound system.

The multimedia system has an embedded cellphone capability called Kia Live that can provide real-time information on traffic, weather and points of interest. And the Kia app will provide Kia UVO Connect smartphone connectivity and services.

Kia also said the rear seat features a two-step reclining seatback, and two USB ports are offered for the rear.

Under the Hood

Powertrains available, depending on the market, include a 175-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engine; a 147-hp, 2.0-liter gas engine; and a 134-hp, 1.6-liter diesel. There also was mention at the unveiling of a GT-Line sport version (also the new badge for the sportier versions of the 2020 Soul) with a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, at least for India. Transmissions include a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, a six-speed conventional automatic and a continuously variable automatic. Kia said the Seltos will offer Normal, Eco and Sport drive modes. As noted, there has been no word on all-wheel drive.

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Available safety technology was not detailed beyond the 360-degree camera system and a blind spot warning. But Kia said the Seltos will have a “full range of advanced active safety systems” available, as well as front and rear parking sensors.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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