Kia Seltos SX: Focus on the bright side

The subcompact crossover market is an easy place to choose from since most offerings are straightforward. Things become complicated once you get on the upper end of the segment since the choices have blurred lines. 

At the PHP 1.5M range, there are compact crossovers, hybrids, and even full electric ones if you save up a little more. This is why seeing the top of the line Kia Seltos SX with an internal combustion engine selling for PHP 1,688,000 is very peculiar. Can it hold up despite not having the size or electrified powertrain in the tightly contested price range?

Kia Philippines took us for a drive down south to the Old Grove Farmstead in Lipa, Batangas. Going there could’ve been a straight highway run but instead, they took us on a side trip to Tagaytay, up the Rotonda, to the Marcos Mansion, and down towards the Silangan Exit of SLEX. 

Aesthetics are very subjective but I must say, Kia didn’t miss anything with this iteration of the Seltos. There’s no awkwardness in its design and despite the safe improvements from the previous model, this 2024 Seltos is more eye-catching from any angle. You’ll like this if you’re not into that intimidating look that its rivals have.

Now with the cabin, there’s two differences from the one shown during its launch last December. Gone was the piano black accent on the dashboard, and the infotainment touchscreen now doesn’t have buttons, creating a seamless look for it combined with the gauge cluster. 

First good thing about the Seltos SX’s cabin is the solid cover for the panoramic sunroof that also helps with the quietness. Its contact points are mostly soft, save for the upper door panels where I always rest my elbow during highway drives. I also love that they went for an all-leather upholstery this time around, since the last one has cloth material for the center of the seats. Another little detail they aced is the height of the rear air vents and its angle. For 5’7 me, the air passes just right above my knee and to my head during my normal sitting position. I’m particular with this since other rear air vents always end up blowing air on my knee, instead of my upper body. 

The Kia Seltos is also right-sized even if I’m wider than the average Filipino. It easily fits me snuggly at the back, that even if there’s two of me, I can lay out the center armrest without any discomfort. The front row too didn’t feel narrow despite the slightly higher center console. 

Things also went well in the driver’s position. The digital gauge cluster was bright even during noon and despite not having a cover, the touchscreen was very responsive and aided in better connectivity thanks to its wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

The great points continue once you’re driving the Seltos. As someone who has a small personal car, I was surprised that I can drive the much bigger Seltos quickly and with minimal adjustment period. The geometry of the dashboard and windshield made it easy to estimate where you are on the road making it beginner friendly or those moving up from a smaller car. The brakes are also stellar with its soft response but immediate bite even with a light touch on the pedal. The 1.4-liter turbo engine also made light work of carrying 4 adults, 5 if we’re being realistic about my weight.

But what really makes the Seltos SX appealing is how its Advanced Driver Assist System is utilized. The Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Following Assist, and Forward Collision Avoidance Assist all work as mentioned – assistive. They are not like your tito that takes over the wheel when you’re making a mistake. The Lane Tracing System is gentle if you’re going out of your lane and isn’t overly correcting, the Smart Cruise is very human-like in its braking and acceleration, and my favorite Forward Collision Avoidance isn’t paranoid to small obstructions. I can even say it’s one of the best since it went through BGC bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic without bombarding you with audible alarms.

There are only two things the Seltos SX missed out on. First is the rear suspension that’s much firmer than the front, though I still had a very comfortable sleep while riding in the second row. Second was the lack of manual control on the transmission. The 1.4-liter turbo engine and 7-speed dual clutch is a great improvement over the previous powertrain, but the lack of paddle shifters or even a simple manual override dulls the overall experience. However, I do admit that my want is in the minority. Most drivers are okay with flooring the throttle pedal in order to get more out of the engine, as I have experienced with friends and acquaintances with contemporary cars. 

Now the biggest question is – does the Kia Seltos SX justify its price tag? It depends on where you are coming from. If you’re a car geek, the Seltos SX is not for you. As something that wants to be aspirational, it needs more plushness in its materials and amenities like powered tailgate and 360-camera system. 

But if you are moving up from something more basic, or you just have a hefty pocket, the bright side of the Kia Seltos SX can definitely check your boxes. It has an eye-catching look with amenities to back it up. The cabin is spacious, comfortable, and has future-proof amenities. If the first two already have your attention, the drive of the Seltos will definitely reel you in. It’s easy to be friends with no matter your driving experience and the driver assist features aren’t overly eager to take over control of the car. If you’re not yet ready for an electrified car, and want something as unique as you to complement your active lifestyle, this crossover is definitely worth a try. 

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