Kia Seltos expected to excel in PH

If we use India as a barometer of how Kia’s newly launched subcompact SUV is to fare in our own smaller market, then suffice it to say that the Korean carmaker can expect great things from the Seltos.

In October, the nameplate was, bar none, the bestselling SUV in India – with 12,854 units sold (up a hefty 65.8 percent from the month before). Note that the subcompact crossover was just launched there last August, and now has registered over 26,000 in sales and more than 60,000 pre-orders.

Now, the Philippine market has the honor of being the first ASEAN country to welcome the Seltos, which had its world premiere last July. “We received huge attention from media, customers and even competitors globally,” excitedly said Kia Motors Asia Pacific president Ted Lee in a speech at the vehicle’s launch in Taguig City. “In the Korean market, the Seltos has been a top-selling model in B-SUV segment with sales volumes much higher than the next model in the segment.”

The executive reiterated that the Seltos bucked the market slowdown in India and surpassed expectations in inquiries and customer bookings.”

For his part, Kia Philippines president Manny Aligada reminded how the Seltos represents a fulfillment of the promise made late last year during a press conference to announce the operational takeover of the Ayala Group over the then locally underperforming, beleaguered brand.

“On January 30, we launched the partnership between Ayala and Kia motors, and (opened) the first of the three boxes, which (held) the Soluto. Now, (it) is the biggest-selling model in the Kia lineup,” he said. “Kia followed suit with the debut of the Stinger sports sedan at summer’s Manila International Auto Show. Now the brand closes the year strong with the Seltos. 

“We said we would bring back the glory of the brand that is so known worldwide, and we committed to two things. First, we said would enhance the current lineup, which we did. The second is that we would bring in three new models,” averred Aligada.

The vehicle is named after Celtos, the son of Hercules in Greek mythology (with the first “C” replaced by an “S” to stand for sportiness), and now effectively becomes Kia’s entry-level SUV crossover. It measures 4,370 x 1,800 x 1,615 millimeters, with a wheelbase stretching 2,630mm. Aligada noted that it is larger versus the segment competition, and actually approaches the dimensions of more expensive SUVs. Even the cabin, he asserted, boasts generous headroom and rear legroom.

Kia Philippines president Manny Aligada (left) leads a toast at the local launch of the Kia Seltos. With him is Kia Motors Asia Pacific president Ted Lee.

The vehicle is powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four DOHC D-CVVT Atkinson Cycle engine mated to an all-new Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) developed by Kia to produce “power, response, smoothness, and fuel economy. The IVT features continuous gear shifts for improved drivability,” according to a release. The system outputs 149ps and 179Nm.

Proprietary Advanced High Strength Steel, says Kia, makes possible “enhanced body rigidity and maximum occupant security.” A Drive Mode Select system lets drivers choose from Normal, Eco, or Sport for more customized response expectations. A rearview camera with so-called rearview driving function delivers heightened confidence and safety. 

In an exclusive interview with Wheels, Aligada attributed strong showing of the SUV in India with the fact that the market “had a strong say in the design” – particularly in the areas of size, setup, and engine. That and “detailed attention in the design made it stand out.” 

This, predicted the executive, augurs well for the Seltos reception here. “Similarly in the Philippines, which is an SUV country, this is what will (help) the Seltos become one of the leading models. (It’s a) small, tall, compact SUV. There’s the two-liter petrol engine that’s powerful and efficient, and the IVT, plus the look. Filipinos will surely appreciate this.”

The executive further revealed that first batch of Seltos, comprised of some 120 units, were sold out even before the formal Philippine launch. Half of the second batch, numbering 188 units, have been spoken for.

Kia Philippines sources the Seltos directly from Korea, and offers buyers a standard five-year, 160,000-kilometer warranty. Until November 30, the company also extends a P50,000 discount on all three variants of the Seltos. Inclusive of the discount, the prices are: LX (P1.048 million), the EX (P1.148 million), and the SX (P1.448 million). 

“The direction we’re taking now is that we get models that will play in good positioning – perfect for branding because that’s what we need now. We have the Sorento, the GT line for Sportage and Forte, and then the Stinger. We also have players in the volume segments – the K2500, the Soluto. We’re working on the other models. This one is also a sweet spot, a huge segment with 12 to 15 percent of the total industry. So, we’re bringing in models that should have a good play both in volume and in branding,” concluded Aligada.

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