REVIEW | 2020 Kia Seltos diesel is thirstier than expected

The Seltos is a proficient family crossover with plenty of comforts and standout looks.
The Seltos is a proficient family crossover with plenty of comforts and standout looks.

Kia has expanded its Seltos line-up with the addition of a 1.5l turbo diesel engine, adding to the petrol models that have been available since the car’s launch in November.

There are fewer diesels than petrol vehicles in this corner of the compact crossover market, with rival ranges such as the Volkswagen T-Cross, Opel Mokka X, Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR all offering full petrol line-ups. The Seltos 1.5 CRDi competes against the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport, all of which, like the Kia, are powered by 1.5l turbo diesels.

The Seltos 1.5 CRDi is available in two trim grades, with the entry-level EX models offering either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and equipped with items such as air conditioning, automatic headlight control, cloth upholstery, electric windows, cruise control, Bluetooth, voice recognition and a 20.3cm colour touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

On test here is the more luxurious Seltos EX+ version, which additionally comes with auto-folding side mirrors, an armrest console with storage for front passengers, and my favourite feature: quilted-look leather seats. It’s an effect stamped into the leather rather than the real quilt stitching found in more expensive cars, but for me the seats still added a shot of sophisticated luxury to this compact SUV.

The seats are comfy, too, and proved themselves on a seven-hour trip I undertook from Joburg to KwaZulu-Natal when the interprovincial travel ban was recently lifted.

From a safety point of view the whole line-up has six airbags and ABS brakes, but the EX+ grade also gets stability control and hill-start Assist Control.

Roof rails and rear skid plates give the Seltos an SUV look, though this front-wheel drive vehicle is no off-roader.
Roof rails and rear skid plates give the Seltos an SUV look, though this front-wheel drive vehicle is no off-roader.

At just more than 4.3m in length the Seltos has a size advantage over most of the competition and it’s impressively spacious, with excellent headroom and enough space in the back seat for two adults to sit comfortably.

It’s large enough to make it a viable family SUV alternative to the bigger and generally more expensive (depending on model) Kia Sportage, though the Seltos’s 433l boot isn’t as roomy as the Sportage’s 466l. Still, the Seltos easily swallowed two people’s luggage for the trip to the coast, and that’s with a full-sized spare wheel. The rear seats also flip down to expand the cargo area.

It’s a good looking vehicle too, with its slim daytime running lights and a bold-looking execution of Kia’s “tiger” grille. Roof rails and plastic skid plates are modern SUV accoutrements that lend it a handsome ruggedness.

Combined with its comfortable seats the Seltos has a fairly smooth ride, which ensured that happy and fatigue-free humans were dispensed at the other end after our long journey.

Apart from a noticeable diesel clatter on start-up, the engine was reasonably refined and didn’t drone during the long drive. It’s a smooth and fairly torquey diesel with decent midrange power, though it doesn’t have a big punch anywhere in its repertoire, meaning that overtaking moves require a little planning.

That’s OK, because you don’t really expect more of a 1.5 engine; overall it’s a reasonably perky performer and doesn’t succumb to major turbo lag. Though its 86kW power output trails the cheaper 91kW Seltos 1.6 petrol model, the 1.5 CRDi has considerably gutsier torque, with 250Nm compared with 151Nm.

The Seltos has an impressively roomy cabin, while the stylish leather seats add some upmarket charm.
The Seltos has an impressively roomy cabin, while the stylish leather seats add some upmarket charm.

The diesel’s not quite the fuel sipper we expected though. On the long freeway cruise it managed 6.5l /100km, but with some town driving included, the average consumption increased to 7.3l/100km. That’s significantly higher than the factory-quoted 5.7l and not much better than the real-world figure you’d get from a similarly sized petrol car.

Pity, because fuel economy is one of the main selling points of diesels and this car didn’t quite hit the mark.

This Seltos EX+ also doesn’t come cheap compared with rivals such as the EcoSport or Duster, though it partially justifies this with its larger cabin and long list of mod cons.

Within the Seltos line-up the 1.5 CRDi might be tempting to buyers for having gutsier performance than the cheaper 1.6 petrol model, and for offering a R25,000 price saving over the more powerful Seltos 1.4T GDi petrol turbo.

Tech Specs


Type: Four-cylinder diesel turbo

Capacity: 1,493cc

Power: 86kW

Torque: 250Nm


Type: Six-speed auto


Type: Front-wheel drive


Top speed: 176km/h

0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds

Fuel consumption: 5.7l/100km (claimed); 7.5l /100km (as tested)

Emissions: 151g/km



ABS brakes, six airbags, electric windows, aircon, cruise control, remote central locking, touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and USB connections, trip computer, LED daytime running lights, leather seats, automatic headlights, stability control, hill-assist control, 190mm ground clearance, parking camera.


Warranty: Five years/unlimited km

Service plan: Five years/90,000km

Price: R446,995

Lease*: R9,592

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit



Ford EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Ambiente, 74kW/205Nm — R298,800

Renault Duster 1.5 dCi TechRoad auto, 80kW/250Nm — R350,900

Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta Plus, 81kW/260Nm — R482,700


Kia Seltos 1.5 CRDI EX+  



Styling, space, those quilted leather seats



Not as fuel-friendly as expected, quite pricey



A (generally) cheaper alternative to a Sportage



star rating






***Value For Money


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