CAPE TOWN – The Kia Seltos has quickly become rather popular in the local market, with quite a number of South Africans signing on the dotted line for the Korean firm’s latest crossover since its arrival late in 2019. And when tested in a crossover comparative in the August 2020 issue, the top-spec T-GDi GT-Line DCT petrol variant (which we also evaluated earlier) won favour among the CAR team.

Recently, Kia added three diesel derivatives to the range, all of which are endowed with a 1,5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged motor producing 86 kW and 250 N.m of torque. While the top-of-the-line EX+ variant is available exclusively with a six-speed self-shifter, lesser-specced EX models can be had with either the latter transmission or a manual ’box with the same number of cogs. Will the addition of a diesel powerplant up the Seltos’ local appeal even further?

At the local launch, we had the opportunity to sample the newest addition to the Seltos line-up on a long-distance road trip. The route: Somerset West to Swellendam via the back roads of the picturesque Overberg region, with some brief stops at family-run businesses in between in support of the local tourism industry.

As an EX+ model has recently joined CAR’s long-term test fleet (be sure to keep an eye on the magazine for monthly updates), we’ve garnered a fair amount experience driving the top-spec diesel example. If you’re an avid reader of CAR, you might well know that we’ve continually argued the best value is often found lower down in a model range. Thus, at the launch, we decided to get behind the wheel of the least expensive (and fully sanitised, as has become the norm) of the trio of diesels to find out whether the same applies to the Seltos CRDi. Is the entry-level EX-badged Seltos the one to get?

Dressed in conservative Glacier White Pearl paintwork, the Seltos looks good, especially when specified with the Aurora Black Pearl contrast roof. However, if you prefer to stand out among the sea of silver- and white-coloured cars on our roads, Punchy Orange (as seen on senior associate editor Gareth Dean’s long-term test car), Intelligency Blue and Intense Red are among the seven colour options.

En route to Swellendam, the diesel-powered Seltos impressed, with its turbocharged four-pot quietly going about its business. NVH levels are good. Although the engine can sound quite noisy on pull away, only a subtle hum from the diesel motor permeated the cabin once the tachometer’s needle exceeded the 2 000 r/min marker when cruising at the national limit. The six-speed manual ’box feels slick. Swapping between gears is an effortless task, allowing the driver to make the most of the 250 N.m of torque, which is on tap from just 1 500 r/min.

It’s a comfortable drive in town and on the open road, where the easily legible trip computer indicated an average fuel consumption of around 6,6 L/100 km. As standard, EX variants are fitted with a set of 16-inch alloy wheels (17-inchers for EX+ trim level). Thanks to its large-profile rubber, the EX model we drove soaked up road scars with aplomb.

Interior build quality feels solid, although there were some noticeable creaks emanating from the gloss-black plastic housing surrounding the instruments and touchscreen display when driving on uneven roads. While EX+ specification level gains leather seats, EX variants make do with comfortable cloth pews.

Adding comfort to the package, the EX is equipped with myriad convenience items as standard, such as an eight-inch display – operated via touch or buttons on the leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel – which features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto screen-mirroring and Bluetooth functionality, while an array of USB ports (two for the rear passengers for charging smart devices) can be found inside the cabin. Cruise control, a reverse camera and rear park-distance sensors are included, too. Safety is taken care of by a total of six airbags, Isofix child-seat anchorages, ABS and EBD.

Verdict

With the introduction of diesel powertrains to the line-up, Kia’s small crossover will no doubt become ever more popular in the local market. The 1,5-litre turbo-four is punchy, offering an ample oomph for urban commuting and when leaving the confines of the city for a weekend getaway. Equipped with a manual transmission, the entry-level diesel Seltos represents good value for money. It’s spacious and offers loads of standard equipment. However, with most folks skewed towards automatic tranmissions, for some R18 000 more, it’s the similarly (EX) specced, six-speed automatic variant that’s likely the one to get.



FAST FACTS

Model: Kia Seltos CRDi EX MT
Price: R410 995
Engine: 1,5-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
Power: 86 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque: 250 N.m @ 1 500-2 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 11,5 seconds
Top speed: 175 km/h
Fuel consumption: 5,1 L/100 km
CO2: 134 g/km
Service plan: 5-year/90 000 km