REVIEW | Can the flash 2020 Kia Seltos 1.4 T-GDI GT Line justify the cash?

09 June 2020 - 17:59
The Kia Seltos 1.4 T-GDI GT Line offers street-smart looks and a punchy 1.4-litre turbo motor.
The Kia Seltos 1.4 T-GDI GT Line offers street-smart looks and a punchy 1.4-litre turbo motor.
Image: Supplied

This flagship Seltos model offers a punchy turbocharged engine plus a host of attractive cosmetic exterior and interior tweaks. Unfortunately, it also comes saddled to a rather lofty price tag. We find out whether or not it is worth all the extra money.

What is it?

What you’re looking at here is the range-topping version of the Kia Seltos SUV that was launched in SA at the end of last year – you know, when life was good and we could leave our houses without gloves and masks and bottles of sanitiser.

With a pricetag hovering just under the R500,000 mark, the GT Line differentiates itself out on the street with a turbocharged motor (its lesser Seltos siblings are all fitted with naturally-aspirated lumps) and a more aggressively styled exterior.

Loaded with all available niceties, the generously equipped interior has also been made to appear extra sporty thanks to generous lashings of go-faster cosmetic tinsel.

If you’re into sharp aesthetics and sharp(er) performance, then the GT Line is certainly the Seltos that will strike your fancy.

Seltos GT Line is good around town but really excels on longer highway jaunts.
Seltos GT Line is good around town but really excels on longer highway jaunts.
Image: Supplied

What’s under the bonnet?

Behind that Range Rover-esque visage resides a Kappa 1.4 T-GDI motor. A turbocharger and relatively high compression ratio (10:1) means it pumps out 103kW and 242Nm worth of torque – the full quota of which is available from 1,500 to 3,200rpm.

This makes the Kia a pleasingly tractable thing around town. Although no fireball when it comes to the mystical "Traffic Light Grand Prix,", accelerative performance is brisk enough to crack a smile when road conditions allow.

Mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (a bit jerky at lower speeds, but otherwise a decent effort), highway performance is excellent: that lengthy seventh gear ratio allowing you to easily maintain illegal cruising speeds and low revs for hours on end. And low revs, as we all know, help aid fuel consumption.

I did a fair bit of driving through town and on the motorway (a dreary drive out to the depressing outskirts of Vanderbijlpark) and was able to reach 7.4l/100km. But on a long cross-country trip I reckon you’d be able to break into the low sixes with ease.

Exclusive to the Seltos GT Line is Drive Mode Select that allows one to tweak the "personality" of both the engine and transmission to suit your mood and/or driving conditions. As is the case with comparable systems offered  by rival manufacturers (they’re so de rigueur these days), you can switch between three preset modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Depending on which you choose, you can expect distinct changes to the vehicle’s throttle response, steering weight and DCT transmission shift points.

GT Line ownership also means you get the added 2WD Terrain function that tailors throttle response and traction control parameters for driving across slippery surfaces. As with Drive Mode Select you can pick between three different modes – Snow, Mud or Sand.

GT Line specification includes unique 17-inch alloy wheels and red painted brake calipers.
GT Line specification includes unique 17-inch alloy wheels and red painted brake calipers.
Image: Supplied

What is it like to drive?

Although not especially memorable in any way, the Kia Seltos GT Line delivers a safe, neutral and fairly polished driving experience that will tick all the boxes of prospective buyers shopping within this vehicle segment.

It might be able to sling a few corners together at fairly respectable speeds, but it is not particularly dynamic and instead favours a more laidback approach in getting from A to B.

As I mentioned before, I found this Seltos very at home out on the open road, where its flat torque curve and surprising levels of refinement (both road and wind noise are well suppressed) make it an effortless devourer of lonely country kilometres.

Overall ride quality is decent but I did notice that choppy surfaces often made the GT Line feel flustered and nuggety – especially when encountered mid-corner.

I got to pilot a Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo shortly after handing this Seltos back, and found its suspension system far more fluid and absorbent, which is really what you need in a city such as Johannesburg which is plagued by such god-awful roads.

The modern interior is well-equipped and ergonomically pleasing.
The modern interior is well-equipped and ergonomically pleasing.
Image: Supplied

What’s the cabin like?

Really good, actually. Kia has been making some solid interiors for a while now and the one inside the Seltos is probably one of its best efforts to date with a look, fit and finish comparable of that to full-fat luxury vehicles from not that long ago. There are a few questionable plastics here and there, but on the whole I was impressed at how things had been pieced together – it has a modern and upmarket appearance.

In GT Line specification it is made even more amenable thanks to the addition of leather upholstery, stainless steel pedals and a small diameter D-shaped steering wheel (that means the bottom of the wheel’s rim is basically flat). There is also mood lighting to jazz up your night drives. It is fully programmable (of course) and lets you choose from six different colour themes and eight colours.

Another highlight is the large, centrally mounted eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Linked to six speakers it also offers USB and Bluetooth connectivity – an absolute must-have in 2020.

From a driver’s point of the view it’s easy to get comfortable at the helm thanks to ample amounts of steering wheel reach and rake adjustment. The driver’s seat is height adjustable and offers a goodly blend of comfort and lateral support for the type of vehicle the Seltos is. I was also impressed at how Kia has managed to keep the dashboard and centre console free from unnecessary clutter.

A lot of modern interiors are marred by haphazardly arranged buttons and dials used for controlling various ancillaries, but here Kia has burnt them down to a bare minimum. Between the touchscreen system, steering wheel buttons and Drive Mode Select button, you’re pretty much covered.

The HVAC controls are similarly simple with Kia choosing to go with three basic rotary knobs for controlling temperature, fan speed and venting. Call me old school, but this is the type of arrangement I prefer as you can “feel your way” through adjustments without have to take your eyes off the road. Yep, the Seltos scores top marks for cabin ergonomics.

Stylish and capable Seltos GT line is let down by its high asking price.
Stylish and capable Seltos GT line is let down by its high asking price.
Image: Supplied

Should it be on my shopping list?

If you’re seeking an attractive, well-equipped and practical SUV with good all-round performance,n the Seltos GT Line is definitely a worthy contender. There is, however, a rather sizable elephant in the room and that is its rather heady asking price.

R460,995 is a heck of a lot of money to cough up, especially when range-topping versions of the excellent Volkswagen T-Cross (R415,600), Suzuki Vitara (R405,900) and Renault Duster (R348,900) all cost considerably less and offer similar performance – especially in the case of the Suzuki I recently had on test.

Sure, the Kia is a little bit bigger than most of is rivals and therefore has a slight edge in the practicality stakes, but even then it’s kind of hard to justify the premium you’re paying for a turbocharged engine and those GT Line interior/exterior styling modifications.

If the Seltos really rocks your world that much and turbocharging is a must,the 1.4 T-GDI GT Line certainly won’t leave you disappointed. However I'd recommend that you rather save a handy chunk of change and opt either for the T-Cross or Vitara Turbo.

Fast Facts: 2020 Kia Seltos 1.4 T-GDI GT LINE

Engine: 1353cc four-cylinder turbo petrol

Power: 103kW at 6,000rpm

Torque: 242Nm from 1,500 to 3,200rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed DCT

0-100km/h: 9.7-seconds (claimed)

Top speed: 187km/h (claimed)

Fuel: 7.4l/100km (achieved)

Price: From R460,995


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