2025 Kia Seltos Review: Ignore the name, embrace the SUV


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Pros: Loads of space; great technology; exuberant acceleration with turbo engine; clever design throughout; strong safety ratings

Cons: Turbo engine’s subpar fuel economy; weak base engine; saying you own something called ‘Kia Seltos’

“Really, they called a car that?” Yes, they really did, and it’s a shame because the vehicle attached to the moniker 2025 Kia Seltos deserves a lot better than to be confused with a prescription drug advertised during “Jeopardy!” Indeed, it’s one of our top-recommended subcompact SUVs thanks to its ample passenger and cargo space, exceptional tech, sharp style inside and out, and a rare engine upgrade option for the class. Better still, unlike that prescription drug, there really aren’t any scary-sounding side effects.

After getting a few substantive upgrades last year, including tweaked looks and upgraded infotainment, the 2025 Seltos just sees some feature content additions. Oh, and it’s price inched up a bit, which would normally be par for the course, but it does deserve a mention here since the Seltos isn’t the value leader you might assume given the Kia brand. That’s because the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Envista has largely eaten its lunch in that regard, and although not available with all-wheel-drive, they deliver so much bang for the buck they can’t be ignored in the segment. Kia’s own Niro hybrid is also in the same price and size ballpark as the Seltos, but again, is not available with all-wheel drive. If that’s important to you, we’d recommend taking a look at the mechanically related Hyundai Kona or the spacious, family-friendly Volkswagen Taos. If style and performance are more important to you than space, the Mazda CX-30 is worth a look, too. All told, the Seltos can be considered a competitor and smart alternative to them all. We just wouldn’t blame you for calling it your Kia Whatchamacallit.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it's like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What's new for 2025?

After more substantial updates last year, every Seltos trim level gets additional equipment for 2025. The base S gets a new instrument panel display, auto up/down power driver window and new two-tone alloy wheels. The EX and SX gets rear parking sensors, while the EX AWD and SX gain a power liftgate. Finally, the EX is now available with a sunroof.




Seltos SX interior with "Brown" color choice; Seltos S blue seat option; base Seltos LX with smaller screen combo

What are the Seltos interior and in-car technology like?

If there's one area where the Seltos betrays its relatively low price, it's the quality of its interior materials. The door sills, dash tops, center console and cargo area are all hard plastic – there's far more throughout than you'll find in Kia’s Sportage or even Niro. To be fair, this isn’t unusual for the segment and there’s actually higher-quality materials present than the widely lauded Chevy Trax/Buick Envista twins. Like those, though, Kia's designers cleverly made up for its accountants' dictates by elevating several key areas with upgraded materials and distinctive design elements. The 3D geometric pattern of the speaker grilles, the metal-look passenger grab handle, the sleek silver trim piece surrounding the air vents and starter button, and optional upgrades that include distinctive seat colors and, on upper trim levels, matching simulated leather dash trim. It definitely looks more expensive than it is.

Also helping the interior’s visual appeal is the curved twin-screen housing that stretches across the dash. The base LX gets a combination of 4.2-inch instrument panel and 8-inch infotainment screen with bordering physical buttons; all other trims get 10.25-inch screens for both the instruments (complete with four design choices) and infotainment system. The latter’s physical menu controls and knobs are below the climate controls, which sounds weird, but puts them quickly at hand. Although the base system is certainly easy enough to use, the upgrade is one of the better, most feature-packed and easiest-to-use infotainment systems out there. We also like the two-tiered storage solution intended for smartphones: the smaller tray above meant to grip and store a phone (it's also a wireless charger in upper trims) and the deeper bin below with two USB ports that can store another phone or whatever you want. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cannot be wirelessly connected, but the wired versions are standard.

How big is the Seltos?

The Seltos may be a subcompact SUV with significantly smaller exterior dimensions than its bigger, “compact” Sportage sibling, it still offers plenty of interior space. Indeed, it's one of the few choices in the segment that would be well-suited for small families. There’s sufficient room for a giant child seat, and the squared roofline and rear doors make loading and unloading that child easier than in several competitors. For those sans kids, the back seat provides ample comfort and space for full-size adults without the low roof and claustrophobic view out of some rivals. The eight-way power driver seat found in the EX, X-Line and SX trim levels provides an abundance of adjustability and space.

Cargo space is also very good for the segment. There's a generous 26.6 cubic feet back there, which allowed us to secure five suitcases with room to spare. While not best in its subcompact class (the Ford Bronco Sport and VW Taos are bigger), it’s right up there. Its maximum cargo capacity of 62.8 cubic feet is generous as well and speaks to its boxier dimensions that should make hauling bulkier items easier.

What are the Seltos fuel economy and performance specs?

The Seltos LX, S and EX are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a modest 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It is paired to a continuously variable transmission that simulates eight gear ratios. Front-wheel drive is standard on the S and EX; all-wheel-drive is optional on those and curiously, standard on the base LX. Kia claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 8.8 seconds with standard front-wheel-drive, and 9.6 seconds with optional all-wheel drive. Those would be among the slowest figures in the segment. Fuel economy with FWD is 28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. Those drop to 27/31/29 with AWD. These figures make it among the most efficient in the segment, though differences are slim.

The X-Line and SX get a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 195 hp and 195 lb-ft. Few choices in the segment offer anything close to this. The 0-to-60 time is listed at a relatively modest 8 seconds by Kia, but Motor Trend clocked it at 7.3 seconds – a time that seems more aligned with just how quick the Seltos feels with it. All-wheel-drive is standard with this engine along with a traditional eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy falls to an unremarkable 24 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. We managed only 23.5 mpg in just over 100 miles of mixed city and highway driving.

What's the Seltos like to drive?

We have yet to test the Seltos with the base powertrain. We found it to be underpowered in the lighter Kia Forte sedan – which probably isn't a good sign – and the "IVT" transmission to be unusual. It simulates gear ratios during most driving conditions, making it feel normal enough (a bit like the Turbo models' dual-clutch gearbox, actually), but when accelerating hard, it'll hang onto revs as a CVT would before eventually "upshifting" a ratio. It's weird, but again, we haven't tested it in the Seltos.

The Turbo models are a different story. It offers the sort of power that would be above-average for the segment above, while blowing most subcompact competitors out of the water. Sure, fuel economy takes a hit, but the ample low-end grunt and (relatively) rapid acceleration should be a welcome trade-off for many. The eight-speed automatic basically went unnoticed during regular driving, which is generally a good thing, possessing none of the unusual behaviors of the base engine's CVT or the Seltos turbo’s original dual-clutch automatic. When more aggressive downshifts are needed, though, the transmission isn't as quick to respond as that old dual-clutch. Engaging Sport mode also doesn't change the car acceleration character as much as it used to, either. For most drivers, though, we think this is ultimately a net positive.

The rest of the Seltos driving experience is typical for a Kia: capable, composed but not especially memorable. The ride sops up bigger bumps surprisingly well for an inexpensive crossover, perhaps in part due to 18-inch wheels being the biggest size available. At the same time, its chassis shows poise around corners and we could pleasantly hustle it along a mountain road without it feeling like a hopeless fish out of water. It never transcends into the sporty realm as the Mazda CX-30 does (or even the Chevy Trax), but that's more a fact than a complaint. There's also a fair bit of road noise inside, another tell-tale sign of its price point.

What other Kia Seltos reviews can I read?

2024 Kia Seltos First Drive Review

We detail all the changes made for 2024, including the upgraded turbo powertrain and new X-Line trim level.

 

Kia Seltos Luggage Test

We find out how much the Seltos' 26.6-cubic-foot cargo capacity translates to in terms of actual stuff.

 

Kia Seltos First Drive Review

Our first take on the Seltos. Although there have been changes since then, you can read more about its engineering. There's also some pictures of it with deer.

What is the 2025 Seltos price?

Because the Seltos LX comes standard with all-wheel drive, it’s only $600 cheaper than the otherwise better-equipped Seltos S. In a way, that gives the Seltos two entry level choices: one that prioritizes all-weather traction and the other comfort/convenience features. A similar situation exists with the EX and X-Line models: the former has a few more creature comforts like a power driver seat and a wireless charging pad, while the latter has the turbo engine and adventure-friendly roof rails. The SX, meanwhile, provides near-luxury levels of tech and features for the price of entry-level compact models.

All prices below include the $1,375 destination charge. As all-wheel drive is tied to trim level more than other SUVs, we’ve indicated below which include it as standard.

LX AWD: $25,965
S FWD: $26,465
S AWD: $27,965
EX FWD: $27,465
EX AWD: $29,665
X-Line AWD: $30,665
SX AWD: $32,465

What are the Seltos safety ratings and driver assistance features?

Every 2025 Seltos includes standard forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, a driver inattention warning system and automatic high beams. All but the LX include blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems. Only the SX adds Kia's excellent adaptive cruise control system with steering assistance ("Highway Driving Assist").

The NHTSA still hasn’t gotten around to updating its rating for the updated-for-’24 Seltos, but it’s doubtful the result will be different than the original result: four out of five stars for overall and frontal protection; five stars for side protection. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety still hasn’t tested the updated Seltos, but did name the first model year a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible crash protection and prevention ratings.

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