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2022 Kia Seltos Test Drive Review

The 2022 Kia Seltos isn’t perfect, but it’s a better choice than many small crossover SUVs.

7.5 /10
Overall Score

Here’s a fun fact: the Kia Seltos is named after Celtos, the mythological son of the Greek god Hercules. Swap that ‘C’ for an ‘S’, which reportedly stands for speed and sportiness, and you’ve got Seltos. Since speed and sportiness are in short supply here, we’ll say the ‘S’ is for SUV. Now in its sophomore model year, the 2022 Seltos adds a new Nightfall Edition with blacked-out trim. Kia also expands the availability of its driver-assist and collision avoidance systems and its 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system to more trim levels for 2022.

Look and Feel

7/ 10

Kia positions the Seltos between the smaller Soul and the larger Sportage. Five trim levels are available: LX, S, EX, Nightfall Edition, and SX. All but the Seltos S include standard all-wheel drive (AWD), and at the start of the model year, prices ranged between $22,590 and $28,080, not including the mandatory $1,255 destination charge.

Our test vehicle for this review was the 2022 Kia Seltos Nightfall Edition. In addition to its matte-black 18-inch alloy wheels, the Nightfall Edition includes a turbocharged engine, a dual-clutch transmission (DCT), a black grille, added body cladding, and more robust roof rails. Our test vehicle had no options, so the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) came to $28,045, including the destination charge.

The Seltos is an appealing small SUV. We’re not fans of the headlights, which peer out from beneath the wide, horizontal running lights. This Kia would look better without them. Also, the Nightfall Edition’s intricate wheels are genuinely appealing, but due to their finish, you can barely see them. Thankfully, they have a matte rather than a glossy finish.

Inside, the Seltos displays a good sense of style with its contrast-color dashboard panel, exposed stitching, gloss-black trim, and metallic accents. However, there is a ton of hard plastic, and too much of it is shiny, which makes the interior look cheap. Build quality, however, is excellent.

Kia arranges the controls in a logical and intuitive manner, offering the driver a collection of knobs for commonly adjusted features like stereo volume and cabin temperature. Lots of buttons with a matte-black finish and clear markings complement the knobs. Unfortunately, the accent color for the infotainment system is purple, a hue that’s infrequently at the top of many people’s favorite colors list.

If it seems like we’re nitpicking, it’s because the 2022 Seltos is larger, more useful, more refined, and more powerful than many of its direct rivals. From the driver’s seat, it’s easy to forget that the Seltos competes against the Toyota Corolla Cross and not the Toyota RAV4.


6/ 10

The Kia Seltos LX, S, and EX have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard with the base engine, and both the LX and the EX include standard AWD. The Seltos S offers both front-wheel drive (FWD) and AWD.

Select the Nightfall Edition or the SX trim, and the Seltos gets a more satisfying turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It provides 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, and the torque makes all the difference in the world because it arrives 3,000 rpm sooner than in the naturally aspirated engine, and is available between 1,500 rpm and 4,500 rpm.

The turbo-four pairs with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). It’s a little quirky, exhibiting some of the pauses and hesitation that are common with DCTs, but is still preferable to the CVT. Furthermore, the turbo-DCT combination makes the Seltos more engaging to drive than some of its rivals.

You can switch between Normal, Sport, and Smart driving modes. Smart mode attempts to balance fuel efficiency with responsiveness, but its active nature also makes it a little unpredictable and slow to respond to changing situations. Additionally, in Smart mode, the transmission is in a hurry to upshift, allowing revs to dip below where maximum torque is available, which produces uneven acceleration.

In Sport mode, the powertrain’s pulse quickens, but we found the transmission sometimes struggling to find the right gear at the right time. Fortunately, Kia provides an intuitive manual shift gate next to the standard PRNDL pattern, giving the driver control of the shift points. Paddle shifters would be even better.

We used Smart mode for most of our test-driving and engaged Sport mode on twisty two-lane mountain roads. The official EPA fuel economy rating for the Seltos Nightfall Edition is 27 mpg in combined driving, and that’s exactly what the test car returned on our Southern California evaluation loop.

The AWD system has a Lock function that evenly splits power delivery between the front and rear wheels at lower speeds. Ground clearance measures just 7.3 inches, which is less than class leaders such as the Jeep Compass Trailhawk and Subaru Crosstrek. When Kia launched the Seltos, we had a chance to drive it on groomed trails. This SUV is at home in light off-roading conditions and is likely surefooted in snowstorms. For more challenging terrain or situations, you’ll want a different vehicle.

Kia also equips the Seltos AWD with a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension design which typically improves a vehicle’s ride and handling qualities. Nevertheless, the suspension tuning is the least appealing thing about driving the Seltos.

On our testing loop, the Seltos Nightfall Edition did not manage speed humps or speed bumps with much confidence. When driving over either type, you’ll want to keep your speed below 20 mph (or less for speed bumps). In addition, the Seltos clearly communicated the smaller and sharper pavement bumps and cracks that are common in the Los Angeles suburbs. Based on our testing, you can expect larger potholes to send impacts shuddering straight into the cabin.

Furthermore, this relatively tall, short-wheelbase vehicle frequently exhibited lateral rocking motions on uneven pavement and feels bouncy and jouncy on undulating roads. If you drive with haste, confidence-destroying weight toss becomes an issue, making it hard to trust the Seltos’ handling. Grip from the 18-inch wheels and tires is good, and the Seltos can take smooth corners with some speed, but overall the suspension tuning allows far more body motion and supplies far less bump isolation than is preferable.

In urban and suburban environments, the Seltos Nightfall Edition feels lively. You sit up high behind the steering wheel, with excellent outward visibility in every direction. The Seltos is easy to park, too, and the reversing camera includes guidance lines to show the driver the SUV’s direction of travel.

On the highway, the steering feels secure on center and responds well to inputs, but it’s not engaging or communicative. We did not identify any braking issues, regardless of the driving situation.

The test-drive day was windy, adding more racket to the already significant road roar that intrudes upon the cabin when you’re driving on the highway. When traveling directly into the wind coming off of the Pacific Ocean, the Seltos began to emit a sound like static, and the hood was vibrating. As the SUV changed direction and the wind blasted the SUV from the side, the sound dissipated, never to return. But we did pull over and check to make sure everything under the hood was as it should be.

Despite what seems to be a long list of complaints, the Kia Seltos is a better small crossover SUV than many of its rivals. However, when it comes to driving dynamics, it falls well short of one of our favorites in the class, the Mazda CX-30. And it simply cannot explore places where a Subaru Crosstrek dares to tread. Still, we’d rather drive this Kia than the soul-crushing Toyota Corolla Cross.

Form and Function

8/ 10

Where Kia makes its mark with the Seltos is in the form and function department. This SUV is roomy inside, more so than many choices in its segment, and that makes it easy to live with on a daily basis.

Getting into and out of this crossover is easy, thanks to its ride height and large door openings. The Nightfall Edition has a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, so you can find a comfortable driving position with little effort. The front passenger’s seat is not adjustable for height but is mounted high enough off of the floor to provide proper leg support.

Nightfall Edition trim includes cloth upholstery with Sofino simulated leather bolsters and head restraints. The Seltos Nightfall Edition also has a single-zone automatic climate control system and heated front seats, adding to the comfort level. Unfortunately, the upper door panel trim is composed of hard plastic that is unkind to elbows.

Adults can easily fit into the Seltos’ rear seat, which is uncommon for the class. Kia flirts with discomfort by paneling the front seatbacks in hard plastic that is unkind to knees and shins, but there is enough rear legroom that the material should not cause a problem. Footroom is generous, too, and the Nightfall Edition has rear air conditioning vents, a USB charging port, and a center armrest with cupholders. However, the seatback angle is a little too reclined for comfort.

Kia gives the Seltos decent storage space, including a handy smartphone shelf underneath the climate control panel. Switching to an electronic shifter and electronic parking brake could improve storage even more. Cargo space measures 26.6 cubic feet behind the back seat and 62.8 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. Plastic grocery sack hooks can help prevent items from rolling around.

Tech Level

7/ 10

For 2022, Kia expands the availability of its 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system to include the S trim level, where it is an option. This system is standard on the Seltos EX, Nightfall Edition, and SX, and with SX trim, it pairs with a Bose premium sound system.

Highlights include Bluetooth that can pair with two devices simultaneously, a navigation system, connected services, satellite radio, and a six-speaker stereo. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but with this system, you need to connect via cable and a USB port. The standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the Seltos LX and S trims offers wireless smartphone connectivity.

Aside from that quirk and its odd purple theme color, the infotainment system is intuitive to use. Plus, Kia supplies a volume knob, a tuning knob, and physical buttons providing quick access to primary infotainment functions.

What’s missing is a native conversational voice recognition system. If you choose not to rely on your smartphone’s digital assistant (Apple Siri or Google Assistant), the Seltos’ voice recognition system will prove frustrating.

To its credit, the system warns you that an active subscription to connected services will produce better voice recognition results. And when you request directions to the closest hospital, it provides a list of hospitals without including surgical centers, doctor’s offices, or veterinary offices. But most of the time, the voice recognition system causes more frustration than it’s worth. Instead, we recommend launching Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and using your smartphone.


9/ 10

Kia fortifies the 2022 Seltos with numerous driving assistance systems. The list of safety features includes forward-collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. The Seltos also has a Rear Occupant Alert system that reminds a driver to check the back seat before locking and leaving the vehicle.

Upgrade to the Seltos EX, and the crossover gets a blind-spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert (these are options for the Seltos S). You’ll need to buy the Seltos SX if you want adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, Highway Driving Assist (which combines the adaptive cruise control and lane-centering functions in one system), and a Safe Exit Assist system that warns occupants when it is unsafe to open a door and get out of the vehicle.

Our Nightfall Edition test vehicle did not have adaptive cruise control or Highway Driving Assist. However, during the evaluation, the lane-centering assist technology proved accurate and refined, which means a driver is more likely to use it because it’s not a source of irritation.

Through the connected services platform, the Seltos offers several safety-related functions. They include 911 Connect (automatic collision notification) and several features that parents of teen drivers might appreciate. They include a panic button notification and programmable alerts related to vehicle speed, curfew time, and surpassing geographic boundaries.

As far as crash-test ratings go, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2022 Kia Seltos SX a Top Safety Pick rating. Other versions don’t qualify due to inferior headlight performance. However, all Seltos models get top marks for their crashworthiness and crash-avoidance tech.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Seltos earns an overall rating of four stars. It misses a top five-star rating due to a four-star performance in the front-passenger, frontal-impact crash test.


8/ 10

Equipped with a terrific 10-year, 100-mile, powertrain warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile, limited warranty, a generous roadside assistance coverage plan, one year of complimentary connected services (on most models), and plenty of interior space for people and cargo, a new Kia Seltos offers a good value. Plus, based on our experience, it should get the fuel economy numbers shown on the window sticker.

Overall, the Kia Seltos is more appealing than many subcompact SUVs. However, this segment is growing, and the competition keeps improving with each redesign. Kia needs to address the suspension tuning and the turbo-DCT drivetrain hiccups, and we know from driving the company’s EV6 electric vehicle that Kia offers a conversational voice recognition system for its infotainment tech.

If Kia can resolve these issues, the greatness inferred by this SUV’s name can advance beyond mythical status.

Updated by Christian Wardlaw

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