2021 Kia Seltos SX AWD: Take Two!

2021 Kia Seltos SX AWD

It’s rare that I get to sample two cars from the same model year. Back in April 2020, when life was just getting properly weird, I drove a Starbright Yellow 2021 Kia Seltos SX AWD and really enjoyed it. I noted that it was a ton of car for under $30,000. Technically, it’s around a ton and a half of car for $30,000. Kia dropped off a different 2021 Kia Seltos SX AWD this summer and I got another week to see what’s what.

2021 Kia Seltos SX AWD


We are in that awkward part of the year when the manufacturers have switched their websites over to the newer model year. So what I’m looking at on Kia’s website is the 2022 Seltos. However, changes between 2021 and 2022 are minimal. Kia standardized some of their active safety tech across the lineup and updated some trim, features, and colors. Of note, there is a new “Nightfall Edition” which, as you would expect, has blacked out trim.

Our 2021 SX trim is the top spec Seltos and adds around $5,500 to the bottom line. As with the last Seltos we tested, it comes with the 1.6 Liter Turbocharged Inline 4-cylinder engine putting out 175 horsepower. The SX has a few key features above the lesser trims which include:

  • LED headlights
  • Bose premium audio system
  • Upgraded driver information display
  • Sport steering wheel
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane keeping system
  • Cargo cover

Here, check it out for yourself.

As you can see, our SX loaner only has extra charges for paint (Clear White) and floormats. As with the last Seltos, this sucker still comes in under $30,000. These things should sell well.


There’s been an interesting trend in small crossovers to make them look tough. The Seltos comes with standard 18 inch wheels, solid ground clearance (7.3 inches), and the normal plastic cladding that all new SUVs seem to have.

2021 Kia Seltos SX AWD

Like most recent Kia models, it’s a good looking thing overall. The front is a little busy, but no worse than most new cars. I like the swoopy headlights that meld well into the grille. It’s a high end look in an inexpensive crossover!


Similarly, Kia has been producing well screwed-together interiors with solid ergonomics across the board. The number of times that I’ve had that “how is this car this inexpensive” feeling in a Kia or Hyundai is significant.

I love the honeycomb pattern on the seats, it’s sort of fun and playful, while not looking goofy. It’s always interesting to see a real shifter on a new car, most seem to be getting phased out, replaced by buttons or dials. I’ve always liked to have a spot to rest my hand, but I also appreciate the cleaner look of the new school interior designs.

Kia has a solid infotainment system, with redundant buttons just below it. While the drivetrain is becoming more automated with button and dial controls, automakers seem to be removing buttons from other functions. I’ve been stuck in Apple CarPlay before in other cars without an obvious way out. Kia takes care of that with the various functions represented with physical buttons right below the screen. Good usability.

Space is generous for a small’ish SUV. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 26.6 cubic feet, which is pretty solid. Drop the back seat and that ramps up to 62.8 cubic feet. So the Seltos is pretty roomy for being small. Rear seat room isn’t bad either, my increasingly tall kids had no complaints back there (which is saying something).


At less than 3,000 pounds, the Seltos borders on fun to drive. A 175 horsepower turbo hatchback weighing in at 2948 lbs. would be seen as a bit of a hot hatch. The Seltos isn’t really engineered for back road fun, but it’s also much better at getting out of its way than a lot of crossovers I’ve driven. Add in all the great features and options, and that super lower price, and I would have no problem recommending it to someone looking for a small crossover.


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