2022 Kia Seltos: subcompact crossover flexes its muscles

2021 Kia Seltos SX

by Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2022 Kia Seltos different?

Little more than a new color choice or two is likely for this eye-catching subcompact crossover SUV’s second model year. The 2022 Seltos will remain a passenger-friendly five-seater available with technology uncommon in the segment, such as lane-centering automatic steering. It should also return with all-wheel drive as standard on all but one of its five trim levels.   

The Seltos debuted for model-year 2021 with a body that echoes cues from Kia’s highly successful Telluride midsize crossover. Subtle style flourishes, like a textured grille surround, and an available two-tone roof will keep the ‘22 Seltos on trend. Highly efficient naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder powertrains should maintain gas mileage among best in class. Pricing will stay competitive, standard features impressive. We’ll be disappointed, however, if the 2022 Seltos entry-level model remains unavailable with today’s most basic driver assist, autonomous emergency braking.

The name is inspired by Greek mythology. Celtos was Hercules’ son; Kia says it swapped in the “S” to suggest speed and sportiness. Underskin engineering is shared with the Hyundai Kona from Kia’s corporate partner, although the Seltos has a 1.1-inch-longer wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles). That helps give it a significant 3.4 inches more rear legroom. Its body is also 2.6 inches taller and 8 inches longer, contributing to slightly more headroom and 37 percent greater cargo volume. The two subcompact crossovers share gas engines, but a pure-electric version of the Kona is available in California and states that follow its strict vehicle-emissions standards.   

Should I wait for the 2022 Kia Seltos or buy a 2021?

2021 Seltos SX

Buy a ‘21. Unless Kia makes autonomous braking available on the entry-level LX trim, the ’22 Seltos isn’t apt to change in any way worth waiting for. Even then, only a few buyers choose the LX model. You’ll almost certainly be charged more for a virtually unaltered version of any other ’22 Seltos. And Covid-19-related incentives and discounts might not be around once the ‘22s arrive.

The 2022 Seltos will again slot into Kia’s crossover lineup below the larger, costlier Sportage compact SUV. And it’ll share showroom space with the iconic Kia Soul, a similarly sized four-door hatchback that doesn’t qualify as a crossover because it comes only with front-wheel drive.

Expect the ’22 Seltos lineup to be a rerun. LX, S, and EX grades should return with the naturally aspirated engine, S 1.6T and SX models with the turbocharged engine. AWD should remain optional on the naturally aspirated S model in place of front-wheel drive and standard on all other Seltos grades.

Will 2022 Kia Seltos styling be different?

2021 Seltos SX in Startbright Yellow with black roof

Exterior colors are a big part of this crossover’s cheery identity, so Kia may well tweak  a model-year-2021 palette that included hues such as Gravity Gray and Mars Orange and extra-cost treatments like Cherry Black or Starbright Yellow with black roof.

Otherwise, the ’22 will retain its assertive but not-too-out there look. Trim-level identifiers should again run to details like fog lamps, LED running lights, and heated mirrors with integrated LED turn signals on all but the base LX model. The top-of-the-line SX should again get exclusive LED fog lamps, chrome door handles, and gloss black lower door garnishes. Wheel size and design will also be differentiators: expect 17-inch dark gray alloys on the LX and S, 17-inch machined-finished alloys on the EX, and 18-inch polished alloys on the S 1.6T and SX.

2021 Seltos SX

Look for Selto’s interior to reprise an inviting mix of sound ergonomics and surprising room. The dashboard won’t try to get cute with fussy gauges or controls that are difficult to reach or identify. All but the SX should return with a tablet-like 8-inch central infotainment touchscreen and standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The SX should again upgrade with a 10.25-inch touchscreen and imbedded navigation that doesn’t require a cell signal. Perks should continue to include wireless charging for the EX and SX. The SX should return with an electronic parking brake instead of a lever and Bose-branded audio that changes the color and intensity of cabin mood lighting based on volume level.

Upholstery should remain cloth on the LX, a combination of cloth and Kia’s Sofino leatherette on the S and S 1.6T, and full Sofino the EX and SX. All but the LX should return a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear-shift knob, with both S models sporting blue dashboard stitching. Cabin materials ought to again be a cut above, with controls that move with a pleasing exactness, panels that feel solid to the touch, and padded surfaces most everywhere you regularly touch.   

Passenger space will again be a 2022 Seltos selling point. Headroom is plentiful all around and, in a segment that often treats back-seaters as second-class citizens, there’s generous legroom, 60/40 split-reclining seatbacks, and door openings that don’t force ankle contortions upon entry or exit. EX and SX models should again get rear air vents and a USB charging port (for a total of three).

Cargo volume should remain at the top of the competitive set, with 26.6 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 62.8 with them folded. Interior storage space is good, not great.

Any 2022 Kia Seltos mechanical changes?

2021 Seltos SX

Nothing anticipated, so the ’22 Seltos should remain a friendly companion on city streets, a stable cruiser on the highway, and capable if less than sporty on curvy country roads.

LX, S, and EX grades will return with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder of 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving). This engine will again link to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A CVT plays the role of a conventional automatic transmission but without stepped gear ratios.

Kia had not made one of these Seltos models available for evaluation in time for this review, but the 2.0/CVT combination tested in other Kia and Hyundai cars and crossovers revealed modest acceleration and lackadaisical throttle response. (A test Kona with this engine but a conventional automatic transmission did 0-60 mph in a mediocre 9 seconds). Consider Seltos’s base powertrain a serviceable choice that prioritizes fuel economy.

Expect the 2022 Seltos 1.6 T and SX to again use a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It’ll link to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Our test 2021 SX suffered lazy movement off the line and a frustrating pause when asked to accelerate from coasting or light-throttle cruising. Blame the engine’s dearth of power until the turbocharger spools up, aggravated by the transmission’s propensity for higher gear ratios that save fuel but sap response. Once turbo and transmission harmonize, acceleration is good: 0-60 required a relatively short 6.8 seconds and power to merge and pass was plentiful. Still, too many troughs and surges meant everyday driving was a less-than-smooth experience.

Every ’22 Seltos should again have a Drive Mode console knob to let the driver tune powertrain, suspension, and steering among Normal, Economy, and Sport calibrations. That’s not so unusual. Seltos, though, adds a Smart mode that scrutinizes acceleration, braking, and steering inputs and automatically switches between the settings to best serve the driver’s needs. We found this Smart mode seamless and surprisingly effective.

Overall, road manners should remain competent, with natural-feeling and nicely weighted steering and good maneuverability around town. Balance in corners is fine so long as speeds are reasonable. Change direction aggressively or press through a turn and body lean and noseplow compel you to slow down. Bumps and dips are negotiated with no wallowing or rebound, but ride quality overall is less than supple. Impacts from potholes and pavement divides can jar the structure. Wind noise grows intrusive as speed increases, and tire roar on coarse surfaces can be unpleasant.

AWD is most commonly an extra-cost feature in this class, and a few in this Kia’s competitive set – the Hyundai Venue, Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR — don’t even offer it. The South Korean automaker’s decision here to essentially default to AWD as standard underscores Seltos’s crossover credentials.

Still, this is no off-roader, despite a slightly higher than class-average 7.3 inches of ground clearance. Meant primarily as a traction-enhancer in rain, snow, or on gravel, the AWD system normally operates in front-wheel drive and automatically shuffles power rearward to quell tire slip. The system does, however, give the driver a console button that locks in a 50:50 front/rear power split to maximize grip in especially slick conditions. 

Will 2022 Kia Seltos fuel economy improve?

2021 Seltos SX

Probably not, but that’s no bad thing. EPA ratings for the 2022 Seltos should repeat those for ’21 models, sustaining it among the most fuel-efficient small crossovers that don’t employ electric propulsion or assist.

Expect the ’22 LX to again rate 29/34/31 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and match the S and EX at 27/31/29 mpg with AWD. Likely to again rate 25/30/27 mpg, the turbocharged S 1.6T and SX would remain particularly frugal compared with AWD rivals of similar power. All ’22 Seltos models will be tuned for regular-grade 87-octane fuel.

Will there be new 2022 Kia Seltos features?

2021 Seltos SX 10.25-inch infotainment screen

Kia partner Hyundai makes autonomous emergency braking standard on every version of Seltos’s cousin, the Kona, including trims less expensive than the entry-level Seltos. Rivals such as the Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport, Mazda CX-30, and Toyota C-HR also supply it with all trim levels. And some competitors offer it on their base models. So making that important assist available on the 2022 Seltos LX would seem a responsible move.

It would also align the LX with other 2022 Seltos models, which will again come standard with autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop them to prevent a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian (the SX system also detects cyclists). Barring changes to the LX’s equipment, expect all Seltos trims above it to also return with automatic on/off highbeam headlamps, as well as lane departure warning and lane-maintaining automatic steering.

That last item, which Kia calls Lane Following Assist, is uncommon in this price range and our tests suggest it works better than most. It accurately detected lane stripes and keeps our test Seltos within them with relatively gentle steering corrections. Nonetheless, even drivers who like this level of intervention will find it appropriate only for certain situations, so kudos to Kia for a dedicated disable button rather than forcing a dive into an infotainment submenu.

Lane Follow Assist disable button at upper right

Expect blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection to again be standard on all but the 2022 Seltos LX and S models. The system includes automatic reverse braking and blind-spot collision avoidance that can brake the outer wheel to return the Seltos to its lane.

All 2022 Seltos models will again come with cruise control. For 2021, only the SX came with adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go driving. Expanding that helpful feature to other trims would be appealing. Likely to remain exclusive to the SX is Highway Driving Assist that adjusts speed to the posted limit. Same for safe-exit assist that warns not to get out if another vehicle is approaching from the rear. 

In addition to features already noted, heated front seats should remain available on all but the LX. Expect a power sunroof to be available only the EX, as standard, and on the SX, as part of its $700 surnroof package. The ’22 SX should also return with exclusive LED highbeam and lowbeam headlamps.

Will 2022 Kia Seltos prices be different?

2021 Seltos SX

They’ll almost certainly rise slightly. Kia’s plan to streamline pricing is in evidence here, with factory options limited to the aforementioned SX sunroof and, for all models, extra-cost paint. For reference, here are 2021 Selto prices, including the manufacturer’s $1,140 destination fee:

The ’21 LX, with AWD standard, was priced at $23,110. The ’21 S listed for the same $23,110 with front-wheel drive and for $24,610 with AWD. With AWD standard, the EX started at $26,410. Base prices were $26,610 for ’21 S 1.6T and $29,010 for the SX, both with standard AWD.

Expect a range of optional colors to again cost $345. For model-year 2021 they included Snow White Pearl and, among two-tone treatments, Dark Ocean Blue with white or black roof, plus the Starbright Yellow with black roof.  

2021 Seltos SX

When does the 2022 Kia Seltos come out?

Expect a 2022 Kia Selto release date in fall 2020.

Best 2022 Kia Seltos competitors

Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Venue and Kona, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Mini Countryman, Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport, Toyota C-HR

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]