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Driven: 2024 Kia Seltos Punches Above Its Weight … If You Get the Turbo, At Least

Jury's out on the base powertrain, but there's a lot of value here

2024 Kia Seltos profile
  • Restyled front and rear fascias give the 2024 Seltos a sleeker look.
  • All models come standard with dual dashboard displays.
  • The base LX trim gets standard all-wheel drive.
  • Available turbo engine gets 20 more horsepower and a new transmission.

Like many automakers, Kia has so many SUVs these days that it can be hard to keep them all straight. So here's one way to think about the refreshed 2024 Kia Seltos, which starts at $24,390 sans destination fee: It's the affordable SUV for people who wish the even more affordable Soul had all-wheel drive.

But the Seltos is more than that, of course. It's a small SUV that can seat four 6-footers in comfort. It's a star on the tech front with standard dual LCDs for the instruments and infotainment. It also offers a strong turbocharged engine with nearly 200 horsepower, although roughly 70% of buyers will end up with the 146-hp base engine, according to Kia. We have only driven the turbo Seltos to date. With that in mind, let's proceed.

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2024 Kia Seltos front

What's under the Seltos' hood? 

The 2024 Seltos will continue to come standard with the 146-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the LX, S and EX trim levels. This familiar engine has failed to impress us in any Hyundai/Kia application, though as noted, we haven't driven a Seltos so equipped. It's paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission that Kia likes to call an "intelligent variable transmission."

Notably, the base LX gains standard all-wheel drive for 2024, offering a budget-friendly option for folks in colder climes who might otherwise buy a Subaru. Front-wheel drive comes standard on the midgrade S and EX trims, with AWD optional.

The turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in the new X-Line and carryover SX trims adds quite a bit more power, especially this year. That's because the 2024 Seltos' turbocharged motor packs an extra 20 horses for a healthy total of 195 hp, leaving some notable rivals like the Honda HR-V in the dust. Also new for 2024 is the turbo engine's eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the previous seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. We expect this new combo to shave a few ticks off the old Seltos turbo's zero to 60 mph time of 8.1 seconds.

If you want front-wheel drive with your turbo engine, by the way, you're out of luck. All turbocharged Seltos models come standard with all-wheel drive, yielding an EPA fuel economy estimate of 26 mpg combined. Step down to the base 2.0-liter engine with front-wheel drive and you'll see 31 mpg combined, while adding AWD to the 2.0 nets 29 mpg combined. That's pretty good — the aforementioned Honda HR-V, which also has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, returns an estimated 28 mpg combined with FWD and 27 mpg combined with AWD.

2024 Kia Seltos rear view

How does the Seltos drive? 

We were hoping that the turbo engine's added horses and new transmission would cure its lack of punch off the line, but no dice. Floor it from a stop and there's still some hesitation before the powertrain gets the message. Once the turbo kicks in, though, there's enough punch to put a smile on most SUV shoppers' faces. The eight-speed transmission does its job without drama, though we said the same of the discontinued seven-speed. Overall, the turbocharged Seltos is a rare treat in this segment, delivering the kind of acceleration that won't make you feel like maybe you should have sprung for a pricier SUV.

At highway speeds, our Seltos SX test vehicle remained respectably quiet inside for an entry-level SUV. Sporty cornering? Yeah, that's not this Kia's forte, if you will, but we doubt most people will complain. The big question is how that base powertrain performs — the one with the non-turbo engine and the CVT. Most Seltos buyers will end up with that tandem, so we're eager to try it and see just how much they're giving up.

2024 Kia Seltos rear seat

How comfortable is the Seltos? 

The primary thing to know about the Seltos' comfort credentials is that four 6-footers can easily fit inside. We classify the Seltos as an extra-small SUV due to its pricing and competitive set, but the reality is that there's plenty of passenger space in this rig unless you need three seating rows. Seat comfort, unfortunately, has been an issue for some of our testers, so that's something to pay attention to on your test drive. Otherwise, it's hard to find fault with how the Seltos treats its occupants. It's a pleasant vehicle to spend time in.

2024 Kia Seltos interior dashboard

How's the Seltos' tech? 

All models now come standard with dual displays up front, consisting of a digital instrument panel and a central touchscreen housed in a single frame. The base LX trim gets smaller screens but still boasts digital gauges, while the rest of the Seltos lineup rolls with twin 10.25-inch screens. Additionally, the Seltos gains an extra USB port in the rear (for a new maximum of four ports), while the SX Sunroof package now counts ventilated front seats, a power liftgate and phone-as-a-key functionality among its upgrades. The Seltos has always traded on its generous feature content, but these enhancements for 2024 make it even more of an outlier in a typically frill-free segment.

Kia has also amped up the Seltos' driving aids for 2024. The forward collision system now detects both pedestrians and bicyclists, and the adaptive cruise control system can now react to changing speed limits. On the highway, we switched on adaptive cruise along with lane keeping assistance and found that the Seltos can drive itself just fine, keeping us centered in the lane and capably modulating our following distance. Unfortunately, adaptive cruise comes only on the top SX trim level, which is surprising given how Kia has spread so many other premium features across the roster.

Edmunds says

The 2024 Seltos has many strengths, especially if you spring for the turbocharged engine. The jury's out on the standard powertrain, but the turbocharged trims (X-Line and SX) still sneak in under $30,000 without destination. That's a lot of value, particularly in these inflationary times. Is it enough to unseat segment leaders like the Volkswagen Taos, Chevy Trailblazer and Mazda CX-30? Stay tuned for our full instrumented test of the 2024 Seltos, which will give us the answer to that question.