Kia showed off its newest SUV at the LA Auto Show today, and the Consumer Reports Cars team got a chance to spend some time with it before it goes on sale early next year.

Called the Seltos, it’s a subcompact model with angular looks and a straightforward interior. Unlike many other tiny SUVs, such as the Nissan Kicks and Hyundai Venue, the Seltos offers optional all-wheel drive. 

2020 Kia Seltos front driving

What it competes with: Chevrolet Trailblazer, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, Toyota CH-R
What it looks like: An angular, upright compact SUV reminiscent of the Volvo XC40
Powertrains: 146-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission; or 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
Price: $22,000 (estimated)
On-sale date: Winter 2020 

CR’s Take

With looks that blend urban cool with an outdoorsy vibe, optional all-wheel drive, and an attractively low starting price, we predict the Kia Seltos will gain a lot of interest from buyers. We plan to buy one and put it through our full testing regimen as soon as it goes on sale to see whether it lives up to its promise. 

Outside

With its angular lines and an optional two-tone paint job, we think the Seltos looks a lot like the much more expensive Volvo XC40 SUV. The comparison is even more apt on the upscale SX trim, which includes full LED exterior lighting and other snazzy exterior upgrades. Kia says that front and rear skid plates and black plastic cladding are supposed to “reference off-road abilities,” although its optional all-wheel-drive system is designed for snowy days, not rock-studded trails.

Size-wise, it’s the same length as the Toyota CH-R, but it has a more angular rear that should make for easier cargo loading. It’s a little longer than the Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, and Hyundai Venue. If the Seltos looks familiar, there’s a reason: Like the similar Hyundai Venue and Ford EcoSport, a version of the Seltos debuted in other countries before going on sale in the U.S. 

2021 Kia Seltos interior

Inside

The Seltos has a plain but practical interior. We like that it features a lot of physical buttons and knobs in a sensible layout. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility come standard on all trims, and a larger 10.25-inch touch screen is optional.

Rear passengers aren’t left out, either: The rear seat reclines, and EX and SX trims offer rear USB ports and climate vents. 

2021 Kia Seltos cargo

What Drives It

Two engine choices are available: LX and EX trims get a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission that’s good for 146 hp. A 175-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine is optional on the S and standard on the SX. We drove a Hyundai Tucson with a similar 1.6-liter turbo and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and found that it tended to lurch and hesitate in low-speed traffic. We hope the same isn’t true for the Seltos.

Front-wheel drive is standard, but buyers can opt for an all-wheel-drive system that Kia says is similar to the one found in the larger Telluride SUV. 

Safety & Driver Assist Systems

The base LX trim does not include or offer key advanced safety features, like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. These features come with the next higher trim, the S, along with lane departure warning and lane keeping assist.

As buyers move through the trim range, an increasing roster of assist features become standard, including blind spot warning with collision avoidance, rear cross traffic warning, adaptive cruise control, and a “safe exit assist” feature that warns occupants not to open their doors in the path of oncoming traffic.

2020 Kia Seltos rear