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The new Kia Seltos will remind you about the importance of making intelligent choices

A day trip to Lipa, Batangas, made us realize a lot of things

The new Seltos looks fresh yet very familiar. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

The Kia Seltos is a solid crossover that is worth one’s consideration. It offered good looks, a nice list of standard equipment, and good performance. It was poised to be one of the prime options in its segment, but fate had other plans.

A few months after its launch in 2019, the pandemic messed everything up. And in the next few years, a slew of other small crossovers flooded the market. To keep up with the tons of new choices available, Kia Philippines updated the Seltos last December.

These minor updates further spruce up the already good-looking crossover. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Are these changes enough to make it worth choosing? We got the answer to that and even some practical life questions when Kia invited us for a drive to Lipa, Batangas.

Leaving the start-off point at AC Motors Centrale in BGC, my managing editor and I, along with two other motoring media colleagues, boarded the range-topping SX variant. Here, I was able to see the minor but very important changes done with the model.

The rear has to be the best-looking part of the exterior. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Common to both variants are minor styling updates that change the overall look of the crossover, without deviating much from the older one’s appearance. We’ve already talked about the exterior upgrades during the model’s launch in December.

Inside, the SX got some nice additions like the bigger 10.25-inch displays for the instrumentation and infotainment system. These are found on a huge slab that stretches from the driver side to the center stack. The climate controls also got revamped, with a bevy of buttons controlling various functions and features.

The nice interior appointments are enough to make you forget that you’re stuck in traffic. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

One of the quirky upgrades available for both variants is the shifter that has a small LCD showing the current gear position. Next is a bigger compartment that houses the USB ports and a power socket. The SX edges the EX out with the availability of a wireless charging pad.

The fastest way to our destination was through SLEX and STAR Toll, all the way to the Lipa exit. But the group of Georges Ramirez had other ideas. We instead took SLEX and CALAX, passing through Tagaytay and the provincial roads of Batangas.

Comfortable and practical, the Seltos interior is one of the best in its class. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Under these varying road conditions, three of us took turns driving the Seltos.

Sam was able to drive the crossover from BGC to the Mamplasan exit of SLEX. Here, he was able to experience some nifty ADAS features of the Seltos in urban conditions. Ardie Lopez of the Philippine Star tried the adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go feature while driving along CALAX.

Ardie also did some spirited driving on some of Laguna’s back roads, showing the vehicle’s power and handling capabilities. The latter is something that’s largely carried over from the older version.

The 1.4-liter turbo mill and the seven-speed DCT are a joy to drive. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Finally, I was able to drive the range-topper along the STAR Toll and the provincial roads leading to the Old Grove Farmstead in Lipa. The 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbo engine’s 138hp and 242Nm won’t push you back into your seats aggressively. But the best bit about the powertrain of the SX is offering you more than enough power, though delivered rather smoothly.

Sure, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is still a bit jerky accelerating from a standstill. There’s some noticeable lag, too, when you suddenly give the Seltos some serious beans. But for its use case—driving around the city and doing the occasional road trip—the powertrain pretty much does its job perfectly.

The naturally aspirated 1.5-liter engine and the IVT combo offer a good drive and great fuel efficiency. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

The roads leading to our destination and out of it were as tight as they could be. Here, we appreciated how easy it is to maneuver the crossover around as if we were driving a Picanto. Speaking of our way home, all of us who drove the SX to the venue were now driving the mid-grade EX.

The midrange model gets a 1.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. This may only make 113hp and 144Nm, but Kia’s IVT makes wonders here. The drive back to BGC wasn’t that eventful. But the EX’s powertrain offered a whole new experience here.

You will only get these toys on the range-topping SX variant. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

The engine offers ample power for most uses. It can get to highway speeds in no time. It won’t be as quick as the turbo DCT variant, but it is one of the smoothest, most responsive interpretations of a CVT available (other than Honda’s).

Blame it on my age, but I found the drive of the EX as enjoyable as that of the SX—though in different ways. And I won’t be surprised if this mid-variant will end up as the model’s bestseller.

Despite losing some features, the EX remains to be a very good choice. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

You may have lost a bigger infotainment display and the full-color digital instrument cluster. But the infotainment system still gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The LCD/TFT combo instrument cluster still shows all the vital vehicle information that you need.

The EX isn’t as flashy as the range-topping SX. But it delivers on the most important things: ample power, great fuel efficiency, top-notch comfort, and the features that you will most likely need.

According to Kia Philippines, Snow White Pearl and Pluton Blue are the most popular colors for the Seltos. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

We got back to BGC at dusk, and it started to dawn on me: The new Kia Seltos and its variants taught me a lesson about the choices that we make daily. For example, we can prioritize driving enjoyment and comfort by getting the pricier SX.

We can also choose to pick the perfectly capable EX and still be happy with what it offers sans the other goodies. Here, I am reminded of the times when we decided to go all out for the things we wanted, and the times we held ourselves back for more sensible things that matter.

And it became clear to me that as long as we make intelligent choices considering all the risks and the factors presented at the moment, we will always end up making the right decisions. Always.

Red Santiago

A jack of all trades, Red is passionate about cars, motorcycles and audio. He sometimes drives for a ride-hailing app company—just because he really loves driving.