Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

FOLLOWING its world premiere in July, Korean global car maker Kia lost no time in making the subcompact crossover Seltos available to customers in the Philippines — who also have the honor of getting it first in the ASEAN region. And the vehicle comes in with rightfully much optimism from executives.

“We received huge attention from media, customers and even competitors globally,” said Kia Motors Asia Pacific President Ted Lee in a speech at the launch last Wednesday in Taguig City. “In the Korean market, the Seltos has been a top-selling model in B-SUV segment with sales volumes much higher than the next model in the segment. In India, where Kia was not present until last July, the Seltos has received, despite the market’s slowdown, more than expected inquiries and customer bookings.”

Meanwhile, Kia Philippines President Manny Aligada reminded how the Seltos represents a fulfillment of the promise made late last year during a press conference to announce the operational takeover of the Ayala Group.

“On January 30, we launched the partnership between Ayala and Kia motors, and (opened) the first of the three boxes, which (held) the Soluto. Now, (it) is the biggest-selling model in the Kia lineup,” he said. Kia followed suit with the debut of the Stinger sports sedan at summer’s Manila International Auto Show. Now the brand closes the year strong with the Seltos.

“We said we would bring back the glory of the brand that is so known worldwide, and we committed to two things. First, we said we would enhance the current lineup, which we did. The second is that we would bring in three new models,” averred Mr. Aligada.

The Seltos, named after the son of Hercules in Greek mythology (with the “C” supplanted with an “S” to represent sportiness), effectively becomes Kia’s entry-level SUV crossover. It measures 4,370 x 1,800 x 1,615 millimeters, with a wheelbase that stretches 2,630mm. Mr. Aligada asserted that it is larger compared to segment competition, and approaches the dimensions of more upmarket SUVs. Even the cabin, he continued, boasts generous headroom and rear legroom.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter inline-four DOHC D-CVVT Atkinson Cycle engine mated to an all-new Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) developed by Kia to produce “power, response, smoothness, and fuel economy. The IVT features continuous gear shifts for improved drivability,” according to a release.

Proprietary Advanced High Strength Steel promises “enhanced body rigidity and maximum occupant security.” A Drive Mode Select system lets drivers choose from Normal, Eco, or Sport for more customized response expectations. A rear-view camera with rear-view driving function affords heightened confidence and safety.

In an exclusive interview with Velocity, Mr. Aligada revealed that the Seltos sold around 6,000 units in one month in India, where it was unveiled even before it’s hometown Korea. He attributes the popularity of the SUV there with the fact that the market “had a strong say in the design of this” — particularly in the areas of size, setup, and engine. That and “detailed attention in the design made it stand out.”

This, predicted the executive, augurs well for the Seltos reception here. “Similarly in the Philippines, which is an SUV country, this is what will (help) the Seltos become one of the leading models. (It’s a) small, tall, compact SUV. There’s the two-liter petrol engine that’s powerful and efficient, and the IVT, plus the look. Filipinos will surely appreciate this.”

Kia Philippines sources the Seltos directly from Korea, and offers buyers a standard five-year, 160,000-kilometer warranty. Until November 30, the company also extends a P50,000 discount on all three variants of the Seltos. Inclusive of the discount, the prices are: LX (P1.048 million), the EX (P1.148 million), and the SX (P1.448 million).

“The direction we’re taking now is that we get models that will play in good positioning — perfect for branding because that’s what we need now. We have the Sorento, the GT line for Sportage and Forte, and then the Stinger. We also have players in the volume segments — the K2500, the Soluto. We’re working on the other models. This one is also a sweet spot, a huge segment with 12 to 15 percent of the total industry. So, we’re bringing in models that should have a good play both in volume and in branding,” concluded Mr. Aligada.