They won't admit it, but Kia Philippines -now an Ayala company- has been looking for ways to one-up Hyundai.
When Kia Philippines launched the Soluto on January 30, 2019 at a starting price of PhP 625,000, we thought they had an immediate winner on their hands with the Chinese-made subcompact 4-door saloon. But not even 12 hours had passed and Hyundai made the announcement that they are launching the Reina for an introductory price of PhP 598,000.
It's a classic game of one-upmanship from the two leading Korean auto distributors in the country, despite the fact that abroad they are actually very closely related; sister brands, in fact.
Kia has been caught on the backfoot, and they want to fire back with something new. Now they've got something in the pipeline, and it's called the Kia Seltos.
During the global drive of the new model in South Korea, Kia Philippines executives have confirmed that the Seltos will be sold in our market. The Seltos is a small 5-door crossover that first premiered in India a few months ago, and will be manufactured in two locations: India and South Korea.
The Seltos fills the crucial gap between the lower riding Soul (which is no longer in our market) and the Sportage. The Seltos measures 4.37 meters long, 1.8 meters wide, 1.615 meters tall, and has a 2.63 meter wheelbase. Ground clearance for this crossover is at 176mm for the version with 17-inch wheels and 179mm for the variant with the 18-inch wheels. That means the Seltos will compete head to head with the likes of the Mazda CX-3, the Honda HR-V, and perhaps most importantly, the Hyundai Kona.
A premium grade interior will be one of the key selling points of the Seltos as Kia worked to craft a cabin with touchpoints, surfaces, and a look that appears to punch well above the class in terms of quality. The Seltos is a 5-seater, and will have a class-leading 498 liters of cargo space (VDA).
The crucial thing about the Seltos in our market will be the specs, the timing, and the price.
Foreign models have a variety of Euro-6 engine options like the 177 PS 1.6-liter turbo engine and the CRDI diesel engine, but Philippine models will have the 149 PS 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine and the intelligent variable transmission (IVT); a somewhat different version of a CVT.
Philippine models are expected to be purely front-wheel drive given the target market. No all-wheel drive versions are being evaluated for local sale. It is expected that all variants of the Seltos will come an 8-inch touchscreen with dual Bluetooth for simultaneous connectivity. High grade features will be exclusive for the range topping variant.
Kia hasn't given a timeline just yet for the release of the Seltos in the Philippines, but we may not be waiting for too long. The Philippine model will come from South Korea; not India.
Interestingly enough, Kia is eager to take on the Kona head to head with the Seltos, and they'll do it with three variants: LX, EX, and EX+. We can't give exact numbers but Kia wants to price it very competitively against the Kona, perhaps even undercutting the Hyundai with their lowest grade variant.
From what we gather, Kia wants to return the favor for how Hyundai responded to the Soluto. This sibling rivalry will be fun to watch in the coming years.