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Here Are The Kia Seltos Years To Avoid

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White Kia Seltos

Kia Seltos by Damian B Oh - CC-BY-SA-4.0

Today, Kia is one of the strongest contenders in the automotive industry. However, nobody saw this development coming, especially with the South Korean manufacturer’s reputation for “cheap imports” back in the 90s. Fast-forward to today, Kia makes some of the most popular vehicles on the road, including the Telluride, Sportage, and Sorento – an incredible redemption arc indeed.

In recent years, Kia has released another SUV offering with the Kia Seltos, a small compact SUV meant to slot between the smaller Soul and larger Sportage. Based on the same platform as the excellent Hyundai Kona, the Seltos is a compelling subcompact SUV with a roomy interior, plenty of tech and safety features, and superb fuel economy.


This vehicle will be what you use to transport lives, so it’s critical to purchase a dependable option. Read on to learn more about the most reliable Kia Seltos year, the least reliable selections, issues, and other vital information.

Currently, in its third year, many of you are likely wondering if the Kia Seltos should be your next subcompact SUV. Well, lucky for you, we’re here to help. Today, we have rounded up the worst Kia Seltos years to avoid and the models you should be buying. Let’s take a look.

Which Kia Seltos Years To Avoid?

As of this writing, the Kia Seltos only has three commercially available models 2021, 2022, and the current 2023 Seltos. While there’s no average reliability rating for the Seltos yet, Kia as a brand has an above-average reliability score of 4.0 out of 5.0 – the third most reliable brand out of 32 companies, according to RepairPal. With that said, we can only recommend one Kia Seltos to avoid:

  • 2021 Kia Seltos

2021 Kia Seltos

The 2021 Kia Seltos launched with relative popularity in the fast-growing subcompact SUV segment. It was praised for its larger-than-usual size within the subcompact segment, allowing more passenger and cargo space and styling that looks more like a conventional larger SUV. But as with many debut models, the Kia Seltos had several reliability woes every prospective buyer should know.


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Transmission Issues

According to, the 2021 Seltos has racked up 157 complaints and one recall so far. Interestingly, two of the worst issues of the Seltos are transmission related. For starters, a few reports detailed how the Seltos’ transmission just stopped shifting correctly. Symptoms include gear slippage, jerking, and outright failure. One user from Garrettsville wrote:

“My wife took the vehicle in for its first oil change and was told that there was a recall. She let them perform the recall and told me a week later that the Seltos had not been right since. I took her and the grandkids for a test drive, the transmission quit and we had to have it towed to the dealership.”

Meanwhile, two Seltos owners detailed how their car’s transmission overheated and had to pull to the side of the road to investigate. This issue seems not as widespread as the aforementioned transmission problem, but it’s still worth keeping an eye out for. Ultimately, these transmission issues are more frustrating since they occur at practically brand-new vehicles with mileage less than 10k miles.

Nevertheless, Kia had to recall several Soul and Seltos SUVs for fire risks and covered the engine replacement.

Timing Chain Problem

There were numerous conversations about timing chain issues that affect the 2021 Kia Seltos. In a Reddit post, a driver reported experiencing fluttering noises from the engine at around 8k miles. Then, the driver heard “gear grinding” noises when accelerating. The Redditor wrote:

“The engine is making a fluttering noise that is subtle at idle, and is more audible while accelerating. This has been happening for a couple of weeks now, and as of 2 days ago, it has been making a noise that sounds like gears grinding while accelerating.”

After inspection, the issue was determined to be caused by a worn timing chain. Basically, the timing chain went bad, and tiny metal shards went into the oil, damaging the engine. If left unchecked, this could cause long-term damage to the engine. Eventually, the driver had the engine replaced by Kia, but he had to go through hoops to get the dealership to cover the cost.

We hesitate to call this an isolated case, but since there’s a widespread recall, this timing chain issue is worth considering if you’re buying a used 2021 Seltos.


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Is the 2021 Kia Seltos Reliable?

According to Consumer Reports, the 2021 Kia Seltos scored a reliability verdict of 3.0 out of 5.0, which is an average score. In reality, most people who own a Kia Seltos haven’t yet put in that much mileage, so reports about its reliability are pretty scarce. However, CR scored the 2021 Seltos with a customer satisfaction rating of 1.0 out of 5.0, so customer surveys indicate that this car may not provide you with a worry-free ownership experience. Overall, buying a used 2021 Seltos might not be a bad idea, especially when you’re looking for a good deal.

Which Kia Seltos Years To Buy?

As for the best Kia Seltos years you can safely buy used, the 2022 and 2022 Kia Seltos are your remaining options (unless you want to wait for the 2024 model), and fortunately, they’re pretty good.

2022 Kia Seltos

The 2022 Kia Seltos was well-received by critics and customers alike. They love the roomier cabin (than your typical subcompact), slick infotainment features, and engaging driving dynamics. CR has scored the 2022 Seltos somewhat favorably, with a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0 and a slightly better (but still low) customer satisfaction rating of 2.0 out of 5.0. The 2022 Seltos passed the most common reliability trouble spots, including the engine, drive system, and transmission.


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2023 Kia Seltos

The 2023 Kia Seltos is similar to the 2022 version but with the added acoustic glass windshields to help reduce wind noise, and like the 2022 Seltos, the 2023 model year launched to rave reviews from both customers and critics. KBB has selected the 2023 Seltos as its “Subcompact SUV Best Buy,” which is high praise considering the competitiveness of the subcompact SUV segment. With pricing that starts at $23,340, the 2023 Seltos offers tremendous value, but you’re practically buying a brand-new vehicle.

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