2021 Kia Seltos Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical system, engine, and transmission issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

The 2021 Kia Seltos is a crossover that turns heads. In fact, the automaker claims it is “made to do more,” but customers only find that the “more” means additional time at the dealership service department. This vehicle suffers from a defective electrical system, a malfunctioning engine and poor suspension.

Click on other model year to view more problems:   2022

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Most Common Problems with the 2021 Kia Seltos

As complaints about the 2021 Kia Seltos continue to grow, it is clear that the focus of complaints largely remains unchanged. Top contenders – in terms of numbers of complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – are the engine (31), power train, including transmission (19), and the electrical system (11).

Engine problems are varied. But the fact that there is a recall that relates to damaged engines stalling and increasing the risk of a crash and fire, has alerted many 2021 Kia Seltos owners to the possibility of malfunctions. An added problem is that several complaints to the NHTSA since the recall state that their vehicles have the symptoms, but they don’t qualify!

Transmission issues are increasing, with complainants stating that they lose acceleration when transmission fails. There are also reports of losing control of vehicles.

And electrical system problems are varied. Complaints range from the horn of the car being “inoperable and inaudible” to major battery problems caused by faulty electrical components.

Problems with the Electrical System

A properly functioning electrical system can make or break a car. With the Seltos, it’s clear that the engineers didn’t know what they were doing.

Just look at this Edmunds review. “The entertainment system is full of bugs and limited on features. If I do a call with my phone while connected by Bluetooth or Android auto it won’t let me use the hands free option. Once I make a call it will time 2 times then disconnect from The system and can only use phone speaker. But if I turn my phone Bluetooth off and on a few times or unplug my cord and then replug my cord for the android auto, then sometimes it will connect with my phone and allow me to use handsfree. Either way its severe inconvenience.”

Aside from this, Kia did issue a communication about trouble with the electrical system. Service Bulletin #TSB_ELE198 states that there could be trouble with the Blind Spot Collision Warning that requires an update to the software. In this situation, the defect is more than just an inconvenience, but could also lead to trouble on the road. Obviously, this vehicles tagline should be “made to break more.”

Problems with the Engine

While no one expects the Seltos to break world speed records, it should still be equipped with a functioning engine, which it is not.

A recent recall for “Improperly Heat-Treated Piston Oil Rings” (21V259000) was issued for the 2021 Seltos as well as the 2020 & 2021 Kia Soul. The recall states “A damaged engine may stall, increasing the risk of a crash. In addition, oil may leak onto hot exhaust components, increasing the risk of a fire.” A recent complaint logged on the NHTSA website states the following:

“The contact owns a 2021 Kia Seltos. The contact stated that while driving at various speeds, the vehicle was driving very rough and stalled. The vehicle was taken to the local dealer who diagnosed that there was no oil was present in the engine. The contact was informed that the engine needed to be replaced. The engine was replaced, and the failure was remedied. The contact later received a recall notification for the failure that had occurred. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 24,000.”

Another states:

“21V-259 recall for inconsistent heat treating process for piston oil rings. The dates for use of the recalled piston rings Nov 20,1019 -Oct 15, 2020. My Seltos was in production at the time the damaged oil rings were used. I took my Seltos in for the repair, MY VEHICLE WAS NOT repaired. A vibration test was done and a program update was installed to detect vibration. The vehicle still has the recalled damaged oil rings. The vehicle stalls out, runs rough and continues to worsen. The first engine start up is the worst for engine noise and running rough. I expressed my concerns to the dealership, a vibration test with program software uploaded isn’t a repair. Asked when will then piston rings be replaced? They stated they didn’t know of that any such repair and my car is repaired. Yet it still stalls, continues to runs rough and worsening, oil check has grit feelin it. So I guess I wait till the engine stalls causing a wreck or the vehicle ignites into flames. I’m scared to drive the car and financially stuck with it because no one is willing to do anything more than what’s been done. This is not fair and shouldn’t be an acceptable outcome for a safety recall, as the issue of safety has not been addressed.”

Problems with the Transmission

Complaints to the NHTSA are logged in the Powertrain category. They relate to vehicles losing power, not accelerating adequately, and gear-shifting issues. Here are some examples.

An owner from New Hampshire states:

“When I start up my Seltos after not driving it for hours the engine sputters to the point it almost dies. When I put it in reverse it will either stall or start bucking. And when in Drive the transmission will get stuck in a specific gear until I manually shift it.”

An owner from Indiana states:

“On our way to New York from Indiana when every light on the dash came on. The rpms shot up and down. Was able to coast off the highway IN Corsica IN. Car was towed to (the) nearest Kia dealership in Butler PA. The transmission went out on my car that has roughly 7100 miles on it. Dealership has ordered the transmission for replacement.”

An owner from New York states:

“While driving 50 MPH, the transmission began to rev uncontrollably as the steering wheel started shaking without warning.”

The vehicle began to hesitate upon the depression of the accelerator pedal and stalled without warning. The driver was able to coast the vehicle to a gas station and called the dealer to have the vehicle towed.

“Once the vehicle was towed to the dealer, the vehicle was diagnosed with transmission failure. The dealer and the contact notified the manufacturer of the failure but the manufacturer offered no assistance. The vehicle was not repaired and remained in the possession of the dealer. The failure mileage was approximately 4,700.”

An owner from Texas states:

“TRANSMISSION FAILURE REQUIRING TRANSMISSION REPLACEMENT. After approximately 17,700 miles the engine surged and the check engine light illuminated. After the vehicle was stopped, the transmission would not go into reverse. Vehicle was towed to (the) Kia dealer service department, Diagnosis was transmission failure requiring complete transmission replacement.”

And there are lots more complaints where these came from.

Problems with the Suspension

Finally, it’s vital to look at the suspension of any vehicle to determine how smooth the ride will be. 

Here’s one more Edmunds review to consider. “First few days I had it I kept hearing a thump noise from the rear passenger side that had me thinking bad shock or spring. Then mysteriously it went away. Rides as if the rear end has been lowered or with front lifted because I can clearly see the front hood, which creates a left turn blind spot. Just for record I’m not a tall person.”

This is another system that Kia doesn’t want to address. Instead, all that customers get from Kia is “more” quiet and plenty of secrets.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Kia pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • A H

    I have a 2022 Kia Seltos EX and the suspension sucks. I’m going to the dealership soon. I think I’m at 44k and there’s no reason to have squeaking struts and shocks all around a brand new car. Also my car has stalled out 3 times with the auto on off system. I come to a light and it hesitate to run then cuts off. I have to constantly do this.

  • Kimberly B

    My 2021 Seltos has had the transmission almost overheat twice in slow rolling traffic. It wants me to pull over and put the car in park to let it cool off. This is a new car and should not have these issues. accidents or road work or whatever happens daily causing traffic back ups. I have contacted the dealership about a month ago with absolute no response from them.

  • Jennifer

    My 2021 KIA Seltos with only 32,000km had a complete engine failure. I am now without a car for at least a month with no loaner or rental. I was told it “should” be covered under warranty but they have to do an assessment. The only way KIA will cover the cost of a rental is if the part is in back order. This is a brand new vehicle, I am very disappointed by their response.

  • Charles C

    My 2021 seltos 2.0 uses 1 qt of oil every 1000 miles and I was told that it is normal and there is nothing wrong with the car

  • Kathleen G

    I was involved in a collision a month ago where I needed to come to a fast stop and the brake pedal went all the way to the floor board and failed to stop my vehicle causing it to crash into a car in front of me. I’m actually lucky to wasn’t worse, but my car sustained a tremendous amount of damage and is still in the repair shop. I contacted my Kia dealer and explained what happened to them, and their response was that they haven’t heard of any brake issues. My response was, “now you have, and I know that if my brakes had been working properly that the accident could have been prevented”. I discussed this with my insurance company and they said it would be hard to prove. The vehicle hasn’t been taken tot he dealership yet, but if the brakes aren’t working, isn’t that proof? If they are working, they still failed when I needed them and I refuse to drive that car ever again. On top of it all, I have a high deductible and no car rental on my insurance policy, so it’s all out of pocket. Not happy about that at all!

  • LP

    Last week on Monday I noticed my electronic gas mileage didn’t update while filling my tank, but the physical gauge did. Luckily I had an oil change appt the next day so I called my KIA dealer to make sure they could look at it. Said it was a bad sensor and they replaced it. Awesome. Thursday rolls around and I fill my tank up. I notice by Sunday my gas gauge isn’t moving from full, regardless of using gas, but this time the electronic one was changing. So I call them again, no answer they are busy whatever. The next day I’m driving into work, gauge still not moving and I WATCHED my electronic mileage go from 145 miles to 311?! I’m on I75 in Michigan. I got to my exit, making my way to work, all the sudden I cannot accelerate my car anymore and its slowing down fast. I hit my gas to try and get to a safe space and my gas pedal was acting like a break, it slowed me down even more. I coast into a spot and my Engine, Oil, and battery light were all on. I turned my car fully off, waited a second, was able to start my car again but it wouldn’t move. I got my cat towed to the dealership and they are saying I have a bad fuel pump?
    Leaves me with a few questions. Why was I able to start my car again? Why did my engine, oil, and battery light come on? Did they even check my transmission? Did they check my engine? Is the fuel pump going in and out or completely dead?
    They called me to tell me about 10 minutes before they closed for the day. I didn’t think of all these questions until after the phone call ended and now they are closed.
    I’m honestly scared they don’t want to put a ton of money into my car and I’m driving an unsafe vehicle. My Seltos is a 2021 with 10k miles on it. Ive only gone to my KIA dealership for any maintenance.

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