Great aspirations

Great aspirations – Kia Magentis: launch report

Tony Meredith

Aspiration is a fine quality. Especially in the cut-throat world of selling cars. Korean manufacturer Kia certainly appears to have plenty of aspiration after it announced that it aims to be a top five global manufacturer by 2010 and, in a bid to help achieve this, it will be launching 17 new vehicles over the next five years.

Brave words, especially when one of your new launch models–the Magentis (which was only introduced in 2001 and has already been revised)–will be competing in the very busy upper medium sector against a long list of vehicles including the Mondeo, Vectra, Laguna and Passat as well as the Honda Accord and the Skoda Superb. And if that’s not tough enough, Toyota’s new Avensis is being launched this month. Aspiration is all well and good but I think that Kia is going to need a little bit more than that.

With all this quality competition the Korean bantam could find that it’s punching above its weight.

And unfortunately it won’t be aided much in its quest by the Magentis, despite its new appearance. Having undergone a facelift, the latest Magentis is certainly a looker with sleek lines that give it grace and elegance. From the teeth-like front grille to its turned-up tail, it is a well-sculptured car. Only the plastic-looking wheels spoil what is otherwise a rather positive first impression.

Magentis stands out from some of its more Euro-styled competitors such the Vectra and new Avensis. But there could be a reason for this; one of the biggest markets for the Magentis will be in the US hence the more aggressive styling. Kia expects to sales of just 5000 in Europe this year and only 800-1000 will be sold in the UK.

But the impressive appearance is not sustained once you step inside. The mix of plastics and the uninteresting colours give it a very plain Jane look. Kia has gone for the executive approach with wood and metal trims but there’s a lack of any real subtlety in bringing these elements together.

And for an executive-type car this certainly feels very small, compounded by the limited adjustment on the steering column.

There are just two powerhouses available: a 2.0-litre and a 2.5-litre V6. The 2.0, with prices starting at 11,995 [pounds sterling], is available in both automatic and manual in LX or SE specifications, while the V6 (only available in SE), costs 15,995 [pounds sterling] and is only available as an automatic.

Controversially, Kia says there are no plans for a diesel version–a strange move considering Kia’s statement about becoming a dominant player in the industry. And the C[O.sub.2] emissions of the Magentis (210g/km for the 2.0 manual and 246g/km for the 2.5 automatic) may push it further out of touch with the competition.

Out on the road, the Magentis tries to imitate the stately performance of an executive car but its soft handling simply produces some unwanted rolling and the severe understeer adds to the uncomfortable feeling that the car is getting away from you. However, one area that Kia highlights as an improvement in this model is the braking performance which I felt was certainly up to scratch and pulled the car to a stop with consummate ease.

Take the Magentis onto the motorway, though, and there is a noticeable intrusion of road and wind noise; another area that Kia claims to have improved.

With the Magentis, Kia has a good solid car but competition in the upper medium sector is fierce and although the pricing may give it some advantage it is unlikely that this alone will persuade fleet buyers to choose the car.

Aspiration sometimes is not enough.


OTR PRICE: 11,995 [pounds sterling] to 15,995 [pounds sterling]

ENGINES: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol (tested)

2.5-litre V6 petrol (auto only)

TRANSMISSIONS: Five-speed manual (tested) or

H-Matic automatic

POWER: 134bhp@4500rpm

TORQUE:: 133lb/ft @ 5500rpm

C[O.sub.2] RATING: 210g/km


INSURANCE GROUPS: 15 for SE (14 for LX)


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