Kia Magentis Review: Magentis Makes Sense

Kia Magentis Review: Magentis Makes Sense

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
31 Oct 2006

Korean carmaker Kia has finally hit the grove and come into its own, and it is in its latest model, the new Magentis, that this is most obvious. Kia has had quite a patchy past, historically building re-badged Mazda models, and working with Ford to build the Festiva in the 80s and 90s. Since the Korean economic crisis in the late 90s however it has become part of Hyundai, and its future never seemed more positive.

While being subsumed by one’s chief rival may not be everyone’s idea of an ideal partnership, it has certainly benefited Kia, as well as its range of cars.

The Magentis impresses almost immediately. It has silky smooth ride, and the stiffness of its body structure gives it a hushness and refinement that one usually associates with more expensive executive cars. It is also well-equipped for its price, with the driver getting power-assisted seats controls, headlamps that come on automatically, and an electronic digital climate control system. The cabin itself is classy and spacious, and its beige and brown colour combination subtle and in good taste. There is even a trip computer integrated into the instrument binnacle, which calculates average fuel consumption and even the distance until the tank runs dry.

For the Magentis, these impressive standards are a direct result of Kia being part of Hyundai. For economies of scale, the Magentis is almost mechanically identical to the latest Hyundai Sonata, which in turn was engineered to unseat the Toyota Camry as top-dog in the executive segment, particularly in the United States, but also in the rest of the world. Call it ‘greatness by association’, but the Kia Magentis is a direct beneficiary of Hyundai’s ambitions to challenge Toyota. From what we can tell, Hyundai has not short changed Kia on any aspect of the Sonata’s specification or quality.

Aesthetically, the Magentis gets softer, more rounded lines than the hard-edged Sonata, a legacy of the previous Magentis trying to look like a faux Mercedes-Benz with its four road headlamps, or a baby Jaguar with its rounded lines. In fact, this legacy survives with the new Magentis, but in a more acceptable form. The circular motif for the headlamps continues, but all four lamp units are located under clear Perspex, giving the car an identity that it wouldn’t otherwise have.

From the rear, the “European-look” continues with neatly sectioned lamp units and square cut-off lines. Squint, and the Magentis can be mistaken for a Mazda 6 or Lexus IS250 from the rear.

As with the new Sonata, the really impressive aspect of the Magentis is its build quality and refinement. It is really astonishing how quickly the Koreans have caught up with the Japanese in this area. No only in general ride quietness, but also in the minutest detail – the indicator stalks no long “clack” when activated, for example, but instead move with a well-oiled smoothness that feels precise and engineered. The new Magentis’ classy interior also does without the tacky aftermarket carbon-fibre paneling on the centre console and door trim that the last model came with. The cabin is now fully colour co-ordinated in subtle shades of beige and brown.

Probably the largest draw for the Magentis is that it is in essence a Toyota Camry at a Corolla Altis prices. Apart from hype surrounding the new Camry, there really is very little that the Magentis loses out to the popular Thai-built Japanese exec, especially in terms of equipment and refinement. On the other hand, if name dropping is important, Kia Magentis might not sound great. But then for those in the know, any buyer of the Magentis will be laughing his way to the bank.

Credits: Justin Lee

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