I am not a motoring journalist (though if anyone wants to offer me a job as one then I'll gladly take it) and as such I haven't really driven an extremely wide range of cars. To clarify this, I have driven almost no sports cars at all. What I've driven tend to be small commuter-boxes and family hacks, and most of them are pretty similar. So when I find something I'm impressed with, it must be pretty good.
Take note people, the next sentence is either going to sound blasphemous or illogical to you, so be prepared.
The Kia Magentis is excellent.
WHAT? Let me repeat that - The Kia Magentis is excellent.
To be perfectly honest, I'd looked at Kia through prejudiced eyes. The Mazda 121, which was built by Kia and then sold as a Kia Pride in England was rubbish. The second generation which was not even sold by Mazda (because even they realised it was rubbish) was sold in Australia as the Ford Festiva... which was rubbish. The 1st Generation Kia Rio (DC)... was also rubbish. The 2nd Gen Kia Rio (DE) is not rubbish, but it is boring. How then does the Magentis make the leap from not being rubbish, to beyond boring and into excellent?
The Magentis is styled ultra-conservatively; I guess that Kia don't want people turned away by its looks. If you look behind the bland exterior the car begins to shine when you turn the key.
Firstly it has a list of features which makes even a Mercedes-Benz E-Class look tame.
- Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)
- Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
- Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
- Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
- Traction Control
- Dual Front Airbags
- Side Airbags and Curtain Airbags
- Variable Valve Timing (CVVT)
- Variable Intake System (VIS)
That in itself looks like an impressive list of kit, which makes me think that Kia have gone all out with this car. The Magentis puts out 119kW from a 2.4L in-line four. The car isn't "kick-you-in-the-pants" quick but it does have an adequate amount of perk and would probably very easily sit on 110 clicks all day if you let it.
I'd say that the Magentis probably has its gun sights aimed squarely at the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla and the Holden Astra... except that Holden have replaced the Astra with the Cruze (which is decidedly rubbish compared with the Astra H it replaced)
The Astra G & H (the Prawn had an Astra G) had an almost lazy directness about it, i.e. the car tracked in the direction you pointed it. The Magentis feels far stiffer, and even more direct than the Astra if that's possible. I didn't stress the car too hard but it has even less body roll than a Honda Integra and when it exits corners, it again points true.
The gearbox (I drove a manual) had nice short throws in it, and unlike the Corolla who's clutch has no feeling whatsoever, the Magentis is light enough to be smooth, but must have tensioners or something to let you know precisely where the "bite" points are.
Ergonomically everything comes to hand well, though I was again disappointed like so many other cars, with the incredible sea of grey plastic for the dashboard.
I found the textures on the knobs interesting, but across the rest of the dashboard there wasn't anything outlandish or even really all that different from any other car.
Just like B's Hyundai Accent (LC) was the first car that Hyundai built "properly", the 2009 Kia Magentis (MG) has benefitted from tweaks in the Hyundai powerplant and chassis updates. This is the car that says that Kia has finally made it to par, well it hasn't just scraped over, it's done everything asked of it well. The car might not yell "Look at Me!" but that's a good thing, because it means that you can leave it in a carpark and know that it will still be there when you get back. Not every car needs to have a GT badge stamped on it.
This is Kia's first "proper" car. Kia say in their adverts that they have "the power to surprise" but it's not really a surprise if you've been waiting 20 years. Doing things well is sometimes more important.