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Car reviews - Kia - Magentis - sedan range

Launch Story

Kia logo9 Aug 2006

By CHRIS HARRIS

SAFETY, peace of mind and value are the cornerstones of Kia’s renewed assault on the Toyota Camry class with its new Magentis.

Priced from $25,990, the mid-sized sedan arrives this month with stability control included in all variants – a decision Kia says was made before Holden’s widely publicised standardisation of ESP in its new VE Commodore.

Anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, traction control, dual front, side and curtain airbags, active front seat headrests and front seatbelt pretensioners complete the Kia’s standard safety rollcall.

The Magentis’ arrival also heralds a five-year/130,000km warranty – only available to the Magentis range, for now. This usurps the previous three-year/100,000km deal.

Until now only the Cerato small car offered it, and only as a special promotion that was due to finish late next month.

Further underlining the Magentis’ value is the inclusive air-conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, power windows, remote central locking, power mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized alloy spare, automatic headlights and an MP3/CD audio.

Replacing the unloved Optima, the MG-series Magentis is a loose development of parent Hyundai’s current NF Sonata platform.

However, with different front suspension and a 5mm-shorter wheelbase (measuring 2720mm), the 4735mm long by 1805mm wide Kia shares virtually nothing else beyond a few drivetrain components. They’re not even built in the same South Korean factory.

Compared to the 1998 EF Sonata-based Optima, the Magentis – or Lotze in Korea – is 5mm longer, 15mm wider and 70mm taller and 20mm longer in wheelbase.

This results in 40mm-more rear and 10mm-more front legroom and a 42mm higher hip point, while the Magentis presents 15 litres more luggage space (the boot measures 420 litres), and benefits from a split/fold backrest.

Using ‘European’ specification suspension consisting of MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link system with twin upper and long lower trailing arms, the Magentis is also stiffer in body the old car, partly due to the use of over 60 per cent high-tensile steel.

Steering is by hydraulic rack and pinion, allowing a 10.8-metre turning circle.

Driving the front wheels is a development of the 2.4-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine shared with the Sonata. It features CVVT continuously variable valve timing for a plumper spread of torque throughout the rev range.

Boasting a counter-balancing shaft in the crankcase for reduced noise, vibration and harshness properties, power is rated at 119kW at 6000rpm while the 221Nm torque top begins to taper out from 4250rpm.

Only the base EX model offers a five-speed manual gearbox, while a five-speed automatic transmission with a Tiptronic-style sequential-shift mechanism is available for in all other Magentis models.

This includes the 2.7-litre twin-cam 24-valve V6 unit, also known as Hyundai’s Delta V6, which has undergone a series of revisions.

In this application, the power and torque figures are 138kW at 6000rpm and 247Nm at 4000rpm respectively. No manual V6 is offered.

By mid 2007 Kia is expected to also offer a 2.0-litre CRD turbo-diesel four-cylinder version, pumping out 103kW at 4000rpm and 305Nm at 1800rpm.

In UK spec the diesel averages 6.0L/100km for the six-speed manual and 7.3L for the four-speed automatic.

This contrasts to the 2.4’s 8.6L/100km and 2.7 V6’s 9.3L results, recorded using 91RON standard unleaded.

The old Optima V6 could only manage 10.3L – the upshot of improved aerodynamics, revised engine design and five-speed automatic, according to Kia.

No European NCAP crash test results are available, but a four-star rating is expected. In America the Magentis has a five-star NHTSA score.

With around 150 Magentis sales predicted per month, about 85 per cent will be the four-cylinder model, with the up-spec EX-Luxury poised to be the biggest seller. Kia is now commencing a fleet offensive on the back of this car.

The new Camry, the Mazda6, Subaru Liberty, and Honda Accord VTi are the Kia’s main rivals.

The arrival of the Magentis, as well as next month’s VQ Carnival short-wheel base and a facelifted Sorento SUV, should help Kia about equal 2005’s 14,000 unit result, despite suffering from the demise of the Pregio commercial vehicle, which equated to over 4300 units in 2005.

A Kia spokesman admits the task ahead is enormous.

"The brand needs a lot of work," he admits, "... but the Kia badge is something we are going to work on."

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