Kia is a brand that’s firmly on the up. The Korean marque is intent on leaving the days of patchy quality and bargain pricing behind in favour of a brave new future filled with funky design and mainstream acceptability.
For evidence, look no further than the cee’d, the Soul and other current Kia offerings. These are cars that don’t need to be cheaper than their rivals in order to sell. The Magentis saloon is a little bit different. It’s a Kia from a different era, designed and engineered before the brand took its trip up market. The hope is that a thorough facelift can bring the latest version along for the ride.
The Magentis is a medium range saloon, which means it’s competing in a shrinking market sector that’s filled with talented vehicles all hungry to retain market share. Manufacturers dipping a half-hearted toe into these waters are likely to have it nibbled off by the Mondeos, Insignias, Passats, Accords and Lagunas that patrol them. Kia’s Magentis has survived in the past by operating at the bottom of the food chain.It campaigned on the basis that it may not have been as good as the mainstream protagonists but it was cheap and had lots of equipment. This worked well enough but with the latest model, Kia has taken steps to increase the quality and upped the price accordingly.
The diesel engine was always the biggest seller in the Magentis range and in the latest model, Kia took the bold step of ditching all the others. With power increased to 147bhp, the 2.0-litre oil-burner is 9bhp up on the old unit and can call upon 305Nm of torque between 1,800 and 2,500rpm. It’s still not the most impressive 2.0-litre oil-burner you’ll encounter in this sector with the 0-62mph sprint taking 10.4s but it’s reasonably competitive. An automatic gearbox is also available which slows the sprint to 11.7s and the top speed whatever transmission is installed is 124mph.
"The Magentis is a decent family saloon that, in its latest guise, offers sharper looks and more power"
The goggle-eyed front end that adorned the Magentis at launch has been consigned to the history books by a far slicker piece of penmanship. There are hints of Honda Accord about the way the headlights and grille merge into a visor across the front of the car and there’s no doubt that it’s a big improvement. Similar attempts have been made to raise the game of the Magentis interior but they’ve been less successful. The hard plastics and forgettable design remain but at least the fixtures and fittings seem sturdily assembled.
The Magentis is a decent size, measuring 4,800mm from nose to tail and 1,805mm from side to side. This bulk has been well translated into interior space and there’s plenty of room for a pair of adults in the rear with a 425-litre luggage space behind.
Of course, the car is very well equipped. There’s only one trim level, so all versions have climate control, an MP3-compatible radio/CD player, electric windows, electric mirrors, remote central locking, leather seats, alloy wheels, parking sensors, driver's seat height adjustment and a tilt-adjust steering column. There’s also ABS brakes, twin front airbags and side airbags.
It’s a strong specification for a medium range saloon priced at the bottom end of the market but the Magentis pricing isn’t quite as attractive as it once was. At over £17,000, the Magentis is over £1,500 more expensive than it was pre-facelift and that puts it into direct competition with basic diesel versions of the sector’s heavy hitters. In that company, the Magentis is likely to get found out.
Big Korean saloons don’t tend to yield particularly healthy returns on their owners’ investments and despite the growing esteem in which the Kia brand is being held, depreciation will be swift on the Magentis. On economy, it fares better with the 2.0-litre diesel engine returning 47mpg with the manual gearbox and 41mpg with the auto fitted. Emissions are 158g/km for the manual and 185g/km for the automatic.
Kia’s recent efforts have led us to anticipate big things from the brand but the facelift it has visited on the Magentis doesn’t do enough to meet those expectations. The Magentis is a decent family saloon that, in its latest guise, offers sharper looks and more power but the price has also crept up and there are some attractive options that can be had for similar money.
If you can secure a big enough discount from your dealer, the Magentis could be an attractive option. It’s certainly well-equipped and the diesel engine turns in decent economy figures so long as you avoid the automatic gearbox. Residual values won’t be healthy but Kia’s excellent warranty arrangement should help keep costs down.