Travelling on a budget can bring its own rewards, you get to see all the same sights and your experiences often have an earthy richness that wealthier travelers may miss. There’s a truer sense of adventure and a raw appeal that motivates backpackers the world over.
Could this concept of beneficial budget travel be applied to a passenger vehicle? Kia believes so and since 2000 it has produced the Magentis for those who want the practicalities of a mid-size sedan for hatchback prices. The Magentis entered its second generation in 2006 and has now received a facelift to better align it with the remainder of Kia’s product range.
So what’s new?
Visually, Kia has concentrated the new look where all good facelifts begin, the face. Kia’s new tiger grille is set to uniform its vehicle range and offer a visual branding clue, with the Magentis being the latest vehicle to receive treatment. The exterior upgrades don’t stop with the new grille and wrap around headlights. Design changes also feature in the vehicle’s profile with new indicator repeaters and at the rear with revamped tail lamps, boot lid and bumper. Clever use of contrasting silver trim and 16-inch alloys as standard give the refreshed Magentis a smart but ultimately generic look. While the Magentis looks much sharper than its predecessor there is little to distinguish it from other vehicles in the segment.
Inside, the Magentis appears slightly dated despite a new sports-styled instrument cluster and new centre console with gear selector gate. That said, switchgear is logically laid out and it’s an easy vehicle to control and get used to. Everything feels well screwed together but cabin plastics are inconsistent with some feeling tough but others lightweight and flimsy.
The dark cloth interior provides wide comfortable seats, with handy height adjustment on the driver’s chair. Space is ample and well maximized, there’s decent headroom and the rear pew can accommodate three adults without issue. What’s most impressive about the Magentis cabin is the equipment level, the leather steering wheel houses cruise and audio control buttons, the 6-speaker stereo has excellent iPod connectivity and a trip computer provides various info. Other standard kit includes air conditioning, electric heated mirrors, reversing sensors and a full size spare wheel. Luggage is stowed away in a capacious 500-litre boot with a 60:40 split folding rear sear for longer items.
When cleared for take off the Magentis fires up its 2.4-litre 4-cylinder power plant and while it’s no jet plane, power output has been increased to 126kW with 229Nm of torque. It won’t blast occupants off the line but it’s a keen engine that can show decent mid-range torque and is suitably relaxed when speed limit cruising. Fuel consumption is 8.3l/100km combined, a reasonable figure considering the Magentis’ 1490kg kerb weight and engine size. Power is transferred to the front wheels through a traditional 5-speed automatic transmission with a tiptronic sportshift available. Overall, the drivetrain functions well, albeit with an unrefined edge.
In terms of handling dynamics the Magentis changes direction fairly well under regular conditions. Push harder and it becomes clear that it doesn’t have a large appetite for rapid progress being held back by a chassis and suspension tune unsuited for sporty driving. So the Magentis is a cruiser and that’s something it does well with light steering, well-damped suspension and a cabin that lets in little engine or road noise.
Kia has put serious effort into putting modern safety features into a budget vehicle and the results are notable. Hiding under the surface is a full Electronic Stability Programme, ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, seatbelt pretensioners and six airbags.
One thing that hasn’t changed with the refreshed Magentis is that its most attractive feature remains its price. Costing $35,990 the Magentis is 10% – 15% cheaper than Japanese competition within the class. The price will help it appeal to those looking for budget travel and a 5-year, 100,000km factory warranty is a tempting cherry on top.
What you get for the money is a spacious, competent car that has solid safety credentials and equipment levels. The downside is that the Magentis has little to offer in terms of sporty dynamics, and may prove prone to the punishing depreciation that’s plagued larger Korean cars in the past.
Ultimately, the gap between the Magentis and its rivals has been narrowed, but a gap does still exist. Leaving quality competition like the Ford Mondeo, Nissan Maxima and Honda Accord with a convincing case in justifying the extra money.
What we like:
- Plenty of equipment
- Settled cruiser
- Good space for occupants and luggage
What we don’t like:
- Mediocre handling
- Inconsistent interior plastics
- Generic styling
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Kia Magentis (2009) – Specifcations
Engine type 2.4L DOHC CVVT
Petrol Displacement (cc) 2359 cc
Compression ratio 10.5
Max. power 126 kW @ 6000 rpm
Max. torque 229 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 8.3 / 100km
Co2 emissions (g/km) 196
Gear Box 5 speed automatic with sportshift
Front suspension MacPherson Strut
Rear suspension Multi Link
Tyres 205/60 R16
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
Alloy wheels 16″
Full size spare wheel and tyre
Steering system Power assisted rack & pinion
Minimum turning radius kerb to kerb (m) 5.4
Overall length 4800 mm
Overall width 1805 mm
Overall height 1480 mm
Wheelbase 2720 mm
Min ground clearance 160 mm
Luggage capacity (VDA) 500 litres
Kerb weight min. / max 1430 / 1490 kg
Fuel tank capacity 62 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 650
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 1700