Kia Magentis

We hit the road in Koreans’ dramatic new Mondeo rival. Is it good enough to worry the class leaders?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

It’s a tribute to how far Kia has come that family buyers will want this new model for its looks alone. Add a seven-year warranty, a long list of kit and good economy and CO2 figures, and the new Magentis could prove much more successful in terms of sales. If the firm improves the steering and refinement, this model could be a genuine alternative to mass-market company cars.

Meet the handsome Kia that’s aiming to shake up the family car market! Just as the Cee’d gave the Ford Focus a fright, this all-new saloon is aiming to hit the Mondeo hard.

The pin-sharp model arrives next year, and will replace the current, staid Magentis.

Billed as a revolution, it may carry the Optima name.

Auto Express was given early access to the latest large family car at one of Kia’s top-secret test facilities in South Korea. So, is it really a viable alternative to the Mondeo, as well as the Vauxhall Insignia and next Volkswagen Passat?

It certainly scores on style.

The newcomer represents an even bigger leap forward than the Cee’d, shrugging off the dull, anonymous appearance of its predecessor in favour of crisp edges and neat details –  like those sleek headlights. Completing the look is a coupé-style roofline.  

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The saloon comes in at just over 4.8 metres in length – squarely in Insignia and Mondeo territory, and 45mm longer than the outgoing car. That doesn’t sound much, but as the wheels have moved closer to the corners, there’s now lots of space inside.

Want to sit a six-foot-tall passenger behind a six-foot-tall driver? No problem – neither legroom nor headroom is an issue. Interior quality is easily a match for the current crop of family saloons, and as ever with Kia, the newcomer is likely to offer much more equipment than mainstream rivals, while also beating them on price.

All this should equate to £21,000 for a flagship model, with the range starting at about £15,500.

We only got to drive the US-market specification 200bhp 2.4-litre automatic, but UK buyers are set to be offered a choice of two diesel engines: a 2.0-litre – possibly producing as much as 180bhp – or a lower-powered 1.7-litre unit. British models will feature the same super-smooth six-speed automatic gearbox in the petrol 2.4 we drove or a six-speed manual.

While official economy and CO2 emissions figures have yet to be released, the diesels are expected to offer impressive efficiency. Eco fans will also be pleased to hear a petrol-electric hybrid version is pencilled in for later in the Kia’s life.

The big question is whether the driving experience will match that of European class leaders? Comfort is first rate, although at motorway speeds there’s a fair amount of wind and tyre noise. Kia engineers were keen to tell us that this would be improved before UK deliveries begin.

The Magentis’s body control through corners is impressive, as is steering feedback, but the weight of the power-steering changes oddly as you turn the wheel away from straight ahead.

Assuming Kia uses the next 18 months well, and fettles the new family car for the UK’s roads, this high-quality, high-spec and spacious package could really worry the key players in the repmobile establishment.

Rival: Ford Mondeo Still the benchmark family car, the Mondeo excels in every area, particularly driver appeal and cabin space. The big problem is its price – the cheapest diesel costs £18,295

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