First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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How does a relatively unknown Korean family sedan compete with established family cars like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata, Mitsubishi Galant, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler Sebring and Ford Fusion? There’s only one way, really: provide more car for less money, and promote the heck out of it. That formula has served Hyundai well in the past, and is now being used by their subsidiary, Kia for their new models.

The redesigned 2007 Kia Magentis is certainly a good value in the marketplace: the base four-cylinder LX model is between one and four thousand dollars cheaper than its main rivals – $3,900 cheaper than a Toyota Camry LE four-cylinder, for example – while offering comparable features and an excellent five year/100,000 kilometre bumper to bumper warranty. Kia’s problem will be getting the word out to consumers. Few people have heard of the previous generation Magentis, first introduced in 2001, and as a result, sales were relatively low.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
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That may change with the redesigned 2007 Magentis. Kia is now the fastest growing car company in the world, and has the resources of Hyundai behind them to push them along. In the past few years, they’ve introduced the new Amanti luxury car, Sportage compact SUV, Spectra compact sedan and Spectra5 hatchback, Rio sedan and Rio5 hatchback, Sedona minivan, and Magentis sedan – and soon a new Sorento SUV.

The Korean-built Magentis shares a similar platform with the just-redesigned Hyundai Sonata, a good start because the Sonata has received good reviews and has already won numerous safety and quality awards.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

There are some differences between the Sonata and Magentis though, notably the exterior styling, a revised interior, a different front suspension, and a different optional V6 engine – all of which contribute to a slightly different driving experience.

Compared to the previous Magentis, the new model has a longer wheelbase, a wider cabin, and more interior room and trunk space. The interior volume of the Magentis (104.2 cu. ft.) is one of the roomiest in the mid-size sedan class, and its 14.8 cubic feet trunk is very spacious, although not as spacious as the Sonata’s 16.3 cu. ft. trunk.

Like most cars in the mid-size class, the Magentis offers both four and six cylinder engines. Starting at $21,895 (reduced from $22,450 in 2006) the base Magentis LX has a 161 horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine (up from 138 hp) mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission, the same powertrain offered in the Sonata, and competitive with other cars in this class. With the five-speed manual transmission, the LX four-cylinder model offers 9.6 L/100 km city, and 6.3 L/100 km highway. That’s slightly better than the Toyota Camry LE four-cylinder’s fuel consumption of 9.8 L/100 km city, and 6.5 L/100 km highway.

Optional in the Magentis $23,995 LX V6 (reduced from $25,850 in 2006) is a 185-horsepower 2.7-litre V6, a very smooth and willing powerplant, but smaller and less powerful than some of its V6 competitors. The Hyundai Sonata, for example, offers a 235-hp 3.3-litre V6 for about a thousand dollars more. On the highway, the Magentis’ 2.7-litre V6 offers 7.1 L/100 km, according to official figures.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
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I spent a day driving a Magentis LX Premium model with the standard four-cylinder engine and optional five-speed automatic “Steptronic” transmission. The 2.4-litre 4-cylinder with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and continuously variable valve timing is not a particularly powerful engine when pulling out to pass on the highway, and it’s a bit noisy under hard acceleration, but it is responsive from a standing start and when accelerating from 30 to 50 km/h in typical city driving situations. I didn’t have a chance to drive the standard 5-speed manual transmission (available only with the four-cylinder engine), but the optional five-speed automatic ($1,000) is very smooth – in fact the whole powertrain is quite smooth and quiet when cruising along the freeway. And a manual shifting mode allows drivers to get a little more performance out of this engine when needed.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

Kia expects a full 70% of Magentis sales to be models with the four-cylinder engine – a figure similar to other manufacturers. I think most people will be happy with the adequate performance and better fuel economy of the 2.4-litre engine.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to drive a Magentis V6, but the extra 24 horsepower and improved smoothness for an additional $2,000 seems like a good deal to me.

Like the Sonata, the Magentis has a fully independent suspension, but instead of a multi-link front suspension, the Magentis has MacPherson struts with coil springs. At the rear are independent multi-links with coil springs, and front and rear anti-sway bars are standard. Personally, I prefer the front MacPherson strut layout for its superior damping and steering control. During my day-long test-drive, I found the ride very comfortable on both smooth and bumpy roads: the suspension absorbs potholes and pavement cracks quite well. The steering is power-assisted rack and pinion which I found to be nicely weighted for parking chores. Its turning radius of 10.8 metres (35.4 ft.) is quite tight. In fact, the Magentis feels a bit smaller and more nimble than the Sonata – the Magentis is in fact about two inches shorter than a Sonata and weighs about 50 kg (112 lb) less. During steady highway cruising, the car tracks well, and braking chores are adequately handled by standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

For $21,895, standard equipment in the base Magentis LX model includes air conditioning, cloth seats with five-step seat heaters, AM/FM/CD with six speakers, 16-inch tires, power windows with a driver’s auto up/down feature and pinch protection, power heated mirrors, cruise control, power locks with remote and alarm, audio controls on the steering wheel, and a unique gauge cluster with a horizontal digital fuel gauge.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
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As well, all Magentis models include six standard airbags: driver and passenger advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, and full-length curtain airbags. Plus the Magentis has standard active front head restraints to help prevent whiplash, and a standard tire pressure monitoring system.

For $24,895, the Magentis LX with Premium Package adds the automatic transmission with “Steptronic” manual shift mode, stability control, alloy wheels, fog lights, telescoping steering wheel (as well as tilt), power glass moonroof with sunshade, eight-way power driver’s seat and trip computer.

For an extra $1,300, you can get leather seats, steering wheel and gear knob, metal and chrome interior trim accents, and a black grille with chrome surround.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

The base LX V6 model starts at $23,995, and includes all the standard features of the base LX four-cylinder model plus the 2.7-litre V6 with dual exhausts, automatic transmission with manual mode, 16-inch alloy wheels, telescopic steering wheel, and front fog lamps.

The top-of-the-line LX V6 model with Luxury Package, $27,795, adds 17-inch tires and alloy wheels, automatic climate control, power moonroof, eight-way power driver’s seat, power adjustable pedals, stability control, compass, trip computer, and Homelink programmable garage door opener. Freight charge is $1,090.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Magentis kia ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

There’s no doubt a used Magentis will have a lower resale value than a Camry, but as the price of a new Magentis is thousands of dollars lower than a Camry, those savings must be taken into account. Future reliability is difficult to determine, but because the Magentis is based on the Sonata which has, in the past proven reliable, the prospects are good for the Magentis. Plus Magentis buyers get Kia’s standard five-year/100,000 km bumper to bumper warranty and a 1 year/20,000 km warranty that covers consumable items such as brake pads, wiper blades, fuses, and bulbs.

As I said, or perhaps inferred, this is a lot of car for the money.

The 2007 Kia Magentis is built in Hwasung, South Korea.


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About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).