Lets face it, the outgoing Magentis model won't be remembered as an automotive hit, and its ugly face is close to scary. Therefore it was no surprise that the Magentis wasn't a big seller in South Africa, as it had no obvious class leading attributes in a tough segment.
But Kia's fortunes in the midsize sedan segment could just change as the next generation Magentis proves to be true to the Korean carmaker's brand slogan of "the power to surprise".
Kia introduced us to the new Magentis on the world launch in southern Spain and at first glance it is clear that Kia completely revived this model. The car is redesigned from the ground up, shedding its previously conservative image.
And although the Magentis competes in a segment where it is easy to be just another dull sedan, Kia avoids this successfully as the car's overall design is clean, simple and modern. It also shares styling cues with Kia's popular new Rio and Sportage.
According to Kia South Africa CEO Ray Levin the new Magentis will go on sale here in July and he is confident that this model will again prove that his company is committed to offer South Africans quality, stylish and well-priced vehicles.
Although there is no official indication yet about pricing, Kia is keen to price the entry-level 2-litre petrol model below R200 000. A 3.7-litre V6 model will also be available, while the 2-litre turbodiesel derivative is also under consideration for later introduction.
Complete new car
Kia says the Magentis is a brand new model and that there is no relation at all with its predecessor.
It is built on the company's MG platform, which is also used for the Hyundai Sonata. But on the Magentis there's different wheelbase and suspension systems, making it an exclusive Kia product.
The new Magentis is longer, wider and taller than the model it replaces, while its longer wheelbase of 2 729 mm gives the car better interior and boot space than before.
Kia's range-topping Magentis comes with a 2.7-litre V6 engine with a power output of 138 kW at 6 000 r/min and a torque figure of 247 Nm at 4 000 r/min. It is mated to a new 5-speed autobox, which offers slick gear changing.
The entry-level 2-litre engine generates 106 kW at 6 000 r/min and 189 Nm at 4 250 r/min. And then there is the smooth 2-litre turbodiesel engine, which kicks out 103 kW and a useful 305 Nm between 1 800 and 2 500 r/min. Both 2-litre engines come with 5-speed manual or a four-speed auto transmission.
Behind the wheel of the Magentis V6 one is immediately aware of its potent nature but it is also effortless to drive. On the sweeping roads of southern Spain's countryside and the busy urban roads of Seville this engine proved to be a gem with instant power on tap but easy to tame too.
Although we didn't drive the 2-litre petrol, the V6 and turbodiesel offered a smooth and controlled ride. This is thanks to the car's stiffer and more rigid bodyshell, while there is new fully independent suspension setups, front and rear, too.
Driving the Magentis one is very aware about how solid it feels in all conditions. Yes, the ride is compliant and the car absorbs uneven road surfaces with ease, but through some twisty Spanish mountain passes the Magentis also came to life.
Pushing it through corners it was easy to forget that one is actually guiding a big family sedan, as the car's size never seemed to be a limiting factor.
But the real pleasure was to drive the Magentis on the open road and cruise from village to village. In general the ride is effortless but also quiet as Kia's engineers minimised noise, vibrations and harshness levels.
Classy interior a big plus on the Magentis
Thanks to vehicles such as the Rio and Sportage, Kia is also gaining a reputation of offering quality and stylish interiors too. The Magentis is no exception, and in fact seems like the Kia with the best interior to date.
It has a stylish fascia with good ergonomics but the quality of materials used is what really impresses. On the dash there are soft touch plastics, while buttons and stalks have a solid design too.
There are some hard plastics still, but their usage is not more than on pricier German brands. But overall Kia succeeds in giving the Magentis a classy aura and the interior fit and finish is hard to fault as there is no obvious "cheap factor" present.
Of couse the Magentis comes with all the usual bells and whistles such as climate control, trip computer, electric seats, power steering and six airbags.
On the active safety front the Magentis has ABS brakes with EBD as standard. The Magentis also has ESP as an option, which comes with all-speed traction control (TCS).
Kia promises that South African models will be well equipped with a host of comfort and safety features, while leather trim will probably be standard too.
Kia may still not be on top of the list of some South African car buyers but it definitely doesn't deserve any ignorance.
On the South African launch of the Sorento about three years ago, Kia's Ray Levin warned that the Sorento is only the beginning of Kia's onslaught and that the company is serious about making inroads in the local market.
Back then one could have thought that it was only typical PR talk, but now with the launch of the new Magentis, and looking at Kias such as the Sorento, Rio and Sportage, one knows that this carmaker means business.
With the new Magentis it is again clear that Kia does have the "power to surprise", as this new executive sedan offers motorists style, quality, value for money and great motoring.
But what is more is that the Magentis shows that Kia is on track to build a brand which will make buyers enthusiastic about Kia products.