The huge commercial success of the South Korean automotive brands though proves that to most consumers value for money and dependability are all that they want or need, with a marque’s image and heritage being of little or no consequence whatsoever. The vast majority of new car buyers would far rather have a boring but dependable car that gets them from A to B, rather than a stylish but potentially temperamental machine from a admired but questionable car brand from England, Italy, France or the USA.
Take the Kia Sportage as an example. Now on its third facelifted generation, the latest Sportage is very strong on showroom appeal with its agreeable looks, long list of standard equipment, and an exceptionally long warranty. If you’re looking for the ultimate driving experience, like most of its rivals in the growing crossover SUV sector, the Sportage is somewhat lacking dynamically, but then driving dynamics are not really a top priority in this class.
In recently months, though, the Sportage has been the UK’s fastest-selling used car on franchised dealer forecourts, selling within just 13 days, as opposed to around 30 days for traditional British secondhand favourites such as the BMW 3-Series and Audi A3. The crossover Kia also appeared in eighth position in the British top ten best selling new cars in April, and the South Korean brand is now heading towards the top of the annual J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey. Quite a remarkable achievement for a marque that only arrived in the UK 25 years ago!
Back then, in 1991 the totally unknown Kia brand took its first tentative steps into the UK, and other exports markets, with the cringe-worthy Pride, a basic economy hatchback that resorted to reviving white wall tyres as standard to attract any attention at all. The Kia Pride was a re-badged version of the late 1980s Mazda 121, built for Mazda in South Korea, and also badged as the Ford Festiva and Aspire in the USA. The Pride followed Kia’s first production car, the 1974-1981 Brisa, a lightly modified version of the second-generation Mazda Familia, sold in Europe as the Mazda 1000/1300 in Europe. Bizarrely Kia also built both the Fiat 132 and Peugeot 604 under licence for its home market too.