South Africa

FIRST DRIVE | New 2021 Kia Pegas is an honest deal

Forget the digitised new Mercedes-Benz S-Class or lightning-quick electric Porsche Taycan.

If you want evidence of how far the modern automobile has come, allow us to propose a slightly less glamorous but hugely sensible candidate.

How would you have responded if, two decades ago, you were told a budget-oriented, Korean saloon would be equipped as standard with certain trappings expected in a premium car?

Stuff like a touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, steering wheel wrapped in leather (with satellite audio controls), a reverse camera and park-distance control.

Add to that list essential safety kit such as dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes (with discs, not drums, at the rear) and electronic brake-force distribution.

Indeed, entry-level offerings today are a far cry from what they were before. The Kia Pegas, launched in SA last week, is fine proof of that.

As a value for money package it is so good you might even overlook that curious and unfortunate name. In some markets it is called the Soluto or Sephia. Could they not have called it the Rio sedan?

Also, we need to address an elephant in the room. Intended audience?

The automaker is adamant uptake will come mainly from older, first-time buyers (approaching 30) who require a vehicle with more space than the average B-segment hatchback.

Kia is certain it is not, as one might think, targeting the e-hailing market directly and is aiming for private customers.

However, if operators in the public transport sphere flock to the newcomer, they will obviously not be shooed away.

The rivals they cited are straight out of that arena. That includes the Volkswagen Polo sedan (from R251,200), Honda Amaze (from R203,000), Nissan Almera (from R260,800) Suzuki Dzire (from R182,900) and Ford Figo sedan (from R226,400).

The Pegas comes in at R225,995 for the LX and tops out at R251,995 for the EX with a four-speed automatic transmission. An EX with the five-speed manual will cost R236,995.

We spent more than an hour with the row-your-own version of EX at its media introduction in Rosebank.

Visually, it is decidedly more substantial than dinky alternatives like the Honda Amaze or Suzuki Dzire, with their stubby ends being a result of undercutting a four-metre size regulation that allows for tax benefits in the Indian market.

It makes an industrial din when wound-out to merge safely on the freeway, but settles acceptably at the national limit. Interestingly, the Pegas features a speed warning, chiming once you cross over the 120km/h threshold.

Claimed consumption is 6.1l/100km, with one road tester managing a frugal 5.5l/100km on a lengthier drive to the Cradle of Humankind area of the province from our urban start point.

Included in the price is a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and a four-year/60,000km prepaid service plan.

Cars that are affordable, well-equipped and robust in build will always have relevance.

The Pegas ticks those boxes quite nicely, in addition to the benefit of inoffensive aesthetics and an assuring warranty.

This is the SA market. We like cars with presence. While the Pegas is unlikely to win any beauty contests, its appearance overall is not what you would describe as ungainly or outright ugly. What you have here is a respectable, anonymous three-box vehicle. The Pegas debuted in the Chinese market in 2017. It is manufactured in China and Vietnam, with our units sourced from the former country.

In addition to the conveniences mentioned earlier, the Pegas EX features 14-inch alloys (with a space-saver spare) and leatherette upholstery in a hue of cream. The interior is functional and sturdy, with materials of fair quality.

There are some ergonomic oddities, like the placement of the electric window switches: all four on the fascia, not the driver's side door armrest as is usually the case. Although the driver's squab is tilt adjustable, the overall height of the seat is not, with the default position seeming a touch too high even for a person of average height like myself.

That said, there is a sense of spaciousness from inside the Pegas, whether at the front, where stretching space end-to-end is 1,365mm, or at the rear, where the number is 1,357mm. A 475-litre luggage compartment will be enough for most requirements.

Power comes from the proven 1.4-litre Kappa petrol engine, naturally-aspirated, with four cylinders, delivering 69kW and 132Nm to the front wheels.

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