Remember the Kia Pride?
Of course you dont. Your mind has blocked it out, filed it away as it might a tragic event in your past. It existed in a time when Korean cars were still laughable, vehicles with no style, kudos or talent, bought only for their cheapness and sold for even less.
As well as being one of the most ironically named cars ever, the Pride was a budget rival to budget cars like the Fiat Cinquecento and Skoda Felicia, sold in the mid-nineties but based on the boxy 1980s Mazda 121 with all the stylistic details that entailed. It was a car bought with neither the head, nor heart.
An old Kia Magentis (Looking good!)
It finally died in 2000, replaced by the Kia Rio as the makers UK range expanded, joined along the way by the Mentor and Sportage.
These in turn were replaced and joined with cars like the Shuma, Carens and Magentis, the latter once the cheapest new V6-engined car you could buy. Increasingly, the cars were based on vehicles made by Kias partner Hyundai, and their talents increased as a result. Their coolness, however, remained rock-bottom.
Then things started changing. In 2003, the Sorento SUV hit, and in 2005 the Picanto city car. Both had decent styling and showed hints at being genuinely quality vehicles.
The 2012 Kia Cee'd
2007 brought the Ceed, replacing the depressing Shuma. Now we were really talking - neat styling both inside and out, much-needed diesel engines and even a sporty 3-door variant, the daftly-named Pro_Ceed. If ever a name didnt matter though, it was now - the Pro_Ceed was one of the sportiest-looking cars in the class.
The last few years have been a whirlwind of new models, with replacements for the Picanto, Ceed, Sportage, Sorento, the new Magentis (only sold abroad, as yet) and the launch of the Soul, all styled by one of the car industrys top talents, Peter Schreyer.
The new Kia Sportage
Modern Kias arent just good for a Korean car, theyre good full-stop - still offering the value of that original Pride, but now with other talents that elevate them up with some of the class leaders - the hugely impressive new Picanto in particular. Kia clearly trusts their new-found quality too - every vehicle they sell is offered with a seven-year warranty
The badge may not hold the same kudos as rivals but on looks alone they challenge for class honours, belying their budget pricetags.
There are still some misses - while all still good value, the Carens, Sedona and Venga are only average, but they can be overlooked in light of the more prominent successes. But just look at how impressive the reviews are for the new Kia Optima.
The 2012 Kia Rio
If you think youve heard all this before, youre right. There are more than a few parallels with Skoda, that brand that Kia was attempting to challenge back in the day, just as Skodas first properly talented car, the Felicia, hit the streets. Now, they perhaps do the budget thing even better, with similar quality levels that modern Skodas offer.
Neither is a truly cool brand just yet, but with so much ability at such a low price, never have budget buyers been better served by the car industry.
We've got a detailed guide to every new Kia on sale. Check them out here - Kia Reviews