Pride that sparked

Kia success

Kia Pride, 1994
Kia Pride, 1996
Kia Pride van

A QUARTER of a century ago a little car landed on our shores that set the wheels in motion for what is now one of Britain's most popular brands.

The Kia Pride from Korea was a modest car with an identity crisis, being essentially a rebadged Mazda.

A lot of people made the mistaken assumption that it would not last, viewing it as being another cheap and cheerful bargain basement model to steal new car sale from the used market.

But the Pride had something in its DNA that led to the brand's amazing growth, now fielding a range of models that are pure customer magnets.

From white wall tyres and £1 deposits to an industry leading seven-year warranty and numerous design awards, Kia Motors (UK) Ltd is raising a glass to 25 years in the UK.

The brand initially sold just under 1,800 cars in the UK in 1991 - a figure that it now sells on average every two weeks across its 188-strong dealer network.

The Kia range now covers nine segments with 12 cars on offer and with three engine types available in the UK - petrol, diesel and electric - now expanded with the all-new petrol hybrid Niro.

With UK sales totalling 763,500 from 1991 to today, 44 per cent of the total has been in the last five years, highlighting the dramatic growth that the brand has seen in recent years.

Consumers have been attracted to the brand for its styling, quality and reliability as well as that industry-topping seven year warranty.

The Picanto - the Pride's replacement - was the first car in the small hatch segment to offer a five-door model, launching a successful and quirky animated advert asking consumers to ‘Think about it', something that consumers have taken to heart - the Picanto is the biggest selling Kia in the UK since its introduction in 2004 with over 156,000 sold to date.

The Sportage SUV - now in its fourth generation has sold close to 140,000 and is Kia's second best-selling model with 16,000 of those being sold since the new model launch in February.

Although it has been in the UK for just 25 years Kia is still a company of firsts - from the five-door Picanto, through to dancing hamsters advertising for the Soul.

Kia Motors Corporation is considerably older than its UK subsidiary being established in 1944.

With its origins of manufacturing bicycles in South Korea, Kia has grown to be part of the fifth largest automotive group in the world and is present in over 170 countries.

I remember driving an early 1.3i Pride and was impressed by the sprightly little engine, but was not exactly swept away by the way it leaned on corners.There was even a van version.

Sadly, the Pride - with its characteristic white walled tyres - is now a rare sight and more and more are driving into history.

A shame really, because this humble car is just as important as many better-known models of its time, and is remembered as a first step in a phenomenal success story.


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