The Carchive: Kia Pride


R.A-S.H has been cancelled. Terminated. Binned. Given the big Foxtrot Oscar. Rustys Archive of Showroom Hyperbole has been lain to rest. Fear not, though, for in its place comes the infinitely more succinctly named Carchive. And it’s exactly the same.

There’s been rather a lot of talk about Kia on Hooniverse of late, and some of it has been my own fault. Basically, there’s not a huge amount to dislike about the latest from the Korean stable, and rather a lot to admire. To remind us of the huge leaps and bounds that have made, let’s just take a view back twenty-plus years ago at how it all began.


“High technology has found a new home on the Pacific Rim”

That’s absolutely true. Samsung, for example, produce some of the most capable smartphones you’ll find anywhere in the world. Over the past few decades the high-tech game in Seoul has accelerated at a seemingly exponential rate. Being realistic, though, you’d have to say that the Kia Pride rather pre-dates this. In fact, the product being hawked in this 1994 brochure is barely changed from that which hit the market in Japan in 1986, designed by Mazda, for Ford, as the Festiva.

The way I understand things, Kia gained a manufacturing license for the Festiva almost immediately and before very long the machine was being exported in all directions, briefly making an appearance at the now-demolished Austin-Rover dealership near where I grew up.


Anyway, the brochure describes the process through which Kia developed the machine that would eventually ensure their presence all over the globe.

“The task was very difficult. To produce high quality, reliable cars at remarkably affordable prices. To put the accent on reliability without sacrificing performance”

So, Kia, are you at any point going to acknowledge the slight leg-up given you by Mazda?

“For the past 50 years Kia has striven to realise a long held dream. To build a car that works with you and works for you; a car to make you smile after journeys long and short. This car is called the Kia Pride”

I don’t know why they didn’t get around to it a bit earlier, to be honest. During that 50 years the company made a lot of tubular steel and bicycle components,  and obviously weren’t happy with the previously-available Kia Brisa, which incidentally started out life as an old Mazda 323. The Pride was obviously far more like it, and its smaller size made for a product more easy to place internationally.

“World-class build quality is ensured…”

By the time the Kia made it into the UK, it was slightly before the turn of the nineties. The reviews at the time would tend to pick up more on the dated nature of the design inside and out rather than any specific design or quality shortcomings. They did, though, question Kia’s bewildering decision to equip so many of the cars that landed on these shores in the initial batch, with whitewall tyres. Prior to this we hadn’t seen whitewalls on anything much since the thirties.


“Space for oddments, including a particularly useful cubby-hole in the centre of the dashboard”

Let us not underestimate the value of the good old-fashioned cubby hole. Somewhere to keep ones oddments. Actually, I’m not sure if I have any oddments, most of the stuff that lives in the storage bins in my car is just crap, and stuff.

“So what is Kia’s secret? Computer-aided-design. Kia’s designers are plugged into a giant supercomputer which gives them the vital creative flexibility to produce cars which are easy to live with”

So, into Deep Thought go all Kia’s values, dreams and aspirations, the “run” command is typed and out pops, well, a facsimile of an unremarkable Japanese hatchback. Maybe there was a mix-up with the punch cards. It’s difficult to see why the use of massive computing power was required to formulate the plan that led to the Pride, surely a photocopier would have been more than adequate.

Without being too generous or optimistic, by all reports the Pride was actually a pretty engaging little beastie to drive. The 69 horsepower mill was reasonably zesty and could wind the Pride to sixty in 11.6 seconds, not at all bad by contemporary tiny car standards. 91mph could be wrung out of it if you really had to, but rarely was. Pride owners tended towards the elder end of the age spectrum, certainly in this country; and the low purchase price and quickly-earned reputation for robustness made them immediately popular with driving schools.


Notably, though, there was nothing absolutely bad about it. It represented the very zenith of mediocrity; displaying zero innovation and moving the game on not one iota. But as an inoffensive, cheap to run mode of transport, and as a risk-free way into the world market, the Pride did rather well.

And now to end with an appalling pun. Kia aserted that, with the Pride, “…a new automotive force has emerged for the 1990’s“. They certainly weren’t lion.

(Disclaimer:- All photos are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. All copyright belongs to Kia. Yes, that Kia!)

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13 responses to “The Carchive: Kia Pride”

  1. Devin Avatar

    I'm disappointed that this brochure didn't have a jaunty stripe section like the Festiva one. You could get a stripe with musical notes!

  2. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Old design, but that Fiesta was a fine little car. I once got a fully laden one up to 180 kph on the Autobahn, before satisfaction, reason, and my girlfriend's screaming led me to back off a little. That rear side window looks like it was an opera window popped out of a Lincoln, or maybe a Mustang.

    1. frankthecat Avatar

      "…my girlfriend's screaming led me to back off a little."
      My girlfriend would ask me to keep going.
      Take that as you will.

  3. mseoul Avatar

    It was a big let down in the US market, for Hoons anyway, after the very decent Fiesta. So tricky of Ford on that name. You could almost confuse them when you went to trade-in your Fiesta and found its replacement was truly tinny.

  4. dukeisduke Avatar

    My first wife had an '88 Festiva L, with a four-speed and dealer-installed (Frost King) a/c. It was well screwed together, but parts could be expensive (IIRC, the ignition switch I replaced was about $130, and this was in about 1994). The thing got good mileage, and could light 'em up on acceleration without much effort. Some parts were shared with the Mazda 323 and Mercury Tracer, like front brake parts, and were cheaper at the Mazda dealer than the Ford dealer.
    I do wish we had gotten the five-door version. The three-door was pretty roomy, but the extra doors would have been an improvement.

    1. duurtlang_ Avatar

      I don't know abut the UK, but in continental Europe we even got a wagon. It soldiered on until 2000! The most compelling argument was its price. It seemed my not that lavish 2 door 4 cylinder Peugeot from the same year was 4 times as expensive.
      <img src="; width="600">

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    Oh, this was also sold as the Mazda 121, too.

  6. dukeisduke Avatar

    Wow, speaking of the Mazda 121, the original 121 was a piston engine version of the RX-5 Cosmo:

  7. JAAM Avatar

    My family had a Kia Pride (with the whitewalls!) and we loved it. It was very basic but it did everything we asked of it, was nippy and fun to drive. I got to hoon it around the farmyard as a thirteen year old, which is how I learned to heel-toe.
    Funnily enough, my soon to be father-in-law once owned a Fesitva and he too enjoyed it for its simplicity, all 6' 4" of him!

  8. nanoop Avatar

    One has to give them (Kia and Hyundai, and in some respect, even Daewoo) that by picking up "old" cars as their own they managed to reduce their coming-of-age period as automakers in the west significantly. Sure, they weren't leading in terms of technology, but being nothing in terms of automobiles in the mid-60ies (japanese companies fed the local market already then), they managed to sell significant numbers of cars outside Asia rather quickly, serving demands for transportation (coolness, not so much).
    For the Pride, they tended to roll/last longer than any contemporary equivalent from Italy (Panda-platform-based Lancia Y10, anyone?)

    1. mseoul Avatar

      Agree there. Picking Japanese cars as basis points sure was better for longevity than using obsolete French or Italian cars (a la Turkey, Romania, all Eastern Europe, etc.). They don't sound as good as old Fiat based cars, but they sure do last longer,

  9. SK Avatar

    They still make and sell these in Iran.

  10. TurboBrick Avatar

    Is there a classic KIA owners club and do they have Pride parades?

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