It would be remiss of PetrolBlog not to mention the 30th anniversary of Kia in the UK. The company has come a long way since the little Kia Pride arrived in the UK as the Korean giant’s first European export.
Kia UK should have marked the occasion by adding whitewall tyres to its entire range of cars. Just imagine a Kia Stinger riding on whitewalls. Or the fancy new EV6 electric car boasting a set of white ringers. Hashtag missed opportunity, Kia.
Within the realms of PetrolBlog, the Kia Pride and whitewall tyres are joined at the hip. They’re Princess Anne to the Reliant Scimitar. Yellow fogs to a French car. A seven-year warranty to a new Kia.
Aside from the grille and badges, the whitewalls were the only changes to the old Mazda 121. The Japanese company had an eight per cent share in the Korean giant, while Ford had a 10 per cent stake. Reheating the old 121 as the Kia Pride made sense. It was also sold as the Ford Festiva in the USA and Japan.
The whitewalls were a delete option, although the first 500 LX models to arrive via MCL Group, Kia’s UK distributor, came replete with the rings of goodness. Less enlightened buyers could demand a switch to boring black rubber at no charge, while subsequent shipments saw the wonderful whitewalls relegated to special order only.
CAR wasn’t a fan. In its July 1991 issue, it said: ‘The only value of the whitewalls is as a warning that their kitsch appearance is matched by the Hankook steel radials’ nostalgic levels of grip…’ Ouch.
Thirty years on, whitewalls are more interesting than a seven-year warranty. Discuss.
Talk is cheap, and so was the Kia Pride. The three-door 1.1 LX cost £5799, while the three-door 1.3 LX was priced at £6399. Adding an extra pair of doors to the 1.3 LX increased the price to £6799. Anyone unwilling to step into the unknown could buy a three-door Ford Fiesta 1.0 Popular for £6590, while a three-door Vauxhall Nova 1.0 Trip cost £6480.
Kia tackled the mainstream establishment with a longer list of standard equipment, a two-year warranty, two-year RAC membership, and a six-year rust warranty. Oh, and a set of whitewalls. Did PetrolBlog mention the whitewall tyres?
The photo of Kia UK’s current and historic models on the banking at the Brooklands motor racing circuit shows how far the company has come in 30 years. It’s a great photo, but it’s missing a celebration of whitewalls. Kia UK has one of the best PR teams in the business, but if it doesn’t arrange for its press cars to be shod in whitewalls for the remainder of 2021, it needs to take a long, hard look at itself.
Imagine a Kia Sorento ‘4’ riding on a set of 19-inch rims shod in whitewall wonderment. It’s enough to make you reach for the PCP calculator. Well, almost.
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