We had a very limited number of car buying options ever since the Big 3 came into picture in the early 90s. However the first newcomer to arrive in our market back in the mid 1990s was Kia Pride hatchback. And more importantly it was the first car that was mass produced by the South Korean automaker after it re-entered the automobile production. Let us see how it all started:
Although Kia started as a bicycle manufacturer in 1944, they stepped into automobiles foray with assembling licensed Mazda trucks in the 1960s and Mazda passenger cars in early 70s. In 1973 the company opened its first automotive assembly plant– the notorious Sohari Plant where it built the Kia Brisa range of cars which was actually a rebadged Mazda 1300/ Familia.
In 1979, the South Korean government was overthrown in a military coup and Korea fell under the rule of a military dictator. As a result, all major industrial manufacturers were forced to repurpose themselves for military production – including Kia. The company had to entirely shut down the production of passenger cars in favor of light trucks.
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Following the coup and its military effort contribution, Kia was looking for opportunities to get back into passenger cars. Unfortunately, the company didn’t have the resources or the technological base to do it on their own. Then came Ford and the two companies struck a deal where Kia would manufacture some of Ford’s models under license using Mazda’s engine & technology.
Kia Pride- The Birth
The Kia Pride hatchback was one of the first vehicles to roll off the assembly lines in 1987 & was developed using a mix of Ford & Mazda engineering. It was basically a slightly restyled Ford Festiva that had a 1.1 liter Mazda B1 engine under its hood.
The car with various other engine options and different body configurations including a station wagon,3- & 5-door hatchback as well as a 3-door van was exported to several markets across the globe. By 1990 the sedan iteration which was originally called as Kia Pride Beta & was later simply labeled as Pride B was also made available. It was powered by a 1.3 liter Mazda B3 engine under its hood.
Kia Pride in Pakistan
In 1994/95 Naya Daur Motors (under the Tawwakal group) was the first to introduce Kia vehicles in Pakistan. Along with Pride hatchback, the 1-ton Ceres pickup & Sportage SUV were imported. However according to court filings, the company took over Rs 800 million as booking from 16,000 people and delivered only a few hundred vehicles before going bankrupt. The collected money was allegedly transferred outside Pakistan for the company’s other businesses. This put an utterly bad impression on the Kia brand since the after sales support was next to nothing.
Although the Kia Pride was a very good alternate to Suzuki Khyber and in terms of performance did quite well, but unfortunately due to the unavailability of spares and after sales service most of the vehicles went into a bad shape sooner than expected and the market value of these cars were deteriorated.
Kia Pride- The Re-Entry in Dewan Era
Dewan Farooque Motor Company Limited (DFML) was incorporated in December 1998. Despite the unpleasant experience of Kia vehicles in Pakistan, DFML made agreements with Hyundai and Kia to assemble and sell their vehicles in Pakistan.
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With this, the Kia Pride made its re-entry in Pakistan however this time it appeared in sedan form. Originally being a Pride B, it was rebadged as Kia Classic & was the first vehicle to roll off the DFML assembly lines in year 2000. It was powered by 1.3 liter Mazda B3 engine and came equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission.
It was a decent & practical subcompact sedan that was priced well but was unable to break into the competition. Although Kia Classic did well in its initial years but the success wasn’t sustained. By 2003 Dewan introduced a factory fitted CNG version & simply called as Kia NGV instead of using the Classic nameplate. According to PAMA stats, only 1,314 units were sold between 2003 and 2005 averaging under 400 units a year.
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Besides Dewan’s financial woes & everything else, greed is one of the core problems that has caused Kia as well as many other newcomers in the past to pack up & leave. Even when the sales were drastically low, the company kept pushing the prices up. And just because the market cars were available on own/ premium, the company created a false demand by charging outrageously high own money on Kia cars even when the sales were next to nothing.
I remember when I was looking to buy a new car back in 2005, I was seriously considering to go for Kia Classic due to its practicality (being a sedan) and assumed it would come cheaper than the rest of the available options in the market. Bear in mind at that time Kia production was already stopped and only unsold units were available at the dealerships. Upon my visit, the dealership was asking Rs 75,000 own (when 1$ was hardly Rs 60) for the base SX variant that came with black bumpers and like so many people, it made me simply walk away from the car.
What Happened to Kia Pride?
In international markets, the Pride was available till year 2000 before being succeeded by Kia Rio. However in some markets, Kia did use the Pride nameplate on the second generation Rio that was produced between 2005 and 2011.
Iranian automaker SAIPA came in relationship with Kia in 1993 and has built the Kia Pride in Iran under license as the SAIPA Pride till 2005 using up to 85% local parts. The Pride platform went on to spawn several SAIPA cars in Iran where approximately 40% of vehicles are Kia Pride-derived models.
The Kia Pride/ Classic were capable cars for sure, but somehow they never achieved the sort of success they deserved. Have you ever owned a Kia Pride or Classic/ NGV in Pakistan? Let us know with your comments regarding the overall ownership experience.
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com