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DRIVEN: 2021 KIA Pegas brings big-car feel to the small sedan segment

2021 KIA Pegas

2021 KIA Pegas

Published Jun 15, 2021


JOHANNESBURG - We managed to get some seat time with Kia’s new Pegas compact sedan last week, and came away surprised at its driveability and flexibility.

It has more than enough space to satisfy a family of four and thanks to an energetic engine and transmission package, it doesn’t feel tiresome to drive or lethargic compared to some of the small sedans in this segment.

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Five reasons why you might want to consider a Pegas for the family if you’re looking for a new car:

2021 KIA Pegas

1) Small on the outside, big on the inside

Measuring 4 300mm in length, 1 700mm in width and 1 460mm in height, with a wheelbase of 2 570mm, the Pegas fits squarely among its key competitors, such as the Suzuki Dzire and Honda Amaze. It has a larger boot than most of them and thanks to it being a sedan, it comes in handy if you transport lots of luggage that needs to be kept out of sight of prying eyes.

The trunk is also lined with carpet, unlike some of its competitors, which reduces noise in the cabin. Kia says the rear seat will fold, but the batch that we drove on launch didn’t offer this function, which can come in very handy if you load larger items such as flat-pack furniture.

In terms of passenger space, there’s plenty of room for up to four adults but it’s a space that’s well-suited to two adults and two kids. Children will have no issues with claustrophobia on long journeys as you can space out their ISOFIX seats nicely and thanks to large windows, the view from the cabin is a pleasure.

2021 KIA Pegas

2) So easy to drive, even with a manual gearbox

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We all know that the world has turned its back on the manual transmission as more and more consumers switch to automatic gearboxes, but it’s refreshing and pleasing to drive a compact car with a nice manual gearbox that’s easy to row and accurate with nicely spaced ratios. First, second and third gears give you more than enough oomph to make haste from traffic lights while fourth and fifth give you a nice amount of flexibility on the highway when cruising at the national limit.

As I was one-up in the vehicle, due to observing strict Covid-19 protocols, I didn’t really get to feel the performance with passengers in it, but I can tell you that the engine works well with the manual gearbox. There’s enough torque pick-up low in the rev range, so that you don’t have to wring its neck every time you want to overtake.

The engine, by the way, is the familiar 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated petrol unit that Kia’s been fitting to most of its compacts since 2018. It feels amazing to rev out if that’s your thing. It’s no sports car by any means, but with 69kW and 132Nm on tap, you’ll be surprised when you take one for a test drive. I’d also urge you to drive the others in this class, the Amaze and the Dzire in particular, so you can feel the difference that a few more cubic centimetres make under the hood.

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2021 KIA Pegas

3) Comfortable enough to take on long journeys

Our launch route was not pre-determined, so I was able to take the Pegas on my usual jaunt along the N1 towards Pretoria and then I hooked north-west towards the Hartbeespoort Dam for a quick loop back around the Cradle of Humankind. I usually use the route for high-performance cars and grand touring vehicles. My mind was blown at how capable and comforting the car was on this route.

Point to point, it’s not going to set any hearts alight, but once you get comfy in the slender seats and you sink in with a good song (via Apple Music or whatever your preferred provider thanks to CarPlay), the journey becomes very relaxing.

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There’s no fancy suspension system; it’s the tried-and-tested Kia torsion beam at the rear but, thanks to years of refinement (it was originally launched in global markets in 2018), the car rides well on broken surfaces and undulations. I was especially pleased with its stability at the national limit of 120km/h and under braking with very little in the way of rear-end shimmy under hard brake loads.

It’s a relaxing, confidence-inspiring drive that won’t vibrate you or give you headaches due to dazzling mirrors or buzzing trim pieces on the inside. It feels solid and well put together. It is a reminder of the quality that goes into Kia products, regardless of whether it’s an entry-level car or a range-topper such as the Sorento.

2021 KIA Pegas

4) Packed with features that you want

The big news in the Pegas world is the addition of smartphone connectivity in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. I tried out CarPlay and it worked a treat as I was able to stream music without any glitches. I did struggle with the 4G signal out towards the Cradle, but I switched to a downloaded playlist and the system worked seamlessly.

It was also nice to have WhatsApp support, as the car will read your messages to you and you will be able to reply with voice input, never having to touch or look at your phone while driving. I haven’t tried apps such as Signal on CarPlay yet, but I find that WhatsApp for messaging and Apply Music and Spotify work best. It’s nice to have the system in the Pegas as its competitors come with old-fashioned systems that are a nightmare to pair your phone with sometimes.

Other nifty treats that you will appreciate in the Pegas include a reversing camera with a nice clear resolution and rear park PDCs to ensure you don’t scrape its bumper in tight parking spaces.

You also get remote central locking, electric windows all around, anti-lock brakes and a couple of airbags. An electronic stability programme would have been a nice addition, but that’s not something you see very often in this class of car. However, the addition of disc brakes all around and electronic brakeforce distribution does give you decent stopping power.

2021 KIA Pegas

5) Still better than an entry-level SUV

There’s no arguing that SUVs are the future as cars become electric and the premium segment vehicles evolve further, but it’s this entry-level segment that will remain the bread and butter for most manufacturers in South Africa.

Moreover, it’s not as if SUVs are being given away for free, as they are generally more expensive than sedan counterparts. This Pegas then makes a great play as a first new car or as an upgrade from a compact hatchback if your family has recently grown.

I like the car’s styling, which enables you to blend in, and the interior treatment that is not too future-forward that you don’t know where to find critical controls such as air-con switches. The ergonomics in general work well, and the centrally located electric window switches add charm and, overall, ticks too many “right” boxes to be ignored.

Kia is adamant that the Pegas is not just for taxi cabs and Ubers. I agree. It's a decent family car that offers good poke, with sub 7l/100km fuel consumption and with no fancy engineering items that can go catastrophically wrong.

I’m keen to assess the automatic, with its 4-speed auto box, instead of CVT, as it might be an even better daily family car. If you’re in the market for something new and you don’t want to break the bank, give this little Pegas a twirl and you might end up signing up for one.

2021 KIA Pegas


KIA Pegas 1.4 LX Manual - R225 995

KIA Pegas 1.4 EX Manual - R236 995

KIA Pegas 1.4 EX Auto - R251 995

All KIA Pegas vehicles come with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre mechanical warranty and five-year roadside assistance plan as well as a four-year/60 000km service plan with Service Intervals pegged at every 15 000km.

2021 KIA Pegas