But here comes the shock: the Shuma II, as a value for money proposition, is really rather good on many different levels. It is well-appointed, seems to be well built, all right to drive and looks perfectly handsome.
It doesn't excel in any area, but that is not the point. Every aspect of this car has to be balanced against how many pennies it costs.
And at £8,995 for the base L model to £11,850 for the top spec SE, the Shuma II is not to be sniffed at, for here is a car the size of a Toyota Avensis for the price of a Yaris.
Even on the cheapest model, Kia provides driver and passenger airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, and seatbelt pre-tensioners. The LX, at £10,350 on-the- road, is perhaps the best value of the three models. It gets a 1.8-litre engine, part-leather seats, spoiler, parking sensors, air conditioning and leather steering wheel on top of the kit mentioned above, which is a lot of car for the money.
The headlights of the car take some cues from the BMW 3-series, and the rear is sharp and clean. Between that, the Shuma II is bland like a Toyota Avensis, but not ugly.
From a fleet driver's point of view, the engines, built and designed by Kia, are hardly state-of-the-art and so are not good on CO2 emissions, but the low P11D price ensures that all cars are still very cheap for emissions-based benefit-in-kind tax.
The 1.6 manual L churns out 190g/km of CO2, putting it in the 20% band for 2002/2003. With a P11D price of £8,390, a 22% taxpayer would be charged £369 a year, barely £1 a day – a bargain for a car of its size.
The 1.8-litre manual emits 214g/km of CO2, putting it in the 24% band this year, which for the LX means £514 a year to pay, and for the SE, a tax bill of £594. The 1.8-litre automatic, with 232g/km of CO2, is too tax hefty to be considered seriously as a fleet car. Fuel consumption for the two models is just about adequate, at 35.3 mpg on the combined cycle for the 1.6 and 31.4mpg for the 113bhp 1.8-litre engine, which does 0-60mph in 9.7 seconds.
Behind the wheel
The Shuma II is a curious mix that takes some getting used to. I found the throttle response pretty sharp, and the steering was quick enough as well, which point to some moderately sporty pretensions.
But alongside these is an extremely wallowy suspension set-up, which meant that, in damp conditions at least, sharp turn in to a corner or a mini roundabout taken a little too quickly ended with bags of heavy understeer.
The tyres just could not keep up with the steering inputs, which made it fun in a 'motoring hack without a care in the world' way, but could cause a few scares to those who have to run the car on a day-to-day basis, and accidentally get a little careless. The gearshift is a long trip between all ratios, up and down and side to side, but at least it is light and quick, and the ABS brakes do an effective job of stopping the car as well.
Kia has done a lot of work to improve the sound deadening of the new car, and it is an improvement over the old model. It is still not brilliant, though, and is boomy at slow speeds, getting more sporty in tone the quicker you go.
The interior is decent. All the switches and knobs are clear and solid and the silvery effect dash that comes with the LX and SE is quite smart. The Shuma II doesn't feel like budget motoring much of the time, but the mask slips with the noisy engine, gearbox and handling.
Kia claim that similarly sized models with the same specification are around £4,000-£5,000 more expensive, so a fleet driver could have this or something like a Peugeot 206, which still would not have as much equipment on it. Verdict
If drivers need lots of space and don't care about badges and image, then why not have the Shuma II? Unfortunately, an awfully large amount of people do care about what little metal badge is stuck to their car's bonnet, but if Kia keeps going in this direction, the list of doubters will dwindle.