BY ANDY ENRIGHT
If value counts for everything and getting a lot of metal for your money is a priority, it's difficult to do much better than a South East Asian car. Of the three major brands, Kia are probably the most affordable. The company has been making ever more sophisticated cars of late but the Shuma II isn't one of them. Still, if you like to keep things simple, the Shuma offers no nonsense transportation. Pick up an example that's a couple of years old and you'll have overcome the steepest part of the depreciation curve and your motoring will be so cheap you won't care that it doesn't wear a more illustrious badge on its bonnet.
Models Covered: (5 dr hatchback 1.6, 1.8 litre petrol [S, L, SX, LX, SE, ICE])
The Kia Shuma was launched in this country in September 1999, taking over from the virtually ignored Mentor. Unfortunately for Kia, the Shuma didn't really grab the public's imagination and Kia stepped in two years later with a set of revisions, dubbing the facelifted car the 'Shuma II'. Better equipped and safer than its predecessor at little appreciable increase in price, the Shuma II was only a moderate success. By the start of 2004, the Shuma range had been scaled back to one solitary model - the 1.6-litre Shuma ICE - in preparation for the arrival of the new Cerato.
What You Get
One thing is certainly beyond doubt. The Shuma II is a car that cares about the sanctity of your savings account. To put this into sharp relief, the Shuma II is a car that makes a Daewoo Nubira seem expensive and a Hyundai Elantra positively plutocratic. If you crave the most convincing value proposition, you're looking at it right here. That's not to say you won't spot where corners have been cut. Even in Korea there's no such thing as a free lunch and many of the interior fittings in the Shuma II are built from the same hard, thin plastics that European manufacturers gave up on at the start of the nineties. Nevertheless, Kia do manage to cram in a surprising array of standard equipment. What's particularly refreshing is the fact that some time appears to have been spent in considering what equipment should be fitted as standard and what should be left on the options list. Later versions such as the Shuma II ICE are supplied as standard with twin front airbags that are depowered to reduce injuries and anti lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, something which still resides on the Ford Focus options list. The Kia system automatically calculates how much cargo and how many passengers are aboard and directs the braking force accordingly. Buyers also get air-conditioning, electric windows all round, remote central locking, power and tilt adjustable steering and a height, tilt and lumbar adjustable driver's seat. There are some neat touches such as cup and bottle holders, autoroute toll ticket clips in the sun visors and a handy damped-action storage tray in the fascia. It would be an impressive showing at a sticker price £2,500 up on the Shuma II's. The Shuma's shape has been tidied up to admirable effect, the front headlamps of the Shuma II feature a dual scalloped shape not unlike the BMW 3 Series. The wheels still struggle to fill the arches, but the rear is the car's best angle, the neat bootlid design and big rear lights looking agreeably contemporary. If you were expecting something slightly clunky in appearance, think again. The Shuma II is no more or less attractive than a Mitsubishi Carisma or a Nissan Almera.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Make sure the car is in perfect condition. There's no reason why it shouldn't be, as it will be within warranty, but check for those parking knocks and scrapes that are easy to pick up in multi-storey car parks. The ventilation systems aren't too great, so make sure that it's working to its full capacity else demisting will be a chore in the morning. Otherwise insist on a full service record and contact a few franchised dealers to try to find the best bargain available.
(approx based on a 2003 Shuma II 1.6S) The Kia Shuma offers some of the cheapest parts prices around. A new clutch assembly retails at around £170, while front brake pads are around £30, with rear brake shoes only a few pence more. A new radiator is around £80 and an alternator an eminently reasonable £120. To replace a headlamp will see change from £80.
On the Road
On the road, anyone who did drive the old Mentor will find the ride and handling of the Shuma II a significant improvement, thanks to re-engineered suspension which brings a better ride, sharper handling characteristics and improved stability. The Koreans claim however, that the long distance comfort that was the saving grace of the old car has been preserved. Certainly, it's still predictable, safe and easy to drive, designed for those wanting to get from A to B as comfortably as possible, rather than driving enthusiasts. The 1.6-litre engine is a reasonably decent petrol unit, capable of 100bhp and an average fuel figure of 35.3mpg. It'll detain you for 11.3 seconds en route to 60mph and the top speed of 115mph is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Refinement is said to have improved, yet the car feels slightly buzzy with quite a lot of vibration coming up through the gear stick. Where the car suffers is in terms of emissions. It may be many things but it's not the car that cares for the environment. The 1.8-litre unit is worth going for if you plan on undertaking longer journeys, the additional 13bhp giving it a bit more zip.
The Kia Shuma II is a car that most people shopping for a cheap runaround will never have heard of. Although it's hardly cutting edge, if you can track down a decently specified model, it'll make a very respectable family hatch that can soak up a good deal of punishment. If buying a tired high-mileage Fiesta or Punto doesn't appeal, try a Shuma II. You might just surprise yourself.