Kia Motors launched the Kia Pregio in 1996 and retired it in 2006. It was based off of the Kia Bongo, which has had a long history from 1980 through the present. Specifically, the Kia Bongo was a ute that added a rear-wheel drive van version from 1996 until 2003. The Bongo Frontier, known as Pregio in Australia and Besta in some other markets, was notable for being the first real-wheel-drive car produced by Kia Motors.
For a while, the Kia Pregio was placed in the range between its larger cousin, the massive eight-seating Kia Carnival, and the Kia Carens seven-seating people mover. There was a long-wheelbase model of the Kia Pregio that was dubbed Kia Pregio Grand, resembling the nomenclature used for the Kia Grand Carnival. The original Kia Pregio was updated three times, in 1998, 2000, and 2002, followed by a second-generation Pregio that was launched in the year 2003 and was retired in 2006.
By 2006, Kia saw that it needed room for its Kia Carnival, which was a similar size and featured short wheelbase and front-wheel drive. This massive minivan was a wildly successful people mover that began as a long wheelbase-only option, but came to be available in both long and short wheelbases. This made the Kia Pregio less competitive within the Kia range.
Even so, the Kia Pregio fills a niche in the commercial van market in Australia. Perfect for tradesmen, the Kia Pregio is a diesel-powered van seating three, with plenty of space for a tonne of cargo. As a cheaper option, it wasn’t as fully featured as competitors, but it was good for allowing people to get an affordable entry-level van.
While the vehicle was of good quality overall, its engine power was clearly not the best in its class. The Kia Pregio could be slow to get going, indicating that the engine was somewhat underpowered for the class of vehicle. Still, with a diesel engine, the Pregio could hold its own and lug around some pretty massive loads.
The initial 1996 Kia Pregio had a 4-cylinder 2.7L diesel engine with 61.9kW of power and 172Nm of torque, and this didn’t change through the 2006 Kia Pregio, which came with 62kW of power, 172Nm of torque, and a fuel economy of 9.2L/100km. All of the models came standard with a 5-speed manual transmission.
While the van would have benefitted from a turbo engine, the car’s longevity and durability were certainly positive factors. Also on the positive side, the torque is produced at only 2400 rpm, so it can maintain fuel efficiency even with the heaviest loads, which means better fuel economy for you and better CO2 emissions for the environment.
The 1996 Kia Pregio came standard with rear-wheel drive, a 2.7-litre diesel engine, air conditioning, a CD player, power steering, power windows, remote central locking, a removable load barrier, lined cargo area, and seating for 3 people. It came in a variety of body styles, including two-door, three-door, and four-door vans. There were options for a short wheelbase and long wheelbase, but equipment didn’t vary much.
Also standard in each model of the Kia Pregio was a 5-speed manual transmission. Models in the second generation, beginning in 2003, saw some minor adjustments, but nothing major under the bonnet. The Kia Pregio was replaced by the Kia Grand Carnival, which had more flexibility in equipment and performance options.
The Kia Pregio was eventually superseded by Kia’s own Grand Carnival people mover. The Grand Carnival didn’t feature a diesel engine until 2009, so if that’s important to you, you should look for a Kia Pregio instead. Other options include the Toyota Tarago, which was almost as popular in Australia as the Kia Grand Carnival. Despite the fact that they’re both commercial vans with diesel engines, it’s difficult to compare the Pregio to the Tarago because of the price difference.
The Pregio pretended to be nothing but a reasonably good entry-level commercial van. For those who want an affordable van that gets the job done, there really isn’t a lot of competition for the Kia Pregio at its price point. For those who are looking for something more fully featured, or with greater performance, there are plenty of vans like the Hyundai H-1 or the VW Multivan. There are a number of popular vans and people mover alternatives, but it’s hard to find the value of the Kia Pregio at its second-hand price.