Cars > Peek

The Kia Ray city car is nice, but can we really afford it?

It’s an intriguing product, but can it be priced competitively?

Like a freezer on wheels. And we’re okay with it. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

During our media trip for the Kia Seltos in South Korea, our hosts brought us to Beat 360, the Korean automaker’s brand experience facility located in Seoul. The one car that caught our (and everyone else’s) attention at the venue was a small urban car called the Ray. Now, this vehicle isn’t exactly new; it was launched in 2011 but received a cosmetic makeover in 2018.

The Ray received a revised face for 2018. Cleaner. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

Measuring 3,595mm long, 1,595mm wide and 1,700mm tall, the Ray is more compact than the Nissan Cube. Powered by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine, it reminds us of those cute Japanese kei cars that appear to have anthropomorphic attributes.

The Ray has an electric version, but this one has a 1.0-liter three-cylinder petrol engine. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Obviously, its squarish and admittedly quirky styling isn’t for everyone. But with youthful design elements inside and out, it should be a hit among city dwellers who are single and always on the go.

Do not buy this if you’re older than 40. Kidding. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

Perhaps its most unique feature is its pair of second-row doors: The one on the driver’s side conventionally swings out to open, while the one on the other side is the sliding type.

The rear doors do not open the same way. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

We imagine this car appealing to people who hate blending in—those who tend to be attracted to the likes of the Kia Soul and the Nissan Juke.

Prepare to be stared at when you drive this car. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

And since the Ray is a car offered to the Korean domestic market, it is left-hand-drive. Which begs the question: Can Kia Philippines bring it in? Hasn’t the distributor at least thought of importing it? The answer, in a nutshell, is that the company is intrigued, because the car is indeed interesting. If nothing else, it is a conversation starter.

But to introduce the Ray to Filipino buyers, it is always wise to ask what they’ll gladly shell out for a car like this. And so, earlier today, we asked that very question to our readers. Most everyone’s reply? About P500,000 (or even P400,000).

The Korean-market Ray is also left-hand-drive. Perfect for our potholed roads, we guess. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

Unfortunately, two Kia Philippines executives who were with us at Beat 360—sales director Jun Cajayon and product planning head Josh Altarejos—told us that the Ray would cost “upwards of P900,000” (especially if it is to be decently equipped). That’s almost double what a typical Pinoy car buyer would want to spend on this specific model.

Even car guys aren’t ashamed to show their fondness for this car. Cool people get it. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

The Kia Ray shows the perennial disconnect between what we want and what we’re willing to pay for it. Which is a shame, because the car seems like a solid product. You should see how everyone just gravitates toward it. But we tend to associate “small” with “cheap.” Having been able to inspect this vehicle in the metal, we can definitely say it commands a premium. Then again, nothing beats affordability. So if Kia Philippines can somehow slash the projected pricing further, we think the Ray stands a chance in our market. We’d take it over our vanilla hatchbacks, for sure.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist for 26 years. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.