AFTER SPENDING three weeks in Spain with the Kia Magentis 2.0 diesel it was finally time to return to the UK. I've driven all the way down to my Spanish village twice before: once in a pre-launch, top of the range Rover 75 and once in a £50,000 Lexus LS430. But nobody there, either Spanish or British, ever showed any interest in either of these cars, whereas several people admired the Kia, asked what it was and how much it cost. I don't know whether that means people in my village are weird, or perhaps they could see that the car was more in their price range.

Driving around Andalucia I tried to see it as they did; parked outside various roadside restaurants and cafés, I would sit at the bar with the school bus and tanker drivers as they had their mid-morning triple brandy and look at the car through the window.

The Magentis actually did appear rather good out there on the hot forecourt. The Korean manufacturers, having foresworn the baroque styling excesses of some of their earlier models, have produced a fairly harmonious-looking 5-series sized car, with hints of Mercedes and Mondeo in the mix.

I began to imagine myself as a Kia owner, not the sort of fashion-obsessed ninny who owns, as I do, an Alfa 166 with a weird, light-blue experimental paint job but instead an honest sort, a farmer or a small shopkeeper say, who having to spend their own money on a vehicle, wants something plain and reliable. I could see myself being that kind of person.

This time, rather than drive the whole way we decided to take the ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth. The trip to the Basque port takes about nine hours and the interior of the Kia, though rather grey and plain-looking, seems well put together and a long drive isn't a daunting prospect. So as I locked the door of my house and got into the driver's seat, I was looking forward to the trip north.

Attached to the eaves of my house in Spain is a nest of swifts: each year they return from North Africa to have their babies. This year there are three fledglings and I have named each of them after a policeman played in a TV series by the Scottish actor Ken Stott. "Good morning Rebus," I would say to them as they swooped above me. "Good morning Red," and "Good morning That Bloke out of 'The Vice' or was it 'The Knock'?"

As I drove along the single track road that leads out of our village heading for the ferry many swifts including Red, Rebus and That Bloke out of 'The Vice' or was it 'The Knock'? dove in front of the car escorting us on the first kilometre back to England. I felt like some evil magician who has a pack of trained monkey bats ready to do their bidding but I don't think that sort of person would drive a Kia Magentis.

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