What's New for 2000
The Sephia has improved seat fabric, a new audio system and two new colors for 2000.
The current Kia is bigger, stronger and more enticing than ever before. Two trim levels are offered and both come equipped with a Kia-built 1.8-liter that delivers 125 horsepower to the front wheels. The LS is the top-of-the-line model and includes power steering, bodyside molding, rear heat ducts, a remote hatch/trunk release, a tachometer, 60/40 split folding rear seat and a passenger-side vanity mirror.
The Sephia is a Korean product, but unfairly suffers the stigma attached to all autos from that country, depicting Korean cars as unreliable garbage. Thank Hyundai for that image, the first Korean automaker on U.S. soil. And Daewoo, who in 1988 unleashed a reliability nightmare, called the Pontiac LeMans, on the American public. The crummy Hyundais are history and the LeMans died at the end of 1993. Meanwhile, Kia was sending us small Fords, called the Festiva, which consistently ranked among the most reliable compact cars available.
We've determined that Kias are a step above other Korean cars; now the reasons you should consider one. Base equipment levels are rather impressive; front and rear stabilizer bars, dual exterior mirrors, theft-deterrent system, rear defogger, remote fuel release, and fabric upholstery come standard. Dual airbags, a powerful engine, capable suspension and styling tweaks make it look more expensive than a car of this price has a right to look. Even build quality ranks high for a vehicle in this class. Slam any one of the four doors and you will be rewarded with an impressive "thunk" usually reserved for Hondas or Toyotas.
The Sephia is certainly not a performance car, despite its optional rear spoiler, but the 1.8-liter engine makes 108 ft-lbs. of torque. Combined with its 4.11 rear axle ratio, the little Kia scoots away from stoplights with authority, but doesn't generate much passing thrust at higher rpm where the engine makes more noise than horsepower. We also like to see Kia replace the Sephia's factory Hankook tires with a more respected brand that offers superior all-around performance.
Perhaps the Sephia's greatest strength lies in its roomy interior. With a truly usable rear seat, four adults can fit easily and five will manage as long as the rear-seat passengers are close friends. With base prices starting around $10,000, the Sephia offers better value than the Chevy Prizm, Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, among others.
The company is slowly expanding, taking a lesson from the massive expansion that Hyundai embarked upon in the late '80s, only to see sales and quality suffer in the early '90s. Kia doesn't want to have a poor image to overcome, so they are taking their time. Take yours, too, and test drive a Sephia. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised.