What's New for 2001
The 2001 Sephia features new safety items such as child seat anchors, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and an emergency internal trunk release. Changes for the 2001 model year also include dual visor vanity mirrors, a coin tray and a gas-cap tether.
The Kia Sephia is proving itself a contender in the compact sedan market, greatly aided by its extreme affordability. Two trim levels are offered and both come equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 125 horsepower to the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission. A responsive four-speed automatic is optional.
Base equipment on the Sephia includes power steering, four-wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, wheel covers, dual exterior mirrors, theft-deterrent system, rear defogger, cassette stereo, 60/40 split-folding rear seat and fabric upholstery. The upgraded LS adds air conditioning, power windows and door locks, bodyside moldings, tilt steering wheel and a driver's seat cushion tilt feature. Buyers can add wood grain dash appliques, a rear spoiler and floor mats to any Sephia, but goodies like cruise control, alloy wheels, power mirrors and ABS are limited to the more expensive LS.
Upscale styling tweaks make Sephia appear more expensive than a car this cheap has a right to look. Even build quality ranks high for a vehicle in this class, based upon our experience. Slam any one of the four doors and you will be rewarded with an impressive "thunk" usually reserved for Hondas and Toyotas. Oddly, however, Kia often scores well below average in terms of initial quality according to J.D. Power and Associates, as reported by owners of the car.
The Sephia is certainly not a performance car, despite its optional rear spoiler, but the motor makes a decent 108 ft-lbs. of torque. This allows the 2,500-pound Sephia to scoot away from stoplights with authority, but the engine doesn't generate much passing thrust at higher rpms where the engine makes more racket than power.
Boasting a capable, Lotus-tuned suspension, Sephia is severely hampered by cheap original equipment tires, which are noisy and make for sloppy handling in the twisties. The front disc/rear drum brakes, available with ABS on LS models, won't help in this regard, proving weak and generally ineffective with lousy pedal feel.
Perhaps the Sephia's greatest strength, aside from a low price and extensive warranty package, lies in its roomy interior, which, according to Kia, is larger than the 2000 Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, among others. With a truly useable rear seat, four adults can fit with a minimum of contortion.
Sephia offers better up front, out-of-pocket value than many competitors. The new Kia Long Haul Warranty Program helps this value equation. It consists of a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty, a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty (which protects against holes in the body caused by rust) and a five-year, unlimited mileage roadside assistance plan.
But, is that enough to sway buyers? Unimpressive mechanicals and a bad rep for quality will, for some penny-pinching consumers, be offset by the low price and great warranty. The Sephia would never be called a great car, but for some, it might prove to be a good bargain.