Used 1996 Kia Sephia Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

Styling and suspension tweaks, dual airbags and new twin-cam motors appeared with the introduction of the 1995.5 Sephia. These improvements, along with interior revisions and improved equipment levels, make the Kia more competitive in the compact sedan marketplace. Sephia now meets 1997 side-impact standards, and GS models can be equipped with antilock brakes. Sephia comes with five-year/60,000-mile powertrain coverage.

Vehicle overview

Based on the previous generation platform of the Mazda Protege, and utilizing many Mazda components and technologies, the Kia Sephia is truly a compact sedan bargain. Kia is a new name to most Americans, but Kias have been cruising the highways of North America since mid-1987, when the Ford Festiva was introduced to showrooms on the West Coast. Also based on a Mazda design, the Festiva was assembled at Kia's assembly plant near Seoul, South Korea, and has gone on to become a reliable, inexpensive set of wheels. Currently, Kia produces the Ford Aspire.

The Sephia is a Korean product, but unfairly suffers the stigma attached to all autos from that country that says Korean cars are unreliable garbage. Thank Hyundai for that one, the first Korean automaker on U.S. soil, and Daewoo, who in 1988 unleashed a 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 has been sending us Ford Festivas, which consistently rank among the most reliable subcompact cars available.

So, we've determined that Kias are a step above other Korean cars; now the reasons you should buy one. Standard dual airbags, more powerful engines, suspension work and styling tweaks that make it look like a far more expensive car arrived in mid-1995. For 1996, GS models have antilock brakes as an option and the Sephia meets 1997 side-impact standards. With base prices starting at $9,000, the Sephia offers better value than the Ford Aspire, Ford Escort, Mercury Tracer, Hyundai Accent, Geo Metro, and Toyota Tercel, among others.

Those of you on the eastern side of the country have probably been wondering what the heck a Kia is. You'll be getting them soon. The company is expanding slowly, taking a cue 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 then test drive a Sephia. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.