Used 1998 Kia Sephia Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1998

The Sephia is totally redesigned for 1998.

Vehicle overview

The new Kia Sephia is bigger, stronger and more enticing than ever before. Two trim levels are now offered instead of the three last year, simplifying everything, but adding standard equipment in the process. Most notable is the new Kia-built engine, a 1.8-liter that delivers 125 horsepower to the front wheels. That engine powers both trim levels. The old RS designation is dropped, the LS becomes the top-of-the-line model and the old GS trim accessories are available as the Power Package option on the LS.

Based on the 1990-1994 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 many Americans, but Kias have actually 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 proved to be 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, 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 has been sending us small Fords, which consistently rank among the most reliable subcompact 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, remote trunk release, rear defogger, split-folding rear seat and fabric upholstery come standard. Dual airbags, a powerful engine, suspension work and styling tweaks make it look far more expensive than a car of this price has a right to. With base prices starting at less than $10,000, the Sephia offers better value than the Chevy Cavalier, Ford Escort, Chevy Prizm, Mercury Tracer 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 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 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.