The Sephia was one of the first cars produced by Kia for the American market. Though it was the Sport Utility Sportage which gave recognition to this Korean auto maker, the Sephia paved the way for Kia's entry to the American auto industry. Beforehand, Kia Motors had been producing the Ford Aspire minicar, derived from a Mazda design. Sephia debuted in Korea in 1992, and an export edition began dribbling in bit by bit into the U.S. late in 1993. Sales would take place initially only in 11 western states, and it would take several years for Kia Motors America to establish a nationwide dealer network.
Comparable in size and weight to a Hyundai Elantra, the front-drive notchback sedan sported an 88-horsepower, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard, and electronic 4-speed automatic optional. Neither an airbag nor antilock braking was available. Sephias passed the federal requirement for passive restraints with door-mounted automatic front seatbelts. Early units rode a 98.4-inch wheelbase and measured 170.7 inches long overall. Up until 2000, the front-drive Sephia would be the only Kia passenger car sold in the U.S., after the buy in of Hyundai of the Kia Motors, the Spectra was added to its sedan lineup soon after.
The Kia Sephia did not boast of new technological advances on their sedans, nor was it their intention. Their mission was to provide a competent alternative for the much clogged sedan segment, by offering a reliable and affordable sedan. Kia did not dilly-dally on superb performance because the sephia wasn't a sports car; basically it was a compact car that was marketed in the budgeted range. Sephias boast more interior space than many subcompacts, especially in back. Trunk space is also good. Except for the stereo, which was mounted low and had small, hard-to-use buttons, the early dashboard was well laid out.
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