Kia Sephia

The compact four-door Kia Sephia derives its unusual name from an acronym using the first letters of these words: Style, Elegant, Powerful, High-tech, Ideal, and Auto.

More on the Kia Sephia
Kia Sephia Origins

Despite the fact that Kia eventually became well-known for its better compact sport utility minivans, the subcompact Sephia hit the market first. Launched in 1992, the Sephia arrived in the U.S. a year later with sales seeping in as Kias only sold in 11 western states.

Borrowing components from Mazda and offering consumers an affordable alternative to the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Escort, the Sephia originally received very favorable reviews for its low cost and fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, complaint issues involving vehicle performance, a noisy ride, and the poor location of dashboard controls sideline the Sephia.

Following an acceptable run of almost a dozen years in production, Kia discontinued the Sephia worldwide in 2004, having already replaced it in name three years prior with the Spectra.

About the Kia Sephia

Following the Kia Sephia’s rough start in its first year in the United States, things leveled out some for the Korean compact by 1995. Kia offers this model in three distinct trim choices: the base LS, mid-level RS, and upscale GS.

Power options include a 1.6-liter or 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine delivering a scant 88 horsepower. But, in terms of its fuel economy, few competitors can match its 33 mpg in the city or out on the open road. While Sephia’s strength under the hood never significantly improved, its fuel rating remained strong, with this Kia model never dropping below 30 mpg until well into its run.

Vehicle reliability proved a troublesome aspect for virtually all the Sephia models from 1994 until roughly 2000, with driver complaints ranging from the premature wearing down of brake pads to difficulty starting the car or stalling, which experts believe can be traced to a faulty crankshaft sensor on 1.8-liter engines.

The Sephia’s cost-effectiveness also offers a major benefit to drivers. The brand new models hover between $10,000 and $15,000. These days, a used Kia Sephia can be purchased for roughly 20 percent of that total, or about $2,000 to $3,000.

Kia Sephia Features

By the time its farewell model rolled off the assemblage, the 2004 Kia Sephia had different names in different countries, including the Mentor, Schuma, and Spectra. Discontinued in the U.S. in 2001, but living on elsewhere, the 2004 Sephia contains a 124 horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine teamed with a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic transmission. It has a fuel economy of 21/31 mpg city/highway.

With a conservatively designed exterior, the Kia Sephia shares much in common with its sedan contemporaries in terms of body style and size, measuring 55.7 inches tall and 177.6 inches in length, with a 100.8-inch wheelbase. Available in both a sedan (LS) and hatchback (GS and GSX) trims, the Sephia comes with front cabin bucket seats for a passenger capacity of five. There’s even more space options thanks to the hatchback’s folding backseat, which affords an additional 12 cubic feet of room.

The LS sedan model offers several features absent on the less-expensive base model: all-cloth seats, a tilting steering column, a fold-down tilt feature for the driver’s seat, and a 60/40-split rear seatback. With the optional Power Package, the LS sedan includes cruise control, air-conditioning, and power mirrors, locks, and windows. In terms of trunk space, the sedan totals approximately 10.5 cubic feet. Additional amenities left over from the 2003 include body side molding, an illuminated ignition switch, and a stereo/CD player.

Current Kelly Bluebook pricing places a 2004 Sephia between $5,000 and $6,000.

Kia Sephia Evolution

With 1995’s three elective trim versions (RS, GS, and LS) the Kia Sephia gains a much needed optional anti-lock braking system. The following year, that same safety feature became standard across the board, with dual airbags, and two engine options: a 1.6-liter producing 105 horsepower or the slightly stronger 1.8-liter with 122 horsepower. Both are dual-camshaft, four-cylinder engines. Standard equipment includes tinted glass, a rear window defogger, dual outside mirrors, a split folding rear seat, as well as reclining front bucket seats for more passenger comfort. Air-conditioning also comes standard on the GS but only as an option on the LS and RS models.

Two years later, in 1998, Kia introduced an improved power package as an option for the LS model, and the model received an in-house facelift, becoming a four-door sedan/five-door liftback. In 2000, additional standard equipment improved the base model, such as a fold-down back seat, power steering, and an AM/FM cassette player. The most welcomed change for car consumers occurred in 2001 when Kia launched its 10 year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

2002 saw the first true redesign of the Kia Sephia with efforts to combat prior driver objections by making the interior cabin quieter during travel. The 2003 model offers the top design in terms of overall vehicular improvements; some noticeable changes include decreased road noise, rear window wipers, a CD player, and an illuminated ignition switch.

Despite efforts to make the Kia Sephia a more noticeable player in its class, production ceased altogether by 2004.

Select a Kia Sephia Year

2001 Kia Sephia

Compact, Sedan

2000 Kia Sephia

Compact, Sedan

The 2000 Kia Sephia has to live with the stigma created by other Korean car brands.

1999 Kia Sephia

Compact, Sedan

Kia is Korea's major playing for car manufacturing.

1998 Kia Sephia

Compact, Sedan

The Kia Sephia is a vehicle developed to get a driver from point A to point B as economically as possible.

1997 Kia Sephia

Compact, Sedan

The 1997 Kia Sephia is a vehicle developed to get the driver from point A to point B as economically as possible.

1996 Kia Sephia

Compact, Sedan

The 1996 Kia Sephia is an entry-level vehicle based on the Mazda Familia design.

1995 Kia Sephia

Compact, Sedan

The 1995 Kia Sephia provides a bargain-priced vehicle based on the Mazda Familiar.