The Kia Sephia is known for being the first car to be sold in the United States under the Kia name. This Korean auto manufacturer used what was believed to be a brilliant marketing strategy—launching the Sephia in western America, one region at a time. Over the years, it just gradually expanded across the nation.
Wondering where Kia got the name Sephia? It’s actually an acronym for style, elegant, powerful, high-tech, ideal, and auto. Despite having these “SEPHIA” qualities, this vehicle model was sold at a reasonably low price. It was slotted in the compact economy car segment and aimed for families or first-time buyers who are on a budget.
1992 - 1997: Generation I Kia Sephia
The first-generation Sephia was introduced in 2002 as replacement for the Kia Capital. It initially came as a sedan powered by standard B-series engines, with 1.5L engine at 79 hp or 1.6L engine at 105 hp. Three trim levels were offered and only the highest trim got power features. Air conditioning was offered as an option across all trims. And since it was made to offer a cheap mode of transportation, its first year in the market proved to be successful, with more than 100,000 units sold.
Sales in the United States started in 1993 for the 1994 model year, making the Sephia the first Kia to be ever exported to the American market. For 1995, the said model came with restyled grilles and tail lights, and the engine for all the units marketed in the US, except for California, was upgraded to 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder BP engine. In the spring of 1994, Kia Sephia was unveiled in Europe as the Kia Mentor.
1998 - 2003: Generation II Kia Sephia
The second-generation Sephia was offered as a four-door sedan and five-door liftback and powered by either a DOHC 1.5-liter or the new DOHC 1.8-liter engine. While Kia teamed up with Mazda, Sephia’s chassis design was proudly all-Kia made. This new generation of Sephia was produced in Egypt, South Korea, as well as in Russia. In Australia, the 2nd-gen sedan and liftback were sold as the “Mentor”.
In North America, the 2nd-gen Sephia sedan arrived in 1997 for the 1998 model year. By the time this nameplate retired in South Korea in 2000, the U.S. version received the liftback variant. However, it was marketed under the name “Kia Spectra”. The Sephia and the Spectra were sold alongside each other until 2001, when the latter became a separate model with its won 2.0-liter, 135-hp version of Sephia’s T8D 1.8 liter engine. Even when Kia shut down the production of Kia Sephia in 2003, its sibling, the Spectra, remained in production until the year 2009.