Kia Sephia

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Kia Sephia
02-04 Kia Spectra hatch front.jpg
Manufacturer Kia Motors
Production September 1992–2003
Body and chassis
Class Compact car (C)
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Predecessor Kia Capital / Kia Concord
Successor Kia Cerato / Kia Forte

The Kia Sephia is a compact car that was manufactured by the South Korean automaker Kia Motors from September 1992 to 2003.

The first generation Sephia was badged Kia Mentor in some markets, and as the Timor S515/S516 in Indonesia. This convention continued on with the second generation version, which was also badged Kia Shuma and Kia Spectra.

First generation (1992–1997)

First generation
1997 Kia Mentor GLX hatchback (2015-07-09) 01.jpg
Also called Kia Mentor
Timor S515/S516 (Indonesia)
Production September 1992–1997
Assembly South Korea: Hwaseong (Hwaseong Plant)
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
5-door hatchback
Related Mazda Familia (BG)
  • 5-speed manual
  • 4-speed F4A-EL automatic
Wheelbase 2,500 mm (98.4 in)
Length 4,360 mm (171.7 in)
Width 1,695 mm (66.7 in)
Height 1,390 mm (54.7 in)

The first-generation Kia Sephia is the first car that was actually designed by Kia with their own chassis.[1] Engines available were the B-series engines, with the 1.5-liter rated at 59 kilowatts (79 hp), the 1.6-liter 78-kilowatt (105 hp), and the 1.8-liter BP engine at 91-kilowatt (122 hp) from 1994. The car was presented in September 1992 to replace the aging Capital, which was rapidly losing market share. The Sephia proved quite successful, selling over 100,000 in its first full year in the home market (1993).[2] A total of 472,920 Sephias were sold over the life of the original Sephia.[3]

In the United States, sales began in late 1993 for the 1994 model year. This was the first Kia to be exported to the US. An update came in the 1995 model year when grilles and taillights were restyled and all US-market Sephias except California-market RS/LS models got upgraded to the new 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder BP engine as used in the Mazda Familia (BG). Kia licensed the engine design from Mazda, but manufactured it themselves.

It was launched in Europe in the spring of 1994 as the Kia Sephia in some markets and in others, including the United Kingdom, as the Kia Mentor. It was similar in size to best-selling European small family cars like the Ford Escort, but was priced similarly to smaller cars like the Ford Fiesta. Its key rivals in Europe were budget-priced Eastern European and Far Eastern imported products including the Daewoo Nexia, Hyundai Accent, Proton Persona and Skoda Felicia. In Brazil, the car went on the market in March 1994. It was only offered with the 1.5-liter twin cam engine with 112 PS (82 kW) and was considered a competitor to the domestically built Chevrolet Omega and Volkswagen Santana.[4] To make a car suitable for the Brazilian market, Kia went through the trouble of studying Brazilian road surfacing and importing 1,000 litres (260 US gal) of Brazilian gasoline to properly program the engine management.[4]

Kia presented a conceptual convertible version of the first generation Sephia, which was named "Kia Sephia Cabrio" at some auto shows.

Timor S515/S516

The Sephia-derived "Timor" was meant to become the national car of Indonesia, and was sold there in the mid-1990s.[5] It was intended fill a role similar to that of Malaysia's Proton Perdana, and as such was exempt from taxes and duties levied on other cars sold in the country. The full name of the company was "PT Timor Putra Nasional" (TPN), literally meaning "Timor, National Son" in Indonesian. The patriotic name was meant to remind Indonesians of the importance of East Timor.

Timor S515

The Timor range consisted of the "S515" (SOHC carburetted), "S515i" (DOHC, fuel injected), and "S516i LE" (sports-oriented limited edition, licensed by Prodrive). Timor had plans in place for an "SW516i" station wagon and a "SL516i" limousine, but these projects never eventuated. But some very limited numbers of "SW516i" station wagons were actually manufactured by "New Armada" a local car body manufacturer based in Magelang, Central Java. This item is now considered rare and highly priced by the car enthusiasts. Between June 1996 and July 1997, 39,715 Kias were imported and sold as "Timors". Escaping import tax, luxury tax, and an import surcharge meant that the Timor was sold at half the price of a comparable Toyota Corolla. Meanwhile, the planned factory in Cikampek was to be built with money lent by state-owned banks.[6]

The Timor itself proved controversial, because unlike the Proton Saga, it was not assembled in Indonesia when first released. Instead, it was imported completely built-up from South Korea, to the annoyance of companies like Toyota, which had undergone considerable expenses to produce vehicles in Indonesia. The Timor, in return for promising future exports and 60 percent local content within three years of starting production in Indonesia, avoided the taxes and duties that added 60 percent to the price of other imported cars. This cozy deal led to accusations of nepotism and cronyism, as the project was the brainchild of Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the youngest son of the then President Suharto. A welter of complaints followed, particularly from the Japanese automakers who controlled 90% of the Indonesian automobile market at the time.[2] The threat of a WTO lawsuit followed.[5] 45,000 cars a year were planned,[5] but with the Asian financial crisis in 1997 came the collapse of Kia. Combined with the May 1998 demise of the Suharto regime, the Timor project was abandoned. By early 1998, 15,000 out of the nearly 40,000 Kias imported were still sitting unsold in Jakarta[7]—only 2,493 units were sold in 1998 as people wanted to distance themselves from the hated Suharto regime. During the May 1998 riots in Java, Timor owners would remove the "T" logos in the hope that they would not be targeted by protesters.[8]

In 2000, Kia considered reviving the Timor by restructuring Timor Putra Nasional.[9] Kia finished the Cikampek factory and began CKD assembly of the Sephia II there in August 2000, but as "Kia Mobil Indonesia" (KMI) instead. Kia also took over some of the debts incurred by the Timor project.[10]

Timor had also planned to build the Kia Sportage as the Timor J520i, but between the looming WTO lawsuit and the collapse of Kia and the Suharto regime this never materialized.[11] The controversy also led to the cancellation of Indonesian Government's own national car project, the Zagato-designed "M3 Maleo" (Mobil Murah Masyarakat Maleo).[12] This had been a joint venture between Konsorsium Mobil Indonesia (Indonesian Car Consortium), Millard Design and Orbital Engineering (Australia).

Second generation (1997–2003)

Second generation
Also called Kia Mentor
Kia Shuma
Kia Spectra
Production 1997–2003
1997–2004 (export)
Assembly South Korea: Hwaseong (Hwaseong Plant)
Egypt: Cairo (AAV)
Indonesia: Cikampek
Malaysia: Gurun (NAM)
Malaysia: Pekan (AMM)
Russia: Izhevsk (IzhAvto)
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
5-door liftback
  • 1.5 L B5-DE I4 (gasoline)
  • 1.6 L B6 I4 (gasoline)
  • 1.8 L T8D I4 (gasoline)
  • 4-speed F4A-EL automatic
  • 5-speed G5M manual
Wheelbase 2,560 mm (100.8 in)
Length Sedan (1997): 4,530 mm (178.3 in)
Sedan (2001): 4,510 mm (177.6 in)
Liftback: 4,525 mm (178.1 in)
Width Sedan: 1,700 mm (66.9 in)
Liftback: 1,725 mm (67.9 in)
Height Sedan: 1,410 mm (55.5 in)
Liftback: 1,425 mm (56.1 in)

In 1997, the Sephia was completely redesigned as a four-door sedan and five-door liftback, this time in-house by Kia itself with help from Mazda. Kia used a DOHC 1.5-liter and its own new DOHC 1.8-liter engine (the T8D engine, originally developed for the Kia Elan) and an improved air conditioning system. In South Korea, the Sephia label was retired in 2000 and replaced by the Spectra. The Sephia production totals were 628,168.[2]

The North American market received the Sephia sedan for the 1998 model year. For the 2000 model year, the liftback variant was launched, sold under the name "Kia Spectra". The Sephia (sedan) and Spectra (liftback) continued to be sold alongside one another until the 2002 model year updates were introduced. As part of this update, both body variants were facelifted, and the range was rationalized under the single "Kia Spectra" name. Three trim levels were available in the US: an entry level "S", slightly upgraded "GS", and the top-of-the-range "GSX".

Arab American Vehicles (AAV) manufactured the Spectra in Cairo, Egypt, circa 2002.[13] In Russia production of the Spectra continued until 2011,[14] produced by Izh-Avto. The Spectra liftback was also assembled in Malaysia between 2001 and 2010. Production began at the HICOM AMM plant in Pekan, and was later transferred to Naza's NAM plant in Gurun.[15]


The second generation Sephia sedan and liftback were badged "Mentor" in Australia[16] when released in May 1998.[17] Kia offered an entry-level "SLX" with the 1.5-liter inline-four engine, standard with five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic, and equipped with power steering, air conditioning, and cloth trim.[16] The higher-specification "GLX" added central locking, power windows and mirrors, more upmarket trim, plus the option of the larger 1.8-liter engine on the liftback variant.[16][18]

From June 2000,[17] following the change of distributor in Australia to Ateco,[16] Kia discontinued the sedan variant and rebadged the liftback "Shuma".[19] Along with the sedan, Kia dispensed with the 1.5-liter engine and SLX/GLX model identifiers.[19] In their place, Kia offered an entry-level "Shuma" and a limited edition "Shuma FX", which added alloy wheels, central locking, power windows and mirrors, improved audio and higher-grade trim to the base model's air-conditioning and power steering.[19] The Shuma also benefited from a minor facelift, which changed the tail-lamp lenses, wheels and interior trimmings.

When the car was facelifted once more in May 2001,[16] Kia rebranded it once more to "Spectra".[20] This update brought redesigned headlights, a new front bumper, adjustments to suspension calibration, and an overhauled four-speed automatic.[20] Equipment-wise, the single-specification "LS" offered a driver's airbag, seatbelt pretensioners and immobiliser were added, along with standard powered mirrors and windows and a host of minor trim upgrades.[20][21] Kia Australia discontinued the Spectra in 2004.[20]

Other versions

Latin America (LD; 2003–2005)

Although the Sephia's successor, the Kia Cerato, was released in 2003, this replacement vehicle was still named Sephia for Latin America until 2005,[citation needed] when it was discontinued in favor of the name Spectra, as used in North America.[citation needed]

Sephia Taxi (DC; 2003–2005)

Some models of the first generation Kia Rio, were sold in certain countries of South America, such like Colombia, as "Sephia Taxi" already prepared with the legal requirements to work as Taxi cabs, including the yellow body paint. The Sephia Taxi came with the smaller displacement engine for that body (1.4-liter) and manual transmission.

Sephia Taxi (JB; 2005–2011)

Kia Sephia Taxi (JB)

The second generation Kia Rio also sold in certain countries of South America as "Sephia Taxi".

Grand Sephia (RD; 2008–2012)

Kia Grand Sephia Taxi (TD)

Some models of the Kia Forte, were also prepared to be sold as Taxi cabs for certain countries of Latin America. The Grand Sephia has the smaller displacement engine available for that body (1.6-liter), and manual transmission.


  1. ^ 서인경 (23 September 1992). "기아자동차 세피아 발표회". 매일경제. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Limb, Jae-un (12 July 2010). "Blast From the Past #26: First Korean car produced in Indonesia". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  3. ^ "기아차, 45년만에 승용차 500만대 판매…'피아트124'부터 'K5'까지" [Kia Motors sells 5 million passenger cars in 45 years ... From the Fiat 124 to the K5] (in Korean). Newsway. 2015-03-17.
  4. ^ a b Bartolomais Junior, Luis (April 1994). "Um coreano em versão tropical" [A Korean of the tropical variety]. Quatro Rodas (in Portuguese). Vol. 34 no. 405. p. 160.
  5. ^ a b c Nunn, Peter (1996), Norris, Ian (ed.), "Japanese Industry: Back on Track?", Automobile Year, Lausanne, Switzerland: Editions JR, J.-R. Piccard, 44 (1996–97): 99, ISBN 978-2-88324-043-8
  6. ^ Hale, Christopher D. (July–August 2001). "Indonesia's National Car Project Revisited". Asian Survey. University of California. 41 (4): 632. doi:10.1525/as.2001.41.4.629.
  7. ^ Hale, p. 635
  8. ^ Hale, pp. 636–637
  9. ^ "Kia plans to continue with Timor car project: Kalla". The Jakarta Post. 16 February 2000. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011.
  10. ^ Hale, pp. 642–643
  11. ^ Indonesia – Certain Measures Affecting the Automobile Industry (Panel Report) (PDF), World Trade Organization, 2 July 1998, p. 155, WT/DS54/R, WT/DS55/R, WT/DS59/R, WT/DS64/R
  12. ^ Indonesian National Car Maleo to use Orbital Engine Archived 15 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Arab American Vehicles Co". Archived from the original on 9 February 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  14. ^ "Izhevsk Car Factory Stopped Production of Kia". 19 September 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  15. ^ "HICOM Automotive - Milestones". 16 February 2017. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Kia Mentor (Mentor II)". GoAuto. John Mellor. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Kia Mentor". GoAuto. John Mellor. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  18. ^ "1998 Kia Mentor SLX sedan – The Car". GoAuto. John Mellor. 26 May 1999. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  19. ^ a b c "Kia Shuma (Shuma)". GoAuto. John Mellor. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  20. ^ a b c d "Kia Spectra (FB Spectra)". GoAuto. John Mellor. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  21. ^ Martin, Terry (26 August 2001). "2001 Kia Spectra LS 5-dr hatch – Our Opinion". GoAuto. John Mellor. Retrieved 14 November 2011.

External links

  • Kia Sephia Owner's Manual (1st generation)
  • Media related to Kia Sephia at Wikimedia Commons
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