January 3, 2000
New-to-Canada sedan offers excellent value
In the suburbs where I live small sedans are every bit as common as vans or sport utilities. Vans are the preferred choice for large families, and SUVs are increasingly more popular, but they are relatively expensive both to own and to operate.
For many people – young singles, small families, empty nesters and those who just can’t afford a van or SUV – a compact, four door sedan is the logical choice.
Cars like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Mazda Protegé and Hyundai Elantra are efficient, practical and economical transportation, and they are designed to appeal to as many people as possible.
In this respect, the Kia Sephia follows a proven formula. Conservatively designed, it looks a lot like the Toyota Corolla and not much different than most of the other small sedans.
It is efficient enough. It uses 9.8 litres of fuel every 100 kilometres in the city; 7.8 L/100km on the highway. With four doors and room for five, it is definitely practical. And with a base price of $12,995, the Kia Sephia is not only economical, it is certain to appeal to a great many people.
Designed to provide affordable value for the entry-level buyer, the base Sephia includes manual remote mirrors, rear-window defroster, tinted glass, 2-speed intermittent wipers, mud flaps, deluxe cloth seating, driver’s foot rest, centre consul with arm rest and dual cup holders, remote fuel cover and trunk releases, manual transmission and manual rack and pinion steering. At this level a four-speed automatic, power steering, air conditioning and AM/FM Cassette stereo are all optional.
The LS package, at $14,945, adds air conditioning, power steering, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, rear-seat heater ducts, full wheel covers, tilt steering column, AM/FM cassette and a seat-cushion tilt mechanism on the driver’s seat.
For an additional $800 the Sephia LS Power Package adds a lot of comfort and convenience features – power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, tachometer, variable intermittent windshield wipers and AM/FM/CD six-speaker audio system.
Fully loaded the Sephia offers good value for the money. At $15,745 the Kia Sephia LS with Power Package is $880 less than the entry level Toyota Corolla VE and $1,355 less than Honda’s base level Civic sedan, the LX. An entry level Mazda Protege costs $14,995 while the base Elantra is $14,875.
Kia may be a new name to many Canadians, but neither the company nor the car are really new. Kias are sold worldwide in more than 130 countries. In Canada, both the Ford Festiva (1987-1993) and the Ford Aspire (1993-97) were built by Kia.
The current version of the Sephia was introduced in the US in 1998, where Kia has been selling cars under its own name since 1993. Kia entered the Canadian market in August this year with dealerships in Ontario and Quebec – including five in the Ottawa-Hull area – and plans to expand into other provinces in 2000. It also will expand its model offerings to include a van and sub-compact.
My test car was a fully-loaded Sephia LS with five speed manual transmission. During my week with this car, I put over 1000 kilometres on the odometer with a good mixture of both city and highway driving.
The Sephia’s 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine, with double overhead cams and producing 125 horesepower, provided better than expected power. It accelerated well and climbed hills with ease. Naturally, when loaded with two adults and three children, things slowed down noticeably.
It’s a noisy little motor as well and the persistent drone penetrating the cabin was at times annoying. I found the Getrag-designed five-speed manual shifter to be somewhat imprecise with longer throws than I like, but adequate for the task.
The Sephia handled very well thanks to fully independent suspension and stabilizer bars, front and rear. The rack-and-pinion power steering on the LS is engine-speed sensitive. Power-assisted vented front disc brakes and rear drums provide adequate braking power. Unfortunately ABS is not available on the Sephia.
Tall drivers will like the Sephia. At six-foot-three, I’m used to making compromises in small cars. But in the Sephia, I was able to keep the seat one notch from its most rearward position and the seatback upright. The height-adjustable LS driver’s seat provides good back support and under the thighs as well. I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of this car and I was
quite comfortable, even on long trips.
Although headroom in the back was good, adults won’t like to spend much time on the solid-feeling rear seat. My three children found the leg room to be fine and the shoulder room acceptable. While the Sephia seats five, it is more comfortable with four – two adults and two children.
All controls were visible and accessible, both in daylight and at night. The easy to operate AM/FM/CD audio system is mounted high in the dash, with the master cruise control, air conditioning, rear defroster and four-way flasher switches directly beneath. Heater controls are below that.
The trunk is a good-sized 294.6 litres (10.4 cu. ft.) and more room can be achieved by folding down the 60/40 rear seat on the LS model.
Safety features include driver and passenger side air bags, shoulder belts that are height adjustable on the B-pillars and car-seat tether tie-downs installed in three positions on the rear deck. Front headrests are adjustable, while rear headrests are built into the outboard positions of the seat back. The top of the head rest was as high as my 12-year-old’s head. With ABS brakes becoming a standard feature on many new cars, the lack of ABS for the Sephia even as an option is a significant drawback.
With any new car, let alone a new (to this country) carmaker, reliability and durability are major concerns for buyers. Kia hopes to answer those questions by offering an excellent warranty: a three-year/60,000-kilometer basic limited vehicle warranty, five-year/100,000-kilometer limited powertrain coverage and a five-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation warranty. Add to this Kia’s roadside assistance program, and buyers of the Sephia should have nothing to worry about even if the car does break down.
With such a good warranty and a high value-for-money factor, it is easy to overlook some of the Sephia’s shortcomings. The Sephia should appeal not only to cost-conscious new car buyers, but even people who might feel a used car is all they can afford. With asking prices for two-year-old Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics in the $13,000-$18,000 range, a new Kia Sephia is a bargain.