Junkyard Gem: 2000 Kia Sephia Sedan

Kia Motors got its start in the car-building business by manufacturing models designed by other companies. Most of these were Mazdas, including the first Kia-built vehicle imported to the United States: the Mazda 121-based Kia Pride, known as the Ford Festiva here. The first Kia Motors car to ride on a Kia-designed chassis was the Sephia, and the Sephia was the first vehicle to be sold with Kia badges in the United States. Today’s Junkyard Gem is an example of the second-generation Sephia, found in a Northern California wrecking yard a few months ago.

The first U.S.-market Sephias were 1994 models, sold just in Portland, Oregon, at first and then all over the country as Kia dealerships multiplied. I’ve been trying to find a ’94 Sephia in a junkyard for a few years, without success.

Kia Motors went bankrupt in 1997 and was taken over by the Hyundai Motor Company the following year. The second-generation Sephia debuted here as a 1998 model, and production continued through 2004.

The second-generation Sephia was available here as a four-door sedan and as a five-door hatchback, but the hatchback version became the Spectra starting with the 2000 model year. All U.S.-market 2000-2004 Sephias are sedans.

The 2000 Sephia was affordable, though it had to compete against a similarly priced newcomer from another South Korean manufacturer: the Daewoo Nubira. The very cheapest ’00 Sephia had an MSRP of $9,995, while the better-equipped Nubira sedan listed at $10,990 (those prices would be $18,007 and $19,801, respectively, in 2023 dollars).

This car cost quite a bit more than $9,995, though, because it’s a higher-zoot LS model with the optional automatic transmission. Its MSRP would have been $11,595, and the automatic tacked on an additional $975 ($20,891 and $1,757 in today’s money).

The LS came with air conditioning and an AM/FM/cassette radio as standard equipment.

While the Sephia may have ridden on an all-Kia chassis, it still had Mazda power under the hood in 2000. This is a 1.8-liter DOHC Mazda B-series four-cylinder, rated at 125 horsepower and 108 pound-feet.

This car made it to a pretty decent final mileage figure during its 23 years on the road.

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

Why get a more expensive Civic instead of a Sephia?

In its homeland, it rode more smoothly than the competition.


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