Kia Sephia Timor First generation
|Also called||Kia Mentor Timor S515/S516|
|Assembly||South Korea: Hwasung (Hwasung Plant)|
|Body style||4-door sedan 5-door hatchback|
|Engine||1.5 L I4 (gasoline) 1.6 L I4 (gasoline) 1.8 L I4 (gasoline)|
|Transmission||4-speed F-4EAT automatic 5-speed manual|
|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)|
|Related||Mazda Familia (BG)|
The first-generation Kia Sephia was directly based on the seventh-generation Familia. Engines available were the B-series engines, with the 1.5L rated at 59 kilowatts (79 hp), the 1.6L 78-kilowatt (105 hp) , and the famous Mazda 1.8L BP 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).
In the United States, sales began in 1993 for model year 1994. 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.
Kia presented a conceptual convertible version of the first generation Sephia, which was named "Kia Sephia Cabrio" at some auto shows.
The Sephia-derived "Timor" was meant to become the national car of Indonesia, and was sold there in the mid-1990s. It was intended fill a role similar to that of Malaysia's Mitsubishi Lancer-based Proton, 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.
The Sephia-derived 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.
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, 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.The threat of a WTO lawsuit followed. 45,000 cars a year were planned, but with the Asian financial crisis in 1997 came the collapse of Kia. Combined with the 1998 demise of the Suharto regime, the Timor project was abandoned. In 2000, Kia briefly considered reviving the Timor by restructuring Timor Putra Nasional.
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. The controversy also led to the cancellation of Indonesian Government's own national car project, the Zagato-designed "M3 Maleo" (Mobil Murah Masyarakat Maleo).This had been a joint venture between Konsorsium Mobil Indonesia (Indonesian Car Consortium), Millard Design and Orbital Engineering (Australia).