The Historical past of Kia’s Bigger and Full-size Sedans (Half I)

The Historical past of Kia’s Bigger and Full-size Sedans (Half I)


I received to fascinated by one explicit massive outdated Kia from the late Nineties the opposite day, and upon looking out it on The Web, I spotted the Korean producer had a for much longer historical past with massive automobiles than I’d thought beforehand. Given most of them had been (or are) off-limits to the North American market, it could be time for a historical past lesson. We start at present with Kia’s first massive automobile. It’s one you’ve in all probability heard of, as a result of it was a Peugeot.

Earlier than we get all French, a fast rundown of Kia’s historical past is so as. Based in June of 1944, Kyungsung Precision Business began as a producer of bicycle parts and metal tubing. It remained in elements provider mode by means of the Forties and didn’t produce something with wheels till 1951. It was then that Kia put all of the elements it manufactured collectively and created the primary Korean-made bicycle, the Samchully.

The corporate’s full identify was troublesome to color onto a bicycle and exhausting to recollect, so the corporate rebranded itself to Kia Industries in 1952. Seeing success with their bicycle, the agency expanded to bikes in 1957. Its first powered automobiles had been small bikes licensed from Honda, however as soon as the corporate received a style of inside combustion it was off and working.

Kia’s first four-wheeled automobiles had been licensed vans from Mazda. That relationship began in 1962, and the 2 corporations remained cozy for fairly a while. Extra on that later.

Circa 1970 Kia received into the Italian automobile sport as effectively and produced a licensed model of the Fiat 124. One in every of any variety of licensed variants of that specific Fiat, it lasted in Korean manufacturing by means of 1975. That was a 12 months after Fiat canceled 124 manufacturing.

Within the early Seventies, Kia wanted a spot to construct all of the Mazdas, so the corporate constructed its first automotive plant in 1973. Initially referred to as the Sohari Plant, the manufacturing unit is now referred to as Autoland Gwangmyeong. Positioned outdoors Seoul, at present the busy manufacturing unit builds the Kia Carnival, Rio, Stinger, Stonic, K9, and K900.

The manufacturing unit was notable on the time because the producer of Korea’s first inside combustion engine. A 12 months after it opened, Kia produced the primary automobile to put on its branding and referred to as it the Brisa. It was one other Mazda beneath (a Familia), flippantly reworked by Kia.

Although the corporate had manufacturing of its personal automobile, Kia needed to fill out its lineup a bit. And prefer it had in 1970, Kia turned to Europe to license a few automobiles. The midsize it chosen was the Fiat 132 (1972-1981) which Kia constructed and bought at its dealerships from 1979 to 1981. That very same 12 months, it additionally began constructing the most important sedan from Peugeot.

It was in fact the 604. The primary true govt automobile to come back from Peugeot because the heydays of the Thirties, the boxy and Pininfarina-designed sedan entered French manufacturing in 1975 after a debut on the Geneva Motor Present earlier within the 12 months. The brand new and opulent 604 was based mostly on the sensible 504, shared its doorways and a part of its flooring pan, and was constructed utilizing the identical basic concepts as its smaller sibling. It was obtainable solely as a sedan, as was appropriate for the manager automobile purchaser.

The 604 was stable and stout within the (on the time) Peugeot custom. Rear-wheel drive, engines had been six-cylinder if stuffed with gasoline, and inline-four if diesel. Sadly, each gasoline engines had been of the PRV engine household, in displacements of two.7 and a pair of.8 liters. Diesel mills had been Peugeot-Citroen models from their XD engine vary, in 2.3- and a pair of.5-liter displacements. Each had a turbocharger.

Although it was on sale by means of 1985, the 604 was thought-about a giant failure. It was dependable sufficient, drove properly, was spacious and comfy, and was ignored for worse govt contemporaries just like the Rover SD1. After its 10-year run, Peugeot moved simply 153,252 examples. In distinction, PSA’s different new govt automobile, the Citroën CX, bought in a lot larger numbers: nearly 1.2 million.

However Kia wanted a big automobile for its lineup and turned to Peugeot for the primary and solely time within the firm’s historical past. In 1979, the 604 joined the Fiat 132 on the Sohari Plant. On license, Kia imported knockdown kits (CKDs) and assembled the 604 with care. Whereas the variety of Fiat 132s assembled is counted at 4,759, the variety of 604s constructed will not be recognized. The 604 would’ve been a really uncommon and costly automobile on the time, when most South Koreans didn’t personal automobiles. It’d’ve been troublesome to get serviced when the PRV V6 went bitter, too.

The 132 and 604 existed in Kia’s lineup for simply three years, as manufacturing halted in 1981. The rationale was a really particular one: Military basic turned dictator Chun Doo-hwan (1931-2021) elevated his energy after changing into the corporate’s de facto ruler late in 1979. Chun orchestrated a navy coup in Might 1980 after which pursued many terrible dictatorial actions. Amongst them was a pressured consolidation of Korea’s burgeoning automotive business. The commandment handed to Kia was that it might construct solely gentle vans and vans. Stated instruction lasted by means of 1986, and through that point the corporate’s solely car was the Bongo in its numerous guises.

As democracy returned to South Korea throughout 1987, Kia cozied as much as a pal of Mazda: Ford. It was then the manufacturing of the Delight started, which you’d know because the Mazda 121 or maybe the Ford Festiva. The 121’s in depth historical past is value a full Uncommon Rides Icons entry. Then Kia entered the midsize class in 1987 with the Harmony, earlier than it ever provided a compact automobile.

The Harmony was a GC technology Mazda Capella beneath, which you’d name the 626. Stated Mazda was additionally bought because the Ford Telstar in some markets. Mazda bought its GC platform off to Kia after the profitable mid-sizer completed its 1982-1987 run. All examples of the Harmony used inline-four Mazda engines, in-built Korea. The primary Concords shipped with just one engine, a 2.0-liter carbureted mill good for 99 horsepower.

Harmony was thought-about an upscale automobile and regarded a bit completely different from the Mazda upon which it was based mostly. Although the physique form was the identical, Kia added their very own entrance and rear clips. The principle competitors for the Harmony was its home arch-rival: The rear-drive Hyundai Sonata.

To cater to the decrease finish of the midsize market, the Capital was launched in 1989. Based mostly on the Harmony however with cheaper wanting trim and smaller engines, the Capital used 1.5-liter energy with 80 horses at introduction. Each automobiles had been refreshed in 1991 for the ’92 mannequin 12 months, and have become the “New Harmony” and “New Capital.”

The Harmony and Capital lived a really very long time on their early Eighties platform at Kia. Capital continued on by means of 1996 and was changed by the primary Sephia, on sale since 1992. The dearer Harmony was changed by the Credos, the primary midsize Kia designed by itself (once more based mostly on a Mazda 626).

Kia proved to itself that it might promote an upscale automobile to the house market with the Harmony, and on the identical time it debuted the New Harmony it expanded to its first full-size luxurious automobile. You may in all probability guess what it was based mostly upon. Subsequent time we’ll speak Potentia.

[Images: Peugeot, Kia]

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September 2022