Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part IX)

It’s time once again for more Kia large sedan goodness. Like last time, we pick up in the early 2010s. Kia’s second full-size sedan developed under Hyundai’s controllership was the K7, or Cadenza in all markets outside South Korea. Pitched as a value-priced premium front-drive car, it competed against the likes of the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima, but lacked any defined comfort or sporty characteristics. Cadenza also had a bland corporate design courtesy of the company’s new Euro-like styling mission, and former VW designer Peter Schreyer.

Shortly after the Cadenza went on sale, Kia turned its sights toward an even larger sedan: A new rear-drive one to occupy the luxury space, a class above the Cadenza. It was the largest car Kia offered in nearly two decades, the first rear-drive Kia since the (Mazda Sentia) Kia Enterprise of 2002, and the first rear-drive sedan Kia ever sold in the North American market. It’s time for K9.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part VIII)

We return to Kia’s large sedan history today, at a point shortly after the launch of the K7. Kia’s full-size front-drive for the 2010s, the K7 was called Cadenza in all export markets, and was a successor to the unfortunately styled Opirus (Amanti in North America). Kia hired Peter Schreyer from his longtime employment at Volkswagen Group in order to usher in a new stylistic era at Kia.

Though it went on sale for the 2010 model year, Kia wasn’t quite ready to send the Cadenza to the North American market. With the market’s general rejection of the Amanti in mind, Kia called on Schreyer to refresh the Cadenza and lux it up before its North American launch.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part VII)

We return to Kia’s midsize-or-larger sedan history today in the latter portion of the 2000s. In our last entry, we learned about the Optima, which arrived as Kia’s first midsize developed under Hyundai’s majority ownership. Sensibly the Optima was a light rework of Hyundai’s Sonata, and the two shared almost everything (including very poor crash safety ratings).

On the more executive full-size side of the lineup, Kia’s Opirus was the first large car developed under Hyundai ownership. It shared a platform with the Grandeur (XG350 to you). While the Opirus saw okay sales in most markets, it failed in North America where it was sold as the Amanti. Very few North Americans wanted a $39,600 (adjusted) Kia, no matter how many luxury styling touches it borrowed from other brands. And so the Amanti was canceled after 2009 locally (2012 elsewhere). By that time its replacement was already on sale. Meet K7.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Mazda 626 DX
After selling a rear-wheel-drive 626 here starting in the 1978 model year, Mazda introduced a brand-new front-wheel-drive version for 1983. That was the same year the Camry first appeared on our shores, and the cheaper 626 lured many car shoppers away from Toyota showrooms with its impressive list of standard features. The Camry got a major update for 1987, and a new generation of 626 appeared the following year. Here’s one of those cars, photographed in a Northern California self-service yard last winter.
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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part VI)

We return to the story of Kia’s midsize and larger sedans today, around the point when Kia found itself under the watchful eye of Hyundai. The larger South Korean company purchased a controlling stake in its competition in 1998, which meant big changes to Kia’s product almost immediately after.

The union led to the first full-size luxury sedan Kia developed from the ground up, the Opirus (Amanti to you). It turned out the Amanti was the derivative and rather ugly sedan few in North America desired, though it fared a bit better elsewhere. But by the time the Amanti arrived, Kia was already selling a new midsize that North Americans did want. Let’s talk Optima.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part V)

In our last installment of Kia’s larger sedan history, we covered the midsize Credos. The Credos was an important first for Kia, as the first midsize the company produced where it had a bit of leeway with the design. Ultimately, the Credos hid its Mazda 626 bones decently well and did a good impersonation of a late Nineties Ford Contour after a refresh.

But just as Kia settled into Mazda platforms and designing their own sedans, the goalposts were moved courtesy of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Kia was left without much money, and few options. We pick up there.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part IV)

We return to our coverage of Kia sedans today and discuss a midsize from just prior to the flagship Enterprise we discussed last time. Kia offered the first midsize car to bear its branding in 1987 when it introduced the new Concord. Concord was essentially a broughamed, front-rear clip swap take on the GC platform Mazda 626. Mazda discontinued the GC 626 that year and immediately sold the platform and tooling to Kia. A couple of years later, the Concord spawned a lesser sibling called the Capital. Capital looked very similar to the Concord but sold to a more economically-minded customer with its much lower level of equipment and low-powered engines.

When the Capital finished up its run in 1997, it was replaced by a compact car Kia had on sale for a few years already: The Sephia. Sephia wouldn’t do for Concord-level customers though, and upon the sedan’s discontinuation in 1995 they were directed to an all-new Kia. The company was ready with its new midsize to bookend the Concord, and it went on sale the same year. Though the new car was again on a donated platform, it was the first time Kia had some leeway to design a midsize of their own. It’s time to discuss Credos.

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Rare Rides: The 1989 Mazda MX-6, an Enthusiast's Four-wheel Steering Choice

Today’s Rare Ride represents the rarest subset of a vehicle that was for most, an afterthought. A sporty coupe ignored in its day, the MX-6 was by most accounts a handsome car that was fun to drive. Particularly elusive is the MX-6 behind today’s article. It has a manual transmission, is turbocharged, and has four-wheel steering. Could it be any cooler (Chandler voice)? Let’s find out.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Mazda 626 Luxury Sedan

The original Mazda 626, sold here for the 1978 through 1982 model years, was a rear-wheel-drive machine that looked quite European in a Peugeot 504-ish way. Its front-wheel-drive successor was straight-up aimed at gaijin car shoppers who might consider a Camry, Accord, or Stanza, and it came packed with affordable luxury features and cool gadgetry. Here’s an ’85 LX sedan with one of the raddest 1980s audio systems imaginable, found in a Northern California self-service yard earlier this month.

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Rare Rides: The Very Rare 1982 Mazda 626 Two-door Sedan

Today’s Rare Ride is boxy, brown, and well-equipped. It’s an unpopular variant of a less-than-mainstream midsize car of the Eighties. And at 38 years old, it’s managed to escape the rusty fate to which most all of these succumbed long ago.

Let’s check out the 1982 Mazda 626.

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Piston Slap: Deep Six the 626?

Joey writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I’ve been a reader of yours for years and greatly enjoy your style. (Woot! —SM)

My question is about my ’97 Mazda 626, with a hair over 215,000 miles on it, that’s been in my family for its entire life. It’s reliable, economical, and generally in good condition.

However, I am up for a registration renewal in October, and I need to complete an emissions test. I figured that it would be a good idea to check up on the codes behind the check engine light. The codes came up as an evaporative system and catalytic converter errors, which are both emissions fails.

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  • Dennis Howerton Nice article, Cory. Makes me wish I had bought Festivas when they were being produced. Kia made them until the line was discontinued, but Kia evidently used some of the technology to make the Rio. Pictures of the interior look a lot like my Rio's interior, and the 1.5 liter engine is from Mazda while Ford made the automatic transmission in the used 2002 Rio I've been driving since 2006. I might add the Rio is also an excellent subcompact people mover.
  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.