The History of Kia’s Larger and Full-Size Sedans (Part II)

We pick up Kia’s great car story once again today, at a time when the Korean automaker was establishing itself as a true full-line automaker, albeit with contributions from various other automotive companies. After Kia built Fiats and Peugeots via knock-down kits, it moved on to a slight redesign of the early ’80s Mazda 626. It made two cars from the 626, its first mid-size offerings. These were the top-end Concord and the lesser (but still somewhat premium) Capital. But before we get to the company’s first true full-size car, we need to talk about the Mercury Sable for a moment.

Commentator Jslater89 pointed out in the Part I comments that I missed one of the big cars that Kia sold in the 80s. sold the. Turns out Kia was none other than the distributor of the stock Mercury Sable lightbar. The reason the Sable was chosen for distribution on the Taurus is unknown, and the deal is not well documented on the internet today.

Since Kia didn’t slap its name on the Sable and build it in Korea, the company’s distributor role leaves the Sable on some middle ground when it comes to its status in the lineup. of the company. But there was indeed a Sable at Kia dealerships, and above is an ad to back that up. No word on how long Sable’s sales will last, but we’d assume no more than two years. Somewhere deep in Ford’s archives, I’m sure there are details of this deal, and they would be very interesting to read. Now, on to more Kia!

1992 was a big year for sedans at Kia. The Concord and Small Capital were reworked that year, and with their 1982 Mazda underpinnings they continued as the New Concord and New Capital. While both cars received refreshed styling, a major advancement came to Concord: a new fuel-injected 2.0-liter DOHC inline-four good for 139 horsepower. The engine was a development of the Mazda 1.8-litre F-series engine, which Kia has always identified as 2.0 on the Concord. The old version of the engine with SOHC produced 110 horsepower.

This old version of 1.8 was however not put out of use since it was given to the New Capital. It was very important that the lower priced capital was seen in its proper pecking order over the Concord so when the 1.8 liter arrived in the new capital it lost fuel injection and has been re-carburized. In a move your author has never heard of before, the significant engine downgrade reduced power to 82 horsepower. Still, the 1.8 was better than the base 1.5-liter two-valve engine, which produced 73 horsepower and was mostly used in new export capitals.

As Kia toyed with the trims and engines of its midsize models, it released the first full-size business class car to wear its badge. The new model was called the Potentia and it was a traditional rear-drive luxury sedan. Of course, underneath it wasn’t a Kia, but rather an HC-generation Mazda Luce. You would know it as 929.

Mazda’s cooperation with Kia and Ford was still in full swing at the time, so as soon as Mazda was done with the Luce, the platform was transferred to Kia. The HC Luce was offered from model years 1987 through 1991 and was the company’s flagship sedan. Rare Rides has 929 covered before, by the way. The Luce was available in sedan and hardtop formats, with the sedan being touted as a much more accessible car than the hardtop.

Unusual for such body style differentiation, the Luce hardtop was larger in every dimension than its very similar sedan sibling. Although styling remained consistent between body styles, the hardtop was 10 inches longer than the sedan, at 194 inches. It was also an inch wider at 67.9″, which in Japan put it in the most expensive road tax bracket. The hardtop was also an inch shorter than the sedan (56.7″) to give it a sleeker appearance. If not parked side by side, the hardtop could be identified by its frameless windows and thin B-pillar.

The HC Luce was available with a range of Mazda-sourced engines: 2.0-liter inline-four, 2.0-liter V6, 2.2-liter inline-four, 3-liter V6, 0 liters (used in the 929) and a 1.3 liter engine. liter turbocharged Wankel rotary that was shared with the Eunos Cosmo. The Wankel was only available in hardtop examples of the Luce and was never sent to North America.

The boxy, conservative Luce enjoyed less success as a 929 than in other parts of the world. Mostly ignored by big sedan buyers, in 1992 Mazda took a development of the HC (called HD) platform and launched the curvaceous, forward-looking Sentia. The new flagship was again called 929 in North America.

The car was initially meant to be part of a multi-brand luxury strategy that would see Mazda launch Amati as a competitor to Lexus and Acura in North America. However, all of Mazda’s plans were to come to fruition just as the Japanese housing bubble began, so Mazda abandoned its luxury dreams for good.

And what did Kia do to make the Potentia more theirs and less Mazda? For starters, they replaced the front and rear clips. Up front, the headlights and corner markers remained the same, but the bumper and grille were replaced. The less vertical slatted Mazda grille was replaced by a Mercedes-style egg-crate grille, divided into sections by chrome (just like a 190E).

Kia used a Potentia-specific hood ornament, which was placed on a hood that had a more pronounced power bulge than on the Mazda. The front bumper was also revised for Kia service. His debut (above) was very splashy. Hyundai only received the sedan body style and was not allowed access to the Luce hardtop.

The side profile of the Potentia remained exactly the same as that of the Luce, as the doors, windows, roof, sills, etc. have not been modified. The door trim became a little thicker on the Kia than on the Mazda and was body-colored. In the rear, the bumper received a different trim strip to match the side trim of the Potentia. The brake lights were initially only those of the Luce. But over time, Kia replaced the lenses with revised amber and smoke gray units.

Most of the changes were made to take up empty space and fit the American-shaped license plates used by Korea. The trunk lid on the refreshed versions looked new as it had a bit of trim that extended down the middle towards the license plate. A clever visual trick.

In an effort to save funds on the interior, Kia kept all the hard points of the 1991 Luce as they were throughout the Potentia’s run. Materials have been replaced with Kia materials here and there, and air conditioning has been added to replace Mazda’s manual sliders. Other than that, all the shapes were the same. It was an odd juxtaposition to see an updated 90s (and 2000s) Potentia exterior paired with a very 80s Japanese interior.

To proudly power the Potentia, Kia took a mixed approach: while the base 2.0-litre engine was a Mazda FE mill from Capella and the like, the midrange engine came from Kia. Potentia borrowed its 2.2-liter inline-four from the first-generation Sportage (1995-2004). And while none of these engines would satisfy the North American buyer of large sedans, the third option might. The Potentia top line was called the President and used Mazda’s 3.0-liter V6.

The Potentia had a long run given its 80s bones and lasted through 2001 without substantial changes. Since your author lived in Korea in 2008 and 2009, the Potentia has sold very as well as a major executive car in its home market.

Around 1998 there was a slight facelift (above), which coincided with the introduction of the replacement for the Potentia. We’ll pick up there in Part III, where we’ll also discuss the midsize that took over for the Concord end of the market.

[Images: Kia]

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