The Kia Shuma wasn’t introduced to Australian audiences until May 1998, which was the second generation of the vehicle. Based on the seventh-generation Mazda Familia, the car was Kia’s first major involvement in the exportation of their vehicles, sending the car as far as the United States.
After a successful first run, Kia aimed to make the Shuma the national car of Indonesia, rebadging the vehicle as the “Timor.” Grumbles from competing car makers over tax breaks for Kia led to the project fizzling, but Kia pushed ahead with their export aspirations.
The second-generation version of the car was named the Kia Mentor when it first hit Australian shores in 1998. Designed as a budget car with some amenities that you wouldn’t typically see in a budget car, the Kia Mentor’s entry-level model featured both power steering and air conditioning. The base model was called the SLX, while the GLX featured central locking and other powered conveniences.
When Kia decided to change their Australian distributor to Ateco, the sedan version was discontinued, opting solely for the hatchback, and the car was rebadged as the Shuma. This change also led to the discontinuation of the SLX and GLX variants, opting instead for the plain Shuma and the Shuma FX. The two models of the Shuma were, for the most part, similar to the comparison of the SLX and GLX, but the newer model increased the engine size.
In 2001, the car was once again rebranded and became the Spectra. This iteration added a few safety features along with a facelift. This was the last of the vehicle to be produced in Australia, as Kia Australia discontinued the model in 2004. The Kia Cerato is considered its successor.
In its first run in Australia as the Mentor, both trims of the sedan were only available in a 1.5-litre engine. The 5-speed manual transmission was the standard option, as the car was aimed towards being as inexpensive as possible, but a 4-speed automatic transmission was available as well. The Mentor had 59kW of power and 120Nm of torque.
Upon the first rebranding to the Shuma, the car was upgraded to a 1.8-litre engine with 82kW of power and 152Nm of torque. While the Mentor was available as either a sedan or a hatchback, the former was discontinued for the Shuma. The Shuma also boasted an urban fuel rating of 9.1L/100km and an extra urban fuel rating of 6.4L/100km.
The engine on the Spectra version of the car was the same as the Shuma, but additional safety features were added. The Spectra also had a slightly lower fuel consumption rating than the previous model. The urban rating was largely the same with a rating of 9L/100km, but the extra urban rating came in at 8L/100km.
The Kia Mentor was available with two distinct options, offering manual or automatic transmission for both. The entry-level model was called the SLX and was notable for its inclusion of power steering and air conditioning, as that kit was typically unavailable at that price range of car. The GLX added central locking, power windows and mirrors, and an optional upgrade to a larger, 1.8-litre engine in the hatchback version.
The Shuma resembled the Mentor SLX, with the exception of a 1.8-litre engine instead of a 1.5-litre. The Shuma FX included the same kit as the Mentor GLX, but added alloy wheels, a better trim, and an improved audio system.
Safety features were the main addition to the Kia Spectra. A driver’s airbag was included alongside seatbelt pretensioners and immobilisers. The suspension was also improved, and the automatic transmission showed a marked upgrade.
The Mazda 6 was one hatchback available at the same time as the Kia Shuma. While the car boasted a larger 2.3-litre engine, it came with a lower rating than the Shuma. It had a combined 9.5L/100km for both urban and extra urban settings and a much higher price tag.
The Holden Vectra also hit a similar market, making a speedy version of the car that boasted both a similar fuel rating to the Kia Shuma and a larger engine with higher power and torque. However, finding a Vectra cheaply on the used market will typically be reserved for ones with a number of kilometres already logged. For the most part, the Kia Shuma is still the more affordable vehicle for the available kit.