At the time of its original UK launch in June 1994, this was South Korea's best selling car. Initially however, sales expectations were much more modest in Britain, with just two saloon variants on offer; a basic SLX and a better specified GLX. Both had their origins firmly in Japan, with floorplans, engines and transmissions straight from Mazda's 323.
To differentiate 'their' car, Kia clothed the whole thing in smart new bodywork created by British design consultants IAD, and fine-tuned the handling in association with Lotus. Sales picked up a bit when a five-door version with a new 1.5-litre engine was launched with the same two trim levels in June 1996. The four-door continued with the 1.6-litre unit until June 1997 when it was re-launched with the 1.5.
The Mentor was thoroughly facelifted in June 1999 and renamed the Mentor II, this time available only as a saloon in 1.5-litre form with S or SX trim levels. The Mentor II died early in 2001 to be shortly afterward replaced by the 'New Mentor', a completely redesigned model which had approximately the same mix of virtues - this model, in turn, was deleted in early 2003.