Kias You Can't Buy in the US: The Kia Elan with couple crying holding money and thinking about kia elan

Kias You Can’t Buy in the US (For 3 Years): The Kia Elan

Kia Elan Import Availability Date and Photos

If you’re a fan of our Kias You Can’t Buy in the US or Throwback Thursday featurettes here on the Friendly Kia blog, you probably know that the Kia we’ve had for the last ten years is different than the Kia that existed in the years before this period.

Back in the 1990s and even into the early 2000s, Kia made vehicles that were strictly adequate. Their most early forays into the United States market like the first-generation Optima and Kia Spectra were unglamorous vehicles that got the job done with little resembling flair or ambition.

New Kia is something entirely different. With the modern Kia badge, we have a lineup of award-winning vehicles that consistently outpace class mainstays like the Accord and RAV4 for reliability, safety and value. Beyond simply changing the sedan and compact SUV game, however, Kia has made it their mission to bring value to classes that were formerly cost prohibitive.

Models like the 2018 Kia Stinger and upcoming Kia Telluride reveal a brand that wants to bring their signature style and value to every class.

As alluring as the Stinger is, however, it’s not actually Kia’s first sports car. Back in the Pax Mediocrus Kia-ma of the 1990s, Kia made a sports car that features an enduring style. We’re talking about the Kia Elan.

What is the Kia Elan?

The Kia Elan is a re-badged Lotus Elan. You read that correctly. Kia re-badged a Lotus sports car. Following Lotus’ retirement of their popular Elan car, Kia bought the rights and manufactured the Kia Elan from 1996 to 1999. Sadly, it was only available in the Asian markets.

In Japan, the Kia Elan discarded its more Anglicized name for an appropriately-Italian moniker, going by the name of the Kia Vigato.

Powered by a 1.8L T8D engine, the Kia Elan made 151 horsepower. While that may not seem like a lot (2/3 Kia Soul models get more than this), that much horsepower in a small and light car with the balance of the Kia Elan makes for a thrilling ride. Don’t believe us? Ask any Miata owner. Oh wait, you don’t have to, because it’s all they talk about all the time.

Kia Elan Photos

We’ve scoured Instagram for the best photos of the Kia Elan we could find. Here are some of our favorites:

A post shared by 박태진 (@tjsrlove) on May 22, 2018 at 7:15am PDT

A post shared by Yeonjoon Park (@yeonjoonp) on May 10, 2018 at 9:59am PDT

A post shared by Yeonjoon Park (@yeonjoonp) on Mar 30, 2018 at 12:56am PDT

A post shared by 지현승 (@9716ji) on Oct 8, 2015 at 5:24pm PDT

A post shared by 박태진 (@tjsrlove) on May 29, 2018 at 7:57am PDT

Kia Elan United States Import Date

With model years beginning in 1996 and the United States import moratorium being 25 years, you’ll be able to fly around corners in an original Korean-market Kia Elan no later than 2021. Since Lotus technically still owns the name Elan and demoed a refreshed supercar model with the moniker a few years ago, we doubt Kia will ever resurrect their own version of this tiny sports car.

If you just can’t wait, the 2018 Kia Stinger offers similar thrill and handling in a much larger and more practical vehicle. You’ll get a sub-5 second 0-60 time in its twin-turbo V6 model and high-value acceleration in its 2.0L turbocharged sibling.

For more information on strange Kias, or if you managed to get your hands on a Kia Elan and want to bring it by for a Friendly Kia photoshoot, contact us today!

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