2005 Kia Spectra
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
South Korean automakers generally trail Japanese car producers by a few years when it comes to such things as refinement, but the latest Kia Spectra shows that the South Koreans are catching up fast.
Kia is owned by South Korea's Hyundai, which once sold inexpensive but junky "throwaway" cars here in the U.S. The autos eventually were considered so undesirable that it was felt that Hyundai would become yet another foreign car producer that would disappear from the U.S. market.
The $12,700-$16,225 Spectra has become one of Kia's top-selling models and helped Kia sell 143,086 vehicles for the first six months this year in America, compared to 135,901 in the same year-ago period.
While Kia resale value is an unknown, the solid feel of the Spectra promises a long life. This model is placed above Kia's entry level Rio, which costs less but doesn't have the power or features of the Spectra, although it does have the same long warranty.
It used to be simple to buy entry level cars such as the Spectra because they came in only one body style and featured few options and trim levels.
Most Americans prefer a sedan with a conventional trunk, so Kia has given the SX sporty features of the Spectra5. They include a stiffer suspension and low-profile 50-series tires on 16-inch alloy wheels instead of standard narrower tires on 15-inch wheels.
Other Spectra5 items shared by the SX include a rear spoiler, side sills below doors for a lower appearance, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, "sport fabric" on seats and door panels and metal-finish trim throughout the interior, including metal pedals.
Decent Base Version
Nearly all car buyers want air conditioning, which is a $960 LX option.
The EX also doesn't look very sporty, but adds air conditioning, heated power mirrors and power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry.
The Specta5 and SX have features of the LX and EX, besides their sportier items.
A $700 power sunroof is optional, as are $400 anti-lock brakes and $250 cruise control.
Soft Ride Emphasized
Low-speed maneuverability is good, with quick steering, but the Spectra doesn't like to be driven more than moderately hard.
Sophisticated Small Engine
The engine works with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.
While in-town performance is lively, the 65-75 mph passing time is average, even after downshifting from fifth gear to fourth gear. The manual transmission shifter works smoothly, but the clutch has a long throw. The brake pedal helps allow easy stops with its progressive action.
The automatic transmission is generally responsive, but soaks up power and thus stifles performance a bit.
Noteworthy Fuel Economy
The quiet, nicely designed interior provides impressive room for four adults. Five fit in a pinch, but the firm center of the back seat is only comfortable for short trips.
Large Cargo Area
Cost cutting can be seen here and there throughout the Spectra. For instance, the interior of the sedan's trunk lid has an unfinished look and has space-eating "gooseneck" hinges instead of hydraulic struts.
The heavy hood must be held open by a short prop rod, although the engine compartment looks surgically neat.
Spectra owners need not look or feel as if they're driving a car primarily designed for cheap, economical operation. Thank goodness the South Koreans hung in there.