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Expert Reviews 1 of 5
By Jim Flammang
July 6, 2005
Vehicle Overview Kia introduced a redesigned Spectra compact sedan as a late 2004 model early in the calendar year. Larger in size than its predecessor, which was also called a 2004 model, the new Spectra featured more power as well as six airbags.
The latest Spectra is built on a longer wheelbase, is 2.2 inches taller and has a wider track (the distance between the wheels). Fitted with variable valve timing, the Spectra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder develops 138 horsepower (132 hp in Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle form).
Three trim levels are offered: LX, EX and sport-tuned SX; the SX is new for 2005 and has similar equipment to the Spectra5 hatchback. The Spectra's basic platform is shared with the Hyundai Elantra, but the two companies share no manufacturing operations.
A Spectra5 hatchback joined the sedan body style in summer 2004 as a 2005 model. The Spectra5 is listed separately in the cars.com Research section.
Exterior With the latest Spectra, Kia promotes a sculpted appearance and a more aggressive look than many of its rivals. Large angular headlights flank the grille. Full-length body creases are meant to impart a sense of motion.
Now built on a 102.8-inch wheelbase, the Spectra is 68.3 inches wide, stands 57.9 inches tall and measures 176.4 inches long overall. Spectras have a four-wheel-independent suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars. LX and EX models have standard 15-inch tires.
A sport-tuned suspension with 16-inch wheels is used on the Spectra SX sedan. The installation of a strut tower bar yields a stiffer chassis and is said to improve handling. Design touches on the SX include a rear spoiler and fog lamps.
Interior Each Spectra sedan holds up to five occupants on front bucket seats and a 60/40-split folding backseat. Trunk space totals 12.2 cubic feet.
Air conditioning, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry and heated power mirrors are included in the EX sedan. Extra features in the SX sedan include a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, sport fabric upholstery and metal-finish trim.
Under the Hood The Spectra's 138-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder teams with a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed-automatic transmission. In five states, Spectras equipped with the automatic gearbox have an environmentally friendly SULEV rating, but that engine is rated at 132 hp.
Safety Antilock brakes are optional on upper-end models. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are standard.
Driving Impressions Similar to import-brand models of earlier times, the Spectra steers with a pleasantly light touch and maneuvers smartly. This is a generally enjoyable car that exhibits no more body lean than other sedans in its league, but it lacks a feeling of tight control. The tires aren't likely to squeal when cornering, though you might notice a tendency to "plow" through curves. On most surfaces, the ride is satisfyingly smooth. The SX sedan is tauter, with no penalty in ride comfort.
Acceleration is a bit better than adequate with an automatic transmission, but when you try to pass you're likely to get a lot more blare than acceleration. Kia's easy-shifting manual gearbox works with little effort and helps extract the most power from the engine.
The seat bottoms are short. Cushioning feels adequate but not abundant. You get plenty of headroom, elbowroom and legroom. Scalloped front seatbacks help give backseat riders more knee room than some small cars offer, and the easy-loading trunk is relatively large.