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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
October 13, 2005
Vehicle Overview Kia introduced a redesigned Spectra compact sedan as a late 2004 model. The new Spectra was larger than its predecessor and featured more power and six airbags.
Fitted with variable valve timing, the Spectra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder develops 138 horsepower (or 132 hp in Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle form).
Kia has dropped the LX trim level for the 2006 model year, which leaves the EX and the sport-tuned SX, which has similar equipment to the Spectra5 hatchback, in the lineup. Even though the Spectra's basic platform is shared with the Hyundai Elantra, the two companies share no manufacturing operations. A revised four-speed-automatic transmission is available, though Spectras in states with SULEV requirements will get Kia's old four-speed automatic. The fog lamps and moonroof have been removed from the EX sedan. Cruise control has been added to the SX's standard-equipment list. Floormats and a cabin air filter are now standard on all models.
A Spectra5 hatchback joined the sedan body style as a 2005 model. The Spectra5 is listed separately in the cars.com Research section.
Exterior Kia promotes the Spectra's sculpted appearance and the more aggressive look it has over many of its rivals. Large, angular headlights flank the grille. Full-length body creases are meant to impart a sense of motion.
Built on a 102.8-inch wheelbase, the Spectra 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. EX sedans roll on 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 is said to improve handling. SX design touches include a rear spoiler, fog lamps, a black mesh grille and blacked-out headlights.
Interior The Spectra sedan holds five people on front bucket seats and a 60/40-split, folding rear seat. 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, aluminum pedals 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 the optional, revised four-speed-automatic transmission. In the five SULEV states, Spectras with the old automatic have an environmentally friendly SULEV rating, but that engine is rated at 132 hp.
Safety Antilock brakes are optional. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are standard.
Driving Impressions Similar to earlier import-brand models, 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 the Spectra might "plow" through curves.
On most surfaces, the ride is satisfyingly smooth. The SX sedan is tauter, with no penalty in ride comfort.
Acceleration reaches past adequate with an automatic transmission, but passing yields a lot more blare than response. Kia's easy-shifting manual gearbox works with little effort and helps extract the most power from the engine.
The seat bottoms are short, and cushioning feels adequate but not abundant. You get plenty of headroom, elbowroom and legroom. Scalloped front seatbacks help give backseat riders more knee space than some small cars offer.