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By Jim Flammang
October 13, 2005
Vehicle Overview In summer 2004, a Spectra5 hatchback joined the Spectra sedan that had been redesigned earlier in the year. Equipped with a sport-tuned suspension, the hatchback is meant to attract younger buyers.
One version of Kia's Spectra sedan, the SX, features equipment that's similar to the Spectra5's. The Spectra sedan is listed separately in the cars.com Research section.
Cruise control, floormats and a cabin air filter are newly standard on the 2006 Spectra5. A revised four-speed-automatic transmission is available, except for in models sold in five states with Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle requirements. The new transmission is said to be lighter and more durable.
Exterior The Spectra sedan and Spectra5 hatchback body styles are similar in appearance, but Kia promotes the hatchback's "more extroverted personality [and] athletic stance." Like the sedan, the Spectra5 features arches at each front fender and a sharp crease below the greenhouse. The sedan has a regular trunk, while the hatchback has a lift-up hatch. Their wheelbases are identical, but the sedan is 5.5 inches longer overall.
Both the Spectra5 and Spectra SX sedan have what Kia calls an "assertive" front end, which features a black mesh grille. Fog lamps are installed. A strut tower bar provides additional torsional rigidity, and the Spectra5 has a fully independent suspension. Riding on 16-inch tires, the Spectra5 features a deeper front spoiler and a rear spoiler, as well as side sills.
Interior Up to five occupants can fit inside the Spectra5. The hatchback has a folding backseat that can expand cargo volume beyond the basic 18.3 cubic feet. A large rear opening on the Spectra5 hatchback makes it easy to load. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and metal pedals are standard.
Under the Hood The Spectra5 is powered by a 138-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that teams with a standard five-speed-manual gearbox or the optional, revised four-speed-automatic transmission. In five states, the Spectra5 equipped with Kia's old four-speed automatic has an environmentally friendly SULEV rating, but produces 132 hp.
Safety Antilock brakes are optional. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are standard.
Driving Impressions Maneuverability is a strong point for the Spectra5, which serves as a satisfying urban runabout. Unlike some small cars, it can be fun to drive and it easily heads wherever it's pointed. Most drivers won't try to push this hatchback too hard through curves, but it handles well for everyday motoring. On straightaways, the Spectra5 tracks well with little correction needed.
Ride comfort is reasonably good — slightly above average — for a small car. Performance with the manual shift is eager but not exactly action-packed. Except for some clanking, the gearshift behaves as adeptly as those in many sporty cars. The seats are softly cushioned but provide satisfactory support. Space behind the back seat is modest.
The engine is quiet in moderate driving, but it gets noisier while accelerating. Lower-body add-on components on the Spectra5 reduce the ground clearance of this hatchback, making it an unwise choice on snow-covered pavement.