Vehicle Overview
Kia’s sporty four-door hatchback offshoot of the front-wheel-drive subcompact Sephia sedan was introduced for 2001 and earned a face-lift the next year. These changes also carried over to the Sephia, which altered its name in 2002. It was renamed the Spectra sedan.

Other than making a tachometer standard on the base sedan, nothing is new for the 2004 model year. A brand-new Spectra is expected early in 2004. Kia is based in South Korea and owned by Hyundai.

The Spectra sedan is conservatively styled and comes in base and LS trim levels. Compared with most of its competitors, this car is more reminiscent of import sedans of the past. It stands 55.7 inches tall, rides a 100.8-inch wheelbase and measures 177.6 inches long overall, which is 3 inches longer than the Honda Civic.

The Spectra sedan and hatchback’s body styles are very similar. The sedan has a regular trunk, and the hatchback has a lift-up hatch. Their wheelbases are identical, but the hatchback is a half-inch longer overall. The hatchback is offered in GS and GSX trim levels; the latter features alloy wheels and a spoiler for a sportier look.

The hatchback and sedan both hold five people and are equipped with front bucket seats. The hatchback has a folding backseat that expands cargo volume beyond the basic 11.6 cubic feet. A larger rear opening on the Spectra hatchback makes it easier to load.

The LS sedan offers several features that are not available on the base model, such as all-cloth seats, a tilt steering column, a tilt feature for the driver’s seat and a fold-down, 60/40-split rear seatback. An optional Power Package for the LS adds air conditioning, cruise control, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Trunk space in the sedan totals 10.4 cubic feet.

Under the Hood
A 124-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine teams with a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed-automatic transmission.

Antilock brakes are optional, but side-impact airbags are not available.

Driving Impressions
In performance, handling and ride comfort, the Spectra ranks as adequate but not up to the level of its competitors. In fact, its driving qualities hint of an earlier era. Value is what sells these sedans and hatchbacks, even though their reputation for durability cannot match that of comparable Honda and Toyota models.

Performance isn’t a strong suit even in models equipped with the manual gearbox. Considerable downshifting is necessary to keep the hatchback rolling along. The Getrag-designed gearshift is a bit vague and rubbery, but it functions with sufficient ease. Acceleration in models with the automatic transmission sets no records, and the unit sometimes downshifts with a jolt. Engine noise is noticeable during acceleration, but it eases at highway speeds.

What places the Spectra ahead of some of the competition is its smooth ride. The Spectra stays acceptably on course on straight highways and through modest curves, but it sometimes threatens to become a little unhinged in quick maneuvers.

The front seats are comfortable and well cushioned. Rear headroom is adequate on both sides, and rear legroom is above average for the compact league.

Reported by Jim Flammang  for;
Posted on 11/5/03