Vehicle Overview
The Spectra hasn't changed much for 2008, since Kia restyled the front and rear of the Spectra for 2007, giving the compact sedan a new grille, bumper and deck lid. In addition, the interior got a new dashboard as well as some other tweaks in 2007. The Spectra competes with small cars like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cobalt and Nissan Versa sedan.

Fitted with variable valve timing, the Spectra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder creates 138 horsepower (132 hp in Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle form).

Trim levels include the base LX, uplevel EX and sport-tuned SX. The SX has similar equipment to the Spectra5 hatchback, which is listed separately in the Research section.

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. The biggest change for 2008 comes on LX and EX models, which get a new black radiator grille that features chrome accents.

Spectras have a four-wheel-independent suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars. EX sedans roll on 15-inch tires. For 2008, LX models get a new wheel-cover design.

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.

The audio system has an auxiliary jack for iPods or other MP3 players, and a six-CD changer is optional on the Spectra SX.

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. For 2008, there's a revised gearshift knob design, and LX and EX Spectras get a new gauge cluster.

Air conditioning, power windows and locks, 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.

Antilock brakes are optional. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain 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.