By KBB.com Editors
In the crowded subcompact car field, the Kia Spectra sometimes falls off the radar screen. That's a shame, because this little four-door has a lot to offer, including a host of standard safety features that are either optional or unavailable on rival cars. Sharing its underpinnings with the Hyundai Elantra, the Spectra touts its own sporty good looks with bright exterior paint, body-colored door handles and available body-colored mirrors and racy alloy wheels. The Spectra's 2.0-liter engine doesn't exactly inspire spirited driving, but it is a miserly consumer of fossil fuels.
If you're looking for a high-value car and you like the Kia Spectra's more expressive styling, this is a lot of vehicle for not much money. And you might especially appreciate the sprightly demeanor of the SX version.
If the recently documented quality improvements made by at least one Korean automaker have you expecting absolute top-tier refinement, you might be disappointed.
Minor updates to the interior and exterior mark the Spectra's major changes. A tire pressure monitor is now standard, as is an auxiliary audio input jack.
Driving Impressions We drove the sporty Spectra SX model that features a more tightly tuned suspension than the EX version. Like the Spectra5 hatchback with which it shares its performance modifications, we...found the SX more fun in the corners than many other cars in this category.
Contemporary, attractive styling makes the Spectra easy on the eyes, inside and out.
Six Standard Airbags
It's nice not having to decide whether to pay more money for extra airbags.
Nicely designed, and using materials as good as one would reasonably expect in this price range, the Kia Spectra is a decent place to spend a commute. Most would find the rear-seat accommodations acceptable for even a longer road trip. Aesthetically, the only blemish is an AM/FM/CD player that isn't physically or stylistically well-integrated into the otherwise cohesive interior.Exterior
Improved exterior styling is a big factor in the recent surge in the appeal of Korean vehicles. The Spectra features large, jewel-like headlamps that highlight sharply styled sheet metal in a vehicle that in no way resembles Kia's first entry in this country, the Sephia (of which the Spectra is a direct descendant). The sharp crease running from wheel to wheel adds a degree of design sophistication, similar to the side treatment of Mercedes-Benz's new CLS-Class.
The Spectra LX comes equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (the only powerplant available in the lineup), a five-speed manual transmission, AM/FM/CD sound system with six speakers, tilt wheel plus a full complement of airbags including front, front-side and two-row side-curtain airbags. The EX trim adds air conditioning, power windows, power door locks with remote keyless entry and four-wheel disc brakes. The SX trim adds a sport suspension, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and metal interior trim.
Options for the LX trim include air conditioning and carpeted floor mats, while the EX can be equipped with an automatic transmission, 15-inch alloy wheels and cruise control. Options for the SX are limited to a power moonroof, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and a six-disc CD/MP3 changer.
The Spectra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine employs continuously variable valve timing to produce 138 peak horsepowerand it often feels stronger than that. City and highway acceleration is brisk, and fuel economy is very good.
2.0-liter in-line 4
138 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
136 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/33 (manual), 27/35 (automatic)
By Susanne (OH) on Friday, May 10, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 78,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Bought this car brand new in 2006. It has been an excellent car, only 1 problem, it needed a new transmission at 70K miles, fortunately after a massive battle with KIA, they paid for 2/3 of a new transmission. Other than that, it has been a good car and pretty reliable. I have now moved on to the Chevy Sonic and my 2 daughters share the Kia."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By bunnydeb (CA) on Saturday, April 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "My car is peppy and steers beautifully!"
Cons: "The front spoiler was poorly designed."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I originally bought this vehicle because it was the best value for the money at the time. I especially liked the interior fabric on the seats, the trim on the dash and exterior, and the style of the car. I wanted a vehicle that offered storage space in the rear which is obtainable by lowering the back seats which extends the rear cargo area to accommodate long items such as rakes, lumber, snow skis, etc. The most important feature for me was the driver's seat. I'm only 5'1" and in most other cars, by the time I get the driver's seat adjusted to reach the peddles, the gear shift is too far back. The seat also adjusts high/low so that I don't look like a child driving the car!! I love my KIA Spectra 5!"
By HeadStrongChic (CA) on Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 116,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "mpg, cute, reliable, durable, safety, comfort"
Cons: "slow acceleration, compact car -repairs expensive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have to say that this was my first car and I rode it really hard. I've taken it places off road where it shouldn't have gone, I've put over 100,000 miles on it in less than 4 years. The worst problem I've had is routine stuff like oils changes, and tires and brakes. Lately at being 7 years old it has an odd quark in that the window on the passenger's side roll up and down when using the button from the door, but not from the drivers side. I like the fact that it handles very well, better than expected actually. Surprisingly gas efficient too. It varied but on the highway I got 500 miles on it between fill ups with the picture to prove it. I've taken this care across country through extreme heat and snow. Also it's been hit a few times by other cars but you couldn't tell. Cars seem to roll away with damage like huge dents, and the worst that happened to mine was punch the corner of a bumper back in place. This car wasn't phased by anything rough road or long road didn't make a difference. Love it."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By MsMsr (OH) on Thursday, April 04, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "roomy cargo,styling easy to use controls"
Cons: "lousy traction in snow,cabin noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this car new in 06. My only complaint is the low profile tires make it hard to handle on snow and water.I have had no maintenence issues or problems with the car. Everything still works just fine. I bought the 5 door for the cargo room and it can handle a lot of stuff with the rear seats folded down. If your'e considering this car I'd say go for it. Fun to drive and nice looking. Fuel mileage is about 21 city 28 highway."
By behemoth606 (TX) on Thursday, March 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 111,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "easy to drive, and seems reliable."
Cons: "poor mpg for a small vehicle"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"I bought an 06' just below 100k miles. The car is fun and easy to drive. My major complaint is that I do not get the mileage I am supposed to. I barely get 22mpg, and I do about 60% of my driving on the highway. Its not a bad car, it looks nice, but I would recommend other cars if you can afford it."
By donmon (CA) on Friday, February 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 117,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great car"
Cons: "sits low to the ground--but still love it"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought the car for commuting to work it has done the job very well. I feel it sits a little low,but I can live with that. Had a problem when I first got it but the dealership fixed the problem and have had none since. I would buy it again and love the car. We are Ford, and Dodge owners, this car has me looking at other Kia models for our next car."