2008 Kia Spectra

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2008 Kia Spectra Review


In the crowded compact-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 usually extra-cost options on rival cars. The 2008 Kia Spectra has 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 gasoline.

You'll Like This Car If...

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.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If the recently documented quality improvements made by at least one Korean automaker have you expecting absolute top-tier refinement, you might be disappointed.

What's New for 2008

The LX sedan now offers the option of a four-speed automatic transmission.

Driving the Spectra
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. In EX trim, expect a smoother highway ride in place of that enhanced cornering capability (although the SX rides nicely enough itself). In any case, the four-cylinder engine delivers responsive acceleration and enough power to make the four-speed automatic a perfectly valid option. With the manual transmission, the shift lever functions adequately enough but the action feels awkward and unrefined.

Smart Styling
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.

2008 Kia Spectra Details
2008 Kia Spectra photo Interior

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. Two thumbs up for front, front side-impact and front and rear side-curtain airbags being included as standard equipment.


Improved exterior styling is a big factor in the recent surge in the appeal of Korean vehicles. The 2008 Kia 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 S-Class.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

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 and 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.

Optional Equipment

Options for the LX trim include air conditioning and carpeted floor mats, while the EX can be equipped with 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.

Under the Hood

The Spectra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine employs continuously variable valve timing to produce 138 peak horsepower -- and 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: 23/30 (manual), 24/32 (automatic)

Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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Share this page
Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?