New & Used Kia Spectra: In Depth
2008 Kia Spectra LXEnlarge Photo
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The compact Kia Spectra model, sold between 2000 and 2009, was replaced by the more modern and stylish Kia Forte for the 2010 model year. The Spectra itself was first a hatchback version of the Sephia sedan, with the name replacing the Sephia label entirely two years later. The Spectra was then sold in North America as both a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback known as the Spectra5.
The Spectra name was first used in 2000 for a new five-door hatchback model of the Sephia four-door sedan launched in 1997, which remained on sale. The two models continued in parallel until 2002, when both cars were given the Spectra name for two final years. The front-wheel-drive model used a 124-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard and an optional four-speed automatic transmission available as well. The 2000-2003 Spectra models were offered in three trim levels: a base S, a mid-range GS, and the top-of-the-line GSX.
The second generation of Spectra, from 2004 through 2009, included both body styles from the start. It shared underpinnings with the contemporary Hyundai Elantra. It was fitted with a slightly more powerful 138-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, paired once more with either a standard five-speed manual gearbox or an optional four-speed automatic transmission. The Spectra sedan received a mild facelift for the 2007 model year, with a more rounded trunk and reshaped tail lamps, among other changes. Trim levels changed to LX, EX, and a sporty SX.
The 2004-2009 Spectra was widely received as a significant step up on its predecessor, and its very large cabin--the largest in the class when it launched--earned it praise as a good value, with a starting price of less than $14,000. It offered a high level of features, including some unavailable on competitors, but its cabin materials and finish still weren't up to the best in class. All second-generation Spectra models used the 2.0-liter engine, but the Spectra5 hatchback and the sportier SX models can be identified by their larger 16-inch alloy wheels, black mesh grille, fog lights, and rear spoiler.
The Spectra never received top safety ratings from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and while it had front, side, and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes remained an optional extra. Standards rose significantly in the compact sedan segment during the Spectra's decade of life, and its replacement, the Kia Forte, was similarly lauded as a notable advance over the Spectra when it arrived for 2010.