PAHRUMP, Nev. — While Kia Motors has been getting a lot of mileage out of their Sportage SUV in the U.S. and has increased their sales by about 30 percent from last year, they’re still what you’d call product-poor. It’s a three-car lineup, with the Sportage, the new Rio, and the Sephia sedan.
Make that four, adding the new Spectra. With few products on the showroom floor, the Spectra adds some variety to the mix. Maybe variety is the wrong word. How about variant? The Spectra shares all its critical dimensions with the Sephia, and truth be known, the Spectra is — ta da! — a hatchback version of the Sephia.
Hatchback you say? Didn’t they die an ugly death in the U.S. during the 1980s? You remember all those nasty rattling hatches. The Europeans have known and loved hatchbacks forever and if truth be told, a hatchback adds a lot of utility to a sedan. It’s no wonder that someone is betting that people will discover the hatchback’s utility again.
The Spectra offers the versatility and convenience of a hatchback configuration while retaining the look of a sedan. With its standard split-folding rear seat and wide, easy-opening rear hatch, the Spectra can accommodate a variety of passenger and cargo combinations, especially handy for those who like to take their gear with them.
There were opportunities to drive the cars from Las Vegas to Pahrump through some scenic areas and on some fairly straight highways. Only Spectra GSX models were available for sampling, almost all very well equipped, some with automatic transmissions, not strictly what you’d find in the real world of Kia drivers and buyers.
We headed off in a GSX automatic. We must not have done a good job paying attention because we were doing our level best to get lost in the suburbs of Las Vegas. The Spectra has a fairly tight turning radius and the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, while not being blessed with abundant torque, helped keep us one step ahead of oncoming traffic after pulling a couple of U-turns.