2009 Kia Spectra Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 20, 2009

The 2009 Kia Spectra has a roomy interior and respectable performance at a bargain price.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Kia Spectra in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com has also researched available road tests on the new Kia Spectra to produce this conclusive review, including a roundup of other choices, pros, and cons, to arm you with the most useful shopping advice.

The 2009 Kia Spectra is a lot of car for the money, but it's outclassed by more refined competitors.

The 2009 Spectra is available in three trim levels: LX, EX, and the sporty SX. All versions feature Kia's 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which uses variable valve timing to generate 138 horsepower. The engine can be somewhat loud and thrashy when pushed hard. Fuel economy is unimpressive for a small car, with ratings of 24/32 mpg with the automatic and 23/30 mpg for the manual.

The Spectra feels peppy with the standard five-speed manual, but it's unusually responsive in the mid-rev range, so it works well with the relatively smooth-shifting four-speed automatic.

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The 2009 Kia Spectra5 and the SX sedan have sportier suspension tuning, but the standard Spectra sedan favors ride comfort over sporty handling. The Spectra5 and the SX sedan feature wider tires that make these versions much more enjoyable to drive if you routinely navigate curvy roads, with only a slight change in ride quality. Note that these models have increased road noise, though. The SX models are distinguished by their black mesh grille, fog lights, rear spoiler, and larger 16-inch wheels.

Last year the Kia Spectra5 received a makeover from the front doors back, with hatchback convenience and a tall roofline that continues almost all the way to the rear of the vehicle, yielding impressive cargo space—especially when taking advantage of the fold-flat backseats.

The 2009 Kia Spectra has quite a bit of seating space, with a nicely proportioned height-adjustable driver's seat. The Spectra comes well equipped, but its interior appointments are a weakness; it's very basic in design, which is fine, but it lacks the lustrous materials and cohesive styling that's now par for the course, even among bargain-priced rides.

Those accepting only the safest will want to look elsewhere. The insurance-affiliated IIHS rates the Spectra with an Acceptable score in frontal protection and Marginal score in side protection. In federal government crash tests, the 2009 Kia Spectra earns five stars for frontal protection and four stars for side-impact protection. Front side airbags, as well as side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers, are standard on all Spectras. Anti-lock brakes remain optional on the Spectra.

Standard equipment on the 2009 Kia Spectra includes dual 12-volt power outlets in the center console, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a rear defroster, and a tilt steering column. An AM/FM/CD stereo with an auxiliary audio input jack is also standard. The EX and SX models get standard power windows and door locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, and floor mats. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, metal sport pedals, and cruise control are also included with the SX, while an AM/FM/MP3 stereo with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and a power sunroof are SX-only options. Remote start is offered on the Spectra, but neither a Bluetooth hands-free system nor satellite radio is available.

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