What's New for 2000
The Spectra is new for 2000. Similar in size to the Sephia, Kia hopes the Spectra will attract younger buyers due to the versatile four-door hatchback design and sportier styling.
Four-door hatchbacks have always been hot sellers in Asian and European markets, but American buyers have shunned the five-door concept - so much that Ford left the four-door hatchback out of the Focus lineup. Kia looks to change that thinking with the new Spectra.
Powered by a Sephia-derived, 125-horsepower, 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine and mated to a standard five-speed manual gearbox (a four-speed automatic is optional), the Spectra provides decent fuel economy (23 city and 29 highway) buts lacks decent acceleration off idle and during passing maneuvers.
Two trim levels are available: GS and GSX. The base GS is Spartanly-trimmed, including full fabric interior, split-folding rear seat, AM/FM/stereo cassette sound system, tinted glass, rear defrost and two-speed wipers. Optional equipment includes four-wheel antilock brakes, body-color side moldings, rear wiper/washer, AM/FM/CD audio system, cruise control and an automatic transmission. Interior materials are not the Spectra's strong suit with headliner, dash panel, and seat fabric quality well below that of the more expensive Civic or Corolla.
Canyon driving offers a great deal of body roll, adequate steering feedback and limited acceleration. On the highway, the Spectra smoothed out any pavement irregularities, but floated like a boat over expansion joints despite the Lotus-tuned suspension.
The front seats are comfortable, with a decent amount of lumbar and thigh support, and the layout of the dashboard and controls makes the Spectra easy to manipulate. Rear seat riders get minimal legroom, and the canted rear glass impedes valuable headroom.
Higher-grade interior materials, along with a more powerful engine, would do wonders for this Kia's overall desirability. Still, you can't deny its substantial price advantage over the competition. It's not as roomy as the Corolla and it may not have the grunt of the Civic, but the Spectra will serve your basic transportation needs. For first-time drivers and college students trying to survive on Top Ramen, the Spectra is worth a look.