I bought my 2002 Kia Spectra in 2006 with 60k miles on it. It now has over 220k. Most of the work as been regular maintenance. I just put in a new head gasket and my clutch is starting to pop. It has been great in the snow (I drive a 100 miles a day in Colorado). And has always started. I've replaced the alternator (no big deal), scheduled timing belts, and front wheel bearings. The back struts are gone and there are a lot of rattles developing. The arm rest is very uncomfortable and my wife hates the seats. But it has been very very dependable. Gas mileage right now is about 35 to 38 mpg. I'm moving up in car class, but have daughter turning 16 and it will be a good first car for her.
My 2002 Kia Spectra just threw a head gasket at 166,000 miles. Previous problems: the a/c went out in 2007 and was repaired for $1400. It went out again about 9 months later and the mechanic wanted another $750. Shortly afterwards, the heat went out. I replaced the clutch 3 times. Also replaced a valve in the braking system for $250. Lots of the cheap plastic interior broke and/or fell off including the driver's side sun visor. The driver'side seatbelt also broke and had to be replaced. I did a lot of driving for work and both knees and hips were hurting me due to driving this car. If you're only going to put maybe 10-12,000 miles/year on a 2002 Spectra, it may be worthwhile.
Good gas mileage. Could be a bit sporty at times.
Improved durability of AC/Heater. Better quality plastic on the interior. More comfy seating. More durable seat belts.
Purchased our 2002 Spectra 11/23/2011 for our son. Our son had a 2002 Saturn SL that was totaled in a accident. This Kia is very much like his Saturn, a basic car, no power windows, door locks or cruise control. Body has some dings and scratches but overall paint, body and interior in very good condition. Never owned a Kia, but good experience at Kia dealership. Clock was not working so they will replace it at no additional cost to me. I also purchased a two year warranty to cover all major components.
The air conditioning and heater work very well.
Fuel mileage was 34.5 mpg on the highway and included some stop and go driving do to a accident on the freeway. Car is comfortable to ride in. Engine has adequate power. Climbs hills well. Like the overdrive lock out button on auto shifter, like a Toyota.
Engine and road noise prevalant when driving, but no worse that other compact cars in this price range. Vibration when idling, particularly with air conditioning on.
Automatic tranmission shifts normal on most driving conditions. Sometimes tranmission will slip, particlular noticed on two different occasions when exiting off freeway ramp. Plan to change the transaxel fluid soon. Hopefully not a transmission problem but, warrarty purchase will cover if it is.
My Kia Spectra gets 35 miles to the gallon average. Since my purchase in June 2011, I have put 11,000 miles on my car, raising its total to 141,000. I have already replaced one tire, the engine damper, a shift cellanoid, two taillights and a headlight, and am currently in the process of replacing the trans relay switch. My transmission occasionally slips, and it doesn't have a "floaty" ride like some sites claim because the shocks quickly disintegrate. Overall, I do love my Kia despite severe hail damage and some minor issues. The cost of repairs thus far has cost me around 750$, less than half of what I paid for it. However, I likely wouldn't buy a newer model Kia because of poor reviews.
Definitely the gas mileage. I love to tell people that I get around 500 miles to the tank. I also love the roomy trunk. I sleep in my car occasionally between classes, and am usually very comfortable with the seats folded back. Also, the fact that the interior roof is not made of a loose cloth is very nice and easy to clean.
Also, the Grindstaff Kia dealership in Johnson City, Tennessee has always been really good about being friendly and informative to me, which I've heard can be a problem with some of the Kia dealerships. Maybe I just found the exception to the rule, however.
I've had several problems with the transmission, including occasional, but rare, slipping. I've also heard that some models, both 2002 and newer, have problems with the airbag deploying during a front-end collision. However, my mom drives a 2011 Kia Sportage and was shocked when her airbag deployed when she barely felt the collision, so it may just be certain cars.
I bought my Kia with 80k (or something like that) a year ago it now has 108k miles on it and is still going strong.
I was really worried about buying a kia but I needed a cheap car right away!
I was surprised when I bought it, she told me it was still under warranty until 100k (WOW!)
She had all her maintenance records and it seemed she had some issues with the car the first year or two she bought it.
Since Ive had it the only out of pocket expenses have been oil changes and tires.
I have had NO mechanical difficulty with this car it has been extremely reliable as our only means of transportation.
I am no considering buying a new kia when its time to buy a NEW car.