Full 2008 Kia Spectra Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Kia Spectra sedan and Spectra5 hatchback receive no changes of note.
The 2008 Kia Spectra is this Korean automaker's offering for the compact economy car segment. It's offered in a choice of two body styles and three trim levels. Thanks to its comfortable and roomy interior and peppy 2.0-liter engine, the Spectra is a good companion to have for a daily commute. Factor in a transaction price typically lower than the competition and that 10-year powertrain warranty and the Spectra looks like a smart choice.
In a comparison test we held a few years ago, the Spectra ranked 3rd, coming behind the Honda Civic and Mazda 3. This still holds true, as those cars remain our favorites in this class due to their edge in refinement and performance. And since that test, redesigned models of the Mitsubishi Lancer and Nissan Sentra have come out. One should also consider the Spectra's lackluster safety attributes and lack of up-to-date convenience features. As such, the 2008 Kia Spectra will likely appeal only to those economy sedan and hatchback shoppers on a tight budget.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Kia Spectra is available as a sedan or hatchback (Spectra5). The sedan can be had in a choice of three trim levels – LX, EX and SX. The Spectra5 is only available in SX trim. The base LX is bare bones -- most folks will likely go with the EX, which has air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry and rear cupholders. The sporty SX adds a sport-tuned suspension 16-inch alloy wheels and bigger tires, foglights, a rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control, metal-finish interior accents and cloth sport seats. Major options include a six-disc CD changer and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
Every Spectra comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic transmission available on all models except the LX sedan. Fuel mileage ratings (revised by the EPA for 2008) are 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway for Spectras with the automatic transmission.
The Spectra sports an impressive list of standard safety equipment that includes front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Antilock brakes are optional on the SX trims. In government crash tests, the Spectra earned a four-star rating for front and front-side impact protection. Rear side-impact protection rates three stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Spectra "Acceptable" (second best) for frontal-offset safety but only "Poor" (the lowest) for side-impact safety.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2008 Kia Spectra offers a simple cabin layout with easy-to-use (and reach) controls and good build and materials quality. The seats are comfortable and the storage cubbies and cupholders are generous in size. The Spectra5 boasts an 18.3-cubic-foot cargo area, whereas the sedan's trunk only offers 12.2 cubic feet of space.
The Spectra provides a very pleasant drive overall. The four-cylinder engine has enough muscle for smart response right off the line for getting around town. Unfortunately, engine noise is a bit intrusive at higher revs. The manual gearbox is adequate, but the four-speed automatic does not provide the quickest of gearchanges. The SX versions distinguish themselves with tighter handling and stiffer suspensions while still providing an overall soft ride quality.