2008 Kia Spectra Review | Edmunds.com

2008 Kia Spectra

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Kia Spectra Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.0 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 138 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 23/30 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2008 Kia Spectra

  • Although the 2008 Kia Spectra provides solid performance, comfortable seats and a great warranty, newer competitors best it in terms of equipment, safety and desirability.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Low price, comfortable and functional cabin, lots of storage and cupholders.

  • Cons

    Engine can get noisy at higher rpm, soft suspension tuning on lower-end models, antilock brakes available on top SX trim only, disappointing IIHS crash test scores.

  • What's New for 2008

    The 2008 Kia Spectra sedan and Spectra5 hatchback receive no changes of note.

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.

Driving Impressions

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.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Some problems, but good car

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Spectra SX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A)

I bought my 2008 Spectra about 2 years ago with 18,000 miles Certified Pre-Owned. Only major problem I've had is the front end is so out of whack (sometime shaking violently at highway speeds other times not and knocking noise), and no one can seem to fix it. Was told it was probably the tires, so I replaced them for the problem to resurface as soon as the were worn in. Now I'm about to drop another $500 to replace the front struts and hopefully resolve the issue. Kia says that it isn't covered under the warranty (because apparently the struts on a car with 40,000 miles should go bad.) Get 30mpg, SO FUN TO DRIVE, kinda slow but peppy, maneuverable, good visibility, ugly but sporty look.

Best valued commute car!

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Spectra EX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

Bought my 08 Spectra (with 18K on it) from an official Kia dealer about a year ago. No disappointment so far. The car has all necessary functions, basically powered everything, Air conditioning and so forth. It's built cheap but in a simple and neat fashion, plus designed with safety and accessibility in mind. Spacious, driver's seat, back seats and truck, every where. Kia's service center is excellent too. They perform everything necessary, and never charge for pointless services, like mandatory car wash if serviced which many Honda dealers do. It's the type of shop you want to rely on. (my dealer is located 3 mins from where I live, I'm happy!) To sum up, isn't it an ideal commute car?

2nd time around

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Spectra EX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

I totaled my '07 Spectra about 3 weeks ago and was heartbroken. This car had been flawless with no problems. My collision was at 40 mph, with an immoveable object. (Tree) Yes, I was sober. My Kia took great care of me in the accident, crumpled all around me with no serious damage to the passenger compartment. I wish the exterior panels had not been so damaged, but I will trade the totaled exterior for the protected interior any day. I walked away with just a tiny cut on my finger from the broken glass. I found an 08 with 5,000 miles and we are settling in nicely. I expect to have a long and happy life with my new Spectra.


by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Spectra Spectra5 SX 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 4A)

Bought this car less than a month ago and has already been in the shop twice. First mistake was buying used but I guess they saw a sucker coming. I got a lemon. Service dept. tells me its bad spark plug wires and spark plugs. Really every two weeks. They cannot replace them all until defective if under warranty. Really? Bet my warranty runs out first.


by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Spectra SX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A)

Do not believe any favorable since they must be written by all of the useless salesmen who cannot sell the Kia Brand. Tires horrible, front end struts and steering arm, water sloshing, bad paint job, rear end noise. Never again. Buying Chevrolet.

Terrible trans!

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Kia Spectra EX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A)

First transmission replaced at 17,000 miles, 2nd at 23,000. Water "sloshing" around somewhere in the dash/floor area that "can't be fixed". I like the warranty, but when the car's in the shop, you're stranded. No rental, no loaner, just stranded. I paid $950 for a used Mazda 626 with 175k on it and it's way more reliable than this!

Talk About The 2008 Spectra

2008 Kia Spectra Discussions See all Started By

http://www.freenet.de/freenet/auto/news/fotoshow/index.html?frn044parent_id=82310&frn044pa- ge=1&frn044anzahl=2&frn044start=1...

Hey All, I just purchased a brand new 08 Kia Spectra Sedan. I have had it for almost 2 weeks, and I have to say....I freaking love it!!! lol I just wanted to see what people are saying after buying an...

More and more spy pics appear on the web...here are latest Spectra spy shots:...

Gas Mileage


  • 23
  • cty
  • 30
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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