2001 Kia Spectra Review

Used Spectra for sale
List Price Estimate:$608 - $1,405
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Kia Spectra model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Low base price, responsive steering and nimble handling, hatchback configuration, killer warranty.
  • Lackluster engine performance, cheap interior materials, dearth of refinement, Kia's initial poor quality reputation.

The Spectra will never be called a great car, but for some, it might prove to be a good bargain.

Vehicle overview

Five-door hatchbacks have always been hot sellers in Asian and European markets, but American buyers have shunned the concept -- so much so that Ford left the five-door hatchback out of the Focus lineup. The Spectra's duplicitous design does a good job of hiding the fact that it is indeed a five-door hatchback, and therein lies its appeal.

Two trim levels are available: GS and GSX. The sparsely equipped GS includes fabric upholstery, split-folding rear seat, cassette player, rear defroster and two-speed wipers. Optional equipment includes A/C, body-color side moldings, rear wiper/washer, floor mats and an automatic transmission. GSX adds alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, tape stripes and special fabric for a sporty look. It also provides power windows and locks, air conditioning and a tilt steering wheel. ABS, a CD player, cruise control and power windows are available only on GSX. Powered by a Sephia-derived 125-horsepower 1.8-liter DOHC four-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) but lacks capable acceleration off idle and during passing maneuvers. Additionally, the raucous motor makes an incessant whine at higher revs, which can grate on the driver's nerves.

The Spectra proves to be a competent handler, exhibiting limited body roll and responsive steering. Cheap tires ruin the fun in the twisties. On the highway, the Spectra smoothes out any pavement irregularities, but floats like a boat over highway expansion joints despite the Lotus-tuned suspension. Front disc/rear drum brakes are barely adequate, requiring lots of pedal pressure that results in mediocre stopping performance.

Firm front seats are reasonably comfortable, with a decent amount of lumbar and thigh support, and the simple 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. Interior materials are not the Spectra's strong suit with headliner, dash panel and seat fabric quality well below that of slightly more expensive competitors.

Higher-grade interior materials, along with a more powerful engine and improved brakes, would do wonders for this Kia's overall desirability. Still, you can't deny its substantial price and utility advantages over the competition. Plus, it looks good and sporty, thanks to aggressive styling in front and the fastback-style rear window.

Another incentive to consider the Spectra is Kia's new-for-2001 Long Haul Warranty Program, which consists of a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty, a 5-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty (which protects against holes in the body caused by rust) and a 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance plan. This impressive package should add some peace of mind to Spectra ownership.

For first-time buyers and college students trying to survive on Top Ramen, as well as those who desire the utility that only a five-door hatchback can provide, the Spectra is worth a look. Others might want to consider shopping around, especially when Hyundai introduces the well-equipped and more powerful five-door Elantra GT later this year.

2001 Highlights

2001 sees few changes to Kia's sporty five-door hatchback, which was introduced last year to attract younger customers to the brand. The top-rung GSX trim level gets a gas-cap tether, coin holder and dual visor vanity mirrors. Kia's Long Haul Warranty Program has also been introduced for this model year.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2001 Kia Spectra.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
2001 Kia Spectra GSX
GSX 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 4A)
We've owned ours for 17 years now. It's a little beat up. Wish it had a little more drivera leg room.Upholstery apart at the seams, dash buckled from the heat. Hit a deer 15 years ago. That being said, maintenance is minimal. I've changed the up and downstream. O2 sensors and the timing belt. This little toad keeps on running. I just hit 220,000 miles and I still get 30-32 mpg on the highway. We bought another kia, a Soul this time. Impressed beyong measure with that car. Took a trip recently in the soul. 2955 miles round trip. Total cost for fuel: $197.00. My next purchase is a kia Sedona. I love my kia spectra. Still has plenty zip. Makes me feel again
4.25 out of 5 stars
2001 Spectra GS
GS 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
Other than normal wear parts like brake pads, I've had problems with the motor mounts (4 of them) and the upper power steering hose. It has good fuel economy, about 22 mpg city and very good handling, especially when you upgrade the wheels to 15" and sport tires.
4.38 out of 5 stars
Best car I've ever owned
GS 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
I bought the Kia used at 18,000 miles, and then drove it for almost 150,000 without a problem. Gas mileage was about 33 mpg highway, and it was rock solid. Sure, the sheet metal is so thin that you could dent the car just by breathing on it, and the rear defroster was useless, but the car was a real trooper. Hatchback was very useful, too, I could load all kinds of things in there. The only mistake I made was not changing the timing belt, and it broke at 145k miles, ruining the engine. At 145k miles, the CV joints needed replacing, and so did the struts, but it was a great car.
4.75 out of 5 stars
Hercules Unchained
Mr. GSX,04/27/2002
GSX 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
I bought this Spectra GSX in August of 2001, I received a strong rebate of $1500.00 cash back, along with a strong warranty, i.e., 100K or (10)yrs., this really eased my apprehension of purchasing a Korea Made Car. Now! The performance suits my liking, 125HP is sufficient for freeway driving. The 5sp manual works well for controlling the vehicle. The GSX Trim level gives an abundance of goodies to enjoy while you drive. Overall I have had very few problems, some shifter Buzz while in third gear, this was corrected with new parts after two visits to the Kia Dealer. After I drive another 50k in this car I will know if I have received my monies worth. I do enjoy this car.


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2001 Kia Spectra

Used 2001 Kia Spectra Overview

The Used 2001 Kia Spectra is offered in the following submodels: Spectra Hatchback. Available styles include GS 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 4A), GS 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M), GSX 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 4A), and GSX 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M). Pre-owned Kia Spectra models are available with a 1.8 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 125 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2001 Kia Spectra comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic, 5-speed manual. The Used 2001 Kia Spectra comes with a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 10 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2001 Kia Spectra?

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Which used 2001 Kia Spectras are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2001 Kia Spectra for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2001 Kia Spectra.

Can't find a used 2001 Kia Spectras you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Kia Spectra for sale - 5 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $20,722.

Find a used Kia for sale - 5 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $21,876.

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Should I lease or buy a 2001 Kia Spectra?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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