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December 2004

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2005 Kia Spectra5

The Good: Sporty ride. Smooth engine and transmission. Good steering feel. Roomy cabin. Great exterior design.

The Bad:  Low amount of cargo room. Lower quality of parts than Mazda 3.

            Kia has recently been making big news offering some of the most trouble free cars in the world, and offering cars with substantial design and versatility all for the budget pocket book.  The all new Spectra5 aims to please young buyers with aggressive looks, aftermarket style body cladding, and a firm and sporty ride. 

            "The Spectra5 was designed to be the sportiest Kia ever," said Peter M Butterfield, president and chief executive officer, Kia Motors America.  "As our brand continues to grow it was imperative to develop the Spectra5 not just as a complement to the four-door sedan, but rather a fun, exciting vehicle that stands out from the crowd and meets the needs of our young, active target audience."

            On the exterior a very aggressive front spoiler with fog lights sets the pace for this sporty vehicle.  Muscular arches surround each fender complimenting its wide and aggressive stance.  Fog lights are built into the front bumper nicely.  Lower body aerodynamic parts are added to give this car a tuner appeal, even a rear spoiler is standard.  Larger than normal 16-inch wheels are added with a small wheel gap.  Even the tail light and headlamps are styled very nicely, offering a circular jewel appearance at the rear end and four large powerful beams up front. 

The new Kia Spectra5 also offers an engine tuned to be sporty.  Continuously variable vale timing and multi-port fuel injection are incorporated into the 2.0 liter DOHC four cylinder engine, producing 138 horsepower and 135 lbs-ft. of torque.  This puts it ahead of the Toyota Matrix and Ford Focus ZX5.  The Mazda 3 however still beats this Kia on a straightway.  A five speed manual is standard with the automatic being optional.  Our tester's manual shifted nicely with good feeling and an easy to handle clutch pedal.  The engine revs quickly and freely, taking you to highways speeds before you know it.  Everything feels smooth and quick, from the shifter, to the clutch to the transmission and engine. 

            Also all new is a sport tuned four-wheel independent suspension, which gives the Kia Spectra5 all it needs to compete in this segment.  A strut tower bar provides torsional rigidity with low amounts of body lean.  Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard on all Spectra models, a rarity in the compact car segment.  The precise rack and pinion steering system is also equipped with engine speed sensitive power assist. 

We also had a chance to drive the Spectra5 in ice and snow covered roads.  The front wheel drive did provide good steering ability.  The tires however always spun out of control as there is no traction control system.  The ABS system provides a stuttering of the pedal and we could still turn the vehicle while stomping the brakes in ice and snow.  Overall it is ok but not confidence inspiring in snow and ice. 

            Interior features were thoughtful and plentiful in this Kia.  Dual heated outside power rearview mirrors are a great feature.  Headlights turn off by themselves.  The optional moonroof is quiet and really opens up the interior during the daytime.  The stereo offers six speakers and door mounted tweeters, providing adequate sound that is good enough to keep.  Doors offer large map pockets as well as room for a bottle.  A small tray on the left of the steering wheel is a great place for your cell phone.  The steering wheel is also height adjustable for better fit.  Map lights with a sunglass holder as well as dual vanity mirrors are all standard.  Garment hooks and a coin tray, a digital clock, front and rear cup holders all signify a well thought out interior.

            The Kia Spectra5's seats are covered with fuzzy feeling cloth trim.  We thought it felt quite cheap and tacky.  We much prefer the seat covering in a Mazda 3.  The many different types of materials used on the door paneling was a nice touch.  The armrest up front also was padded with dual storage compartments inside.  We also liked the gas pedals covered in metal and rubber trim for a sporty feeling.  Even the steering wheel and shift knob were wrapped in perforated leather, a feature that totally changes the feeling behind the wheel, and something that many American automakers leave out.

            The overall design of the interior is not as flowing and modern as the Mazda3 and does look a bit cheap with large buttons and silver colored plastic trim in the center dash.  We want to see a more futuristic flowing design in all cars we test.  We also would like leatherette standard instead of the felt like cloth seats.

            Interior roominess is another strong point for the Spectra5.  The Spectra5 features best in class passenger room at 98.1 cubic feet.  This puts it ahead of the Mazda3, Ford Focus ZX5, and Toyota Matrix.  Cargo capacity is also larger than previous Spectra series at 18.3 cubic feet.  In real world conditions the trunk is just big enough for small grocery trips and a golf bag.  We did not like the hard cover for the trunk area which also puts a limit on how much you can fit back there as it cannot tilt up and allow the trunk to close.  The rear seat can be folded down for a larger space however. 

            The Spectra5 pulls ahead of the back with its standard list of safety features.  Dual advanced front and side airbags are standard.  Dual front and rear side curtain airbags are standard as well.  Seatbelts have height adjustments as well as pretensioners with force limiters.  An optional four sensor, four channel anti-lock brake system is a must have feature we feel should also be standard.  Other competitors do not offer standard side airbags or curtain airbags for the base price.  Only the Mazda 3i would come out to the same MSRP if these airbags were added as a option, where it is actually available.  Kia however a longer basic warranty of 5 years or 60,000 miles, comparable to Hyundai but not Mazda or Toyota.  A 10 year or 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty is also quite amazing. 

            For its surprisingly low price of $15,000, the Spectra5 gives the customer a lot for the money.  Add a few options such as Antilock Brakes, cruise control and sunroof, and our test model came out to a sticker price of $16,885.  Highway gas mileage is also great at 33 miles per gallon making this a great commuter vehicle.  With incentives currently on Kia models this should make this Spectra5 a spectacular bargain worthy of a test drive.  Kia's web site is also great, we highly urge you to take a look there.


Base Pricing 14,045 14,995
Destination 540 540
Moon Roof, Power Glass 625 700
Braking System, Anti-Lock 360 400


  2005 Kia Spectra
Spectra5 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
2005 Ford Focus
ZX5 S 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)
2005 Mazda MAZDA3
s 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
2005 Suzuki Reno
LX 4dr Hatchback w/ABS (2.0L 4cyl 5M)
2005 Toyota Matrix
XR Fwd 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
MSRP $14,995 $14,530 $17,105 $15,849 $16,240
Invoice $14,585 $13,603 $15,994 $15,056 $14,696
Basic 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi.
Drivetrain 10 yr. / 100000 mi. 5 yr. / 100000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 7 yr. / 100000 mi. 5 yr. / 60000 mi.
Base Engine Displacement 2.0 liters 2.0 liters 2.3 liters 2.0 liters 1.8 liters
Horsepower 138 hp @ 6000 rpm 136 hp @ 6000 rpm 160 hp @ 6500 rpm 126 hp @ 5600 rpm 130 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 136 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 133 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 150 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 131 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 125 ft-lbs. @ 4200 rpm
Tires P205/50R16
all season
all season
all season
all season
all season
Anti - Lock Brakes 4-wheel ABS - Optional 4-wheel ABS - Optional 4-wheel ABS - Optional 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS - Optional
De-powered Air Bags Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard
Head Air Bag front and rear Not Available front and rear - Optional Not Available front and rear - Optional
Side Air Bag dual front dual front - Optional dual front - Optional dual front dual front - Optional
Xenon Headlights Not Available Not Available Optional Not Available Not Available
Navigation System Not Available Not Available DVD navigation system - Optional Not Available Not Available
City 25 mpg. 26 mpg. 25 mpg. 22 mpg. 30 mpg.
Highway 33 mpg. 35 mpg. 32 mpg. 30 mpg. 36 mpg.
Length 170.9 in. 168.5 in. 176.6 in. 169.1 in. 171.3 in.
Width 68.3 in. 66.7 in. 69.1 in. 67.9 in. 69.9 in.
Height 57.9 in. 56.8 in. 57.7 in. 56.9 in. 61.6 in.
Weight 2873 lbs. 2729 lbs. 2826 lbs. 2739 lbs. 2701 lbs.
Wheel Base 102.8 in. 103 in. 103.9 in. 102.4 in. 102.4 in.
Ground Clearance 6.3 in. 6.2 in. 5.7 in. Being Researched 5.9 in.
Interior Spectra Focus MAZDA3 Reno Matrix
Front Headroom 40 in. 39.1 in. 39.1 in. 39.1 in. 40.6 in.
Rear Headroom 38.8 in. 38.6 in. 38.4 in. 37.9 in. 39.8 in.
Front Shoulder Room 55.1 in. 53.5 in. 54.9 in. 54.6 in. 53.2 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 53.9 in. 53.6 in. 54 in. 53.7 in. 52.6 in.
Front Hip Room 52.4 in. 49.4 in. 54.9 in. 53.5 in. 51.7 in.
Rear Hip Room 53.9 in. 50.7 in. 53.9 in. 53.7 in. 47.8 in.
Front Leg Room 42.8 in. 40.7 in. 41.9 in. 42.1 in. 41.8 in.
Rear Leg Room 35.4 in. 37.6 in. 36.3 in. 36.7 in. 36.3 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 18.3 cu.ft. 18 cu.ft. 17.1 cu.ft. 8.8 cu.ft. 21.8 cu.ft.



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