By on August 15, 2007

04.jpgLazy automotive writers love assignments on Korean vehicles. The review practically writes itself: just recap a few Letterman-esque Hyundai jokes, feign shock at how much the brand has come along, issue some heavily-qualified praise ("it's endearingly almost Toyota-like!") and Bob's your uncle. We here at TTAC reckon it's time to stop treating the Korean brands like they're special-needs children. It's time to judge these vehicles against their own self-proclaimed brand values. The Kia Spectra: "Simply put, it's a blast to drive." Simply put, we'll see about that.

Lest we forget, Kia fancies itself the "sporty" arm of the unflatteringly acronymed Hyundai Automotive Group; the econo-minded Spectra is the company's best-selling model. Hang on. Might we expect a sort of value-leader Mazda 3 (Spectra pricing starts at $12,985), combining sporty reflexes, features galore and a low, low sticker? At the risk of giving the game away: no, we mightn't. What, then, is the Spectra?

09.jpgLet's start with this: it ain't a looker. The Spectra offers disinterested onlookers styling cues cribbed [weakly] from Honda and Toyota. In fact, the Spectra's sheet-metal is so deeply, profoundly generic it makes Liz Lang for Target seem like haute couture. The Spectra's strongest feature is its oddly-shaped profile. Call it a "character line"– provided the character in question is Quasimodo. Tight panel gaps and liberal daubs of chrome keep the Spectra from shouting "cheap," but the car's proportions are fundamentally awkward.

Those proportions feel better from inside, where the Spectra's tall roof and big windows create a bright, airy ambiance. Japanese cars used to have interiors like this: simple, mood-enhancing, with low cowls and easy sight-lines. While they've gotten somber and techy, Kia serves up the old cheery, pretense-free flavor.

19.jpgGood stuff, but isn't Kia's trying to send a sporting message? The Spectra's cabin garbles the company line. The interior's soothing gray plastics and velvety-soft seat fabric would flatter an entry-level Buick. The steering-wheel rim is wimpy thin, and there's no lateral support in the driver's seat. But hey, check the velour-lined coin tray!

The Spectra shares its major mechanicals with the previous-generation Hyundai Elantra- a vehicle that, at last count, hadn't taken home many Solo II trophies. If you're thinking that the Kia Spectra is more of a Sam's Club Corolla than a marked-down Mazda 3, you're right. At least that's how it drives.

17.jpgThe sporty Spectra holsters a 2.0-liter, 138-horsepower four cylinder engine. Although this hand-me-down Hyundai mill is relatively mannerly and generates a decent whack of torque right off idle, it groans asthmatically when asked to climb a steep incline. Wanna try running it up to redline? Fine; see you next week. As with most Korean metal, fuel economy trails the class average. Drive the five-speed Spectra without deploying the advertised sporting intent and she'll suck down the gas at a rate of 25/33 mpg.

On the scale of stick-shift sensuality from one to ten, the Spectra lacks numeracy skills. The five-speed's gear-lever moves with light, wafty motions, but there's a clunky remoteness to its gear selections. Worse, the Spectra's prow rises and falls buoyantly with each dip into the long-throw clutch. Pistonheads who drive a manual for mechanical companionship, rather than fuel savings, will be left wanting.

18.jpgAfter buzzing and clunking our way through the straights, what reward awaits in the twisties? A romp in a bouncy castle! Although the Spectra's ride is really quite comfy, Kia achieved this isolation the old-fashioned way: with Jell-O springs and Stay-Puft damping. As a result, sinuous roads call forth billowy heaves and sloshy body roll from the Spectra's suspension. And when you nail the brakes, the nose dives like WorldCom stock.

Nor does the Spectra's thin-rimmed tiller inspire much confidence. There's a nonlinear, squirmy spot right around the straight-ahead that makes the Spectra feel a bit distracted, particularly on the Interstate. At town speeds, the Spectra delivers the easy maneuverability typical of this class. Don't ask it to dance, and it won't ask you to take your Dramamine.

15.jpgIt's easy to see why most reviews of Korean cars are clouded with fluff. It's tempting to cheer on the underdog. But the truth is that Toyondissan has nothing to fear from Kia's sales leader. The Spectra is still the sort of uninspired car you buy because you can afford to, not because you want to. To change that, Kia needs to formulate a compelling brand image and stick to it like glue.

In the meantime, Kia still has The Big 2.8 shaking in their cement shoes. The Spectra nails the small car formula they've been bungling for decades: low entry price, lots of standard-features and cut corners hidden in places where Joe Motorist won't ever find them (i.e. corners). So the "sport" thing didn't work out so well. Never mind. There's always Chevy's lunch to steal.

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51 Comments on “Kia Spectra Review...”


  • avatar
    shaker

    Ah, it looks better than the 2007 Focus -if it drove like one…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    You still get what you pay for and considering the price it’s a decent commuter car. Your review forgot to mention the great warranty that Toyhondissan do not offer.

  • avatar

    I am somewhat confused where you got the idea that Kia was trying to be sporty. They are trying to provide basic go, drop off kids, go to work trasport. I mean their advertising copy kind of talks about sporty styling, but that has always been a joke.

  • avatar
    watergapnomad

    I must say, the gauge cluster looks very nice! Aside from that, it’s dull. But I sure do like those gauges.

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    I have always been a tad confused with what Kia is really trying to be in the marketplace, or what Hyundai is trying to make them be anyways. Since Hyundai offers a full line-up of value-focused vehicles, whats a Kia? The ‘old’ Hyundai with a different skin and a cheaper price?

    I never thought of Kia as the “Pontiac” division of Hyundai. But I guess if they are touting cars with lack-luster performance, but calling them sporty, that’s an exact match to a Pontiac!

  • avatar
    blautens

    I agree with yasth – I don’t get “sport” from Kia’s ads like I do with Mazda’s “Zoom-zoom” campaign. I only get that feedback from every Kia reviewer – that Kia is positioning itself as the lower cost/sportier alternative to Hyundai. Do they tape that to the inside of the sun visor of press cars?

    In a the new car market, were I looking at this segment, I’d have to consider the car – where I couldn’t say that about the Cobalt or Focus. (Okay – you got me there, I fibbed – I test drive cars every month – because I love it).

    Tight panel gaps? Lined coin tray? Those are the kind of details you won’t find in the Big 2.5′s offerings…sometimes regardless of price.

  • avatar
    sarabjeetbedi

    You can complain about the Focus’ styling. About its engine, perhaps. Maybe its interior.

    But what you cannot complain about is the way it drives. This is the car that convinced the much-vaunted (in Europe) VW Golf to finally get an independent rear suspension.

    (and, of course, VW cheapened the interior of Golf V to account for the independent rear)

    The Focus chassis, with rear suspension full of Richard Parry-Jones’ wizardry, is a cracker. And yes, the Euro Focus is more refined. But, like every other new car today, it is not all-new, and derives from the generation before it.

    And that generation is still a fantastic drive.

    Frankly, until this Kia, the Hyundai Accent, and Toyota’s Corolla offer a drive even close to as refined and enjoyable as the Focus, you can keep your “lined coin trays.”

    Primary controls, people. It’s why we’re enthusiasts. Right?

  • avatar
    Roger Hislop

    >As a result, sinuous roads call forth billowy heaves and sloshy body roll from the Spectra’s suspension.
    >And when you nail the brakes, the nose dives like WorldCom stock.

    Two gems. Nice one PJ.

    And bang on the nose on KIA/Hyundai reviews… various vapid variations on “WOW! It’s REALLY NOT THAT BAD AT ALL!!!”. Jeezuz, it’s not like they’ve been producing cars for forty (!!) years. It’s time to stop treating them as if they’re cute new kids on the block.

  • avatar
    Mud

    My favorite is the 140 mph speedo.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I owned a 2001 Hyundai Accent for 2 years. My wife and I bought it because we were in our early to mid 20s, and it was the cheapest new car we could afford at the time. The 10 year warranty sealed the deal. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it got us from point A to B reliably, until recurring transmission problems came up at the 40000 mile point. I got pissed off and traded it for a Jetta TDI that’s been problem free after 4 years and almost 100000 miles. But anyway, like the Spectra, we got horrible economy as well. The lifetime average for the car was 30 MPG, which I thought was sad for a car that small, with such a small engine. Needless to say, after the transmission problems we experienced, Hyundai won’t see me as a customer again, at least while all they’re offering is dull gas powered vehicles. If they come out with something unique like a small pick-up with a diesel engine, maybe I’d buy one. The service was great at the dealers, but it wasn’t a reliable car in my opinion. And it was ever so bland. My morning dumps are more exciting than that car was.

  • avatar
    AlphaWolf

    A lot of people I work with drive Spectras, and I see them all over the parking lot. Must be the low base price.

    There is just something about that arch shape design that looks out of proportion. I cannot put my finger on it, but it does not look right.

  • avatar
    Rodney M.

    Well you can’t really blame reviewers for their surprised positive reactions to the much improved offerings from HAG, considering their rather recent past. But I’m glad that TTAC finally said enough is enough and decided to review a KIA based on actual performance rather than perceived competence.

    However, take the entry level (ie. affordable to the masses) vehicle from any manufacturer and test it for performance sake and I’m pretty sure you’ll find much the same across the board (save for Mazda and perhaps VW).

    As an entry level, people-mover it’s a decent car. With it’s lack-luster fuel mileage and forgettable styling, it’s almost a recipe for success.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    A bargain-basement Hyundai? Is Kia really necessary? I just think “Chevy Aveo-grade” when I think of Kia. Cheapo 3rd rate cars for people with exceptionally bad credit who really want a new car.

  • avatar
    Orian

    I think Kia wants to be a sportier brand in the future. Right now they don’t have anything I’d consider sporty. I know that Hyundai is working towards moving a bit more upscale, and they want to position Kia to be a sportier brand than the current budget vehicle stigma it currently has. That’s going to take product to do it though.

    For what it is worth, the next Tiburon is moving to RWD, so that’s a step in the right direction.

    As for the Spectra, I had one a couple of months ago as a rental. My daily driver is an 04 Grand Am GT sedan, and I actually liked the Spectra better than my Grand Am.

    As for the comment about the speedo, that’s pretty standard on the Hyundai/Kia line up. My 2000 Tiburon that I parted with after 117k miles had that same 140 MPH Speedo. We’ll just say the car wasn’t governed, and it did see over 130 once, unlike my GAGT that has a speedo that goes to 150, but is governed at 125.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Sounds like just the right car that Detroit needs.

  • avatar
    blautens

    sarabjeetbedi -

    Having driven a Focus way too often lately, I agree – the handling fundamentals are great. But it’s so freaking poorly executed in other areas (the buzzy engine that sets new lows in NVH which in turn vibrates every poorly fastened/crafted interior bit) that I’d rather drive the bland car(Kia) day in and day out.

    That being said, I choose not to have a bland car at all for a daily driver any more, but it also doesn’t infuriate me like a Focus – a good basic platform that truly got f–ked over by Ford.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I don’t understand why Hyundai doesn’t just absorb this brand. They would sell a lot more ‘kia’s if it had a hyundai logo on the front instead of a logo that looks like it was designed by fisher-price. It’s not like kia has a different brand identity, except maybe ‘cheap, even for a hyundai!’

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Kia is growing company. I believe we should help them achieve something for our own sake.

    Kia was planning to built their first North American factory but no one wanted to lend them money because every lender out there are broke if Kia has a high credit score they might have the chance to get some loan and the help the unemployed Americans that badly needed a job.

    I wish Volvo and BMW can do the same.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    I am probably a target customer for this car. I’m looking for and needing a car and I have no money. The equation that’s been around since the mid 70′s is – am I willing to drive a penalty box to save on gas. Mileage figures at 25/33 just won’t do. I would MUCH rather buy something used that was considerably more comfortable and fun that will get at least close to those numbers. Say a used 4 cyl. Civic? Or a whole lot of other possibilities.

    Sincerely, thanks for saving me some time. Next!

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    I’m not sure what this car offers at this price that a slightly used Mazda3 or base Civic can’t beat — a long warranty? Oh and good luck on the depreciation. I wonder how many Kia/Hyundai owners wind up with negative equity thanks to free-falling depreciation. This car suffers the same issues that GM cars suffer — sure you could save money buying a GM car new, but you’d suffer egregious depreciation and the car’s performance woulnd’t even match a 2 or 3 year old, lightly used Toyota/Honda/Nissan. I’ve never understood the appeal of supercheap cars like this when the used markets are loaded with better cars at the same prices.

  • avatar
    chanman

    Anyone else think it looks like a squished mid-90′s Civic sedan?

  • avatar
    danms6

    I’ve never understood the appeal of supercheap cars like this when the used markets are loaded with better cars at the same prices.

    So you can have an ultracheap used car. You could probably find a used Spectra in two years at half price and still have the factory warranty.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Okay PJ….better or worse than the Aveo?

  • avatar
    Orian

    Here in Central OH used Hyundai’s and Kia’s are holding more value than most of their domestic counterparts.

    Besides, you don’t buy a car in this class based on future depreciation. This is pretty much the upper boundaries of the appliance class of automobiles – this is decent transportation for cheap.

    I’m probably the exception to the rule when it comes to buying cars, but I do not view them as an investment, nor do I look at the depreciation a few years out. I tend to keep the cars after they are paid off (usually with very high mileage). I always put more than 100k miles on a car within the first 5 years of ownership, so cars like this are fine with me – I don’t expect to get a lot out of them once I am done with them.

    My Hyundai had gone 117k miles when I got rid of it. My wife and I have an 04 Kia Sedona. It will be driven as much or more (already has 42k on it, while my Grand Am, an 04 as well, has 67k on the odometer), and when it is paid off we’ll keep it a year or two more, sell it, and get something else.

  • avatar
    jabdalmalik

    “(and, of course, VW cheapened the interior of Golf V to account for the independent rear)”

    Not by much. It’s still hands-down the best interior in its class.

  • avatar

    I’m probably the exception to the rule when it comes to buying cars, but I do not view them as an investment…

    I always laugh at people who call their car an “investment.” Hmm..cost 15K (or more) up front, plus thousands more each year for gas, insurance, license plates, maintenance…and in the end it is worth practically nothing. That’s some investment.

    It’s a depreciating asset.

    Also, here in Central OH I see Hyundais and Kias EVERYWHERE so they are appealing to someone.

    John

  • avatar
    Jeff in NH

    As far as I’m aware, Kia is the limited budget alternative to Hyundai, since the latter’s competitive aspirations now target the leading Japanese manufacturers. Hence, Kia’s inheritance of last-generation Hyundai platform technology. The “sporty” marketing designation is almost strictly the domain of reviewers’ imaginations.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Lest we forget, Kia fancies itself the “sporty” arm of the unflatteringly acronymed Hyundai Automotive Group;

    If HAG has an unfortunate acronym, what about KIA itself? When I was stationed in South Korea from 1991-92 (before KIAs were imported to the US) we always laughed at the name because of what it implied for the person unfortunate enough to be in one when involved in a traffic accident.

    For those not familiar with US military acronyms, KIA is the abbreviation for “Killed In Action.”

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Kudos for another truthful and well-written article.

    P.J. McCombs
    It’s easy to see why most reviews of Korean cars are clouded with fluff. It’s tempting to cheer on the underdog. But the truth is that Toyondissan has nothing to fear from Kia’s sales leader. The Spectra is still the sort of uninspired car you buy because you can afford to, not because you want to. To change that, Kia needs to formulate a compelling brand image and stick to it like glue.

    In the meantime, Kia still has The Big 2.8 shaking in their cement shoes. The Spectra nails the small car formula they’ve been bungling for decades: low entry price, lots of standard-features and cut corners hidden in places where Joe Motorist won’t ever find them (i.e. corners). So the “sport” thing didn’t work out so well. Never mind. There’s always Chevy’s lunch to steal.

    Personally, I’m not tempted to cheer for the underdog. I’ve never understood that mentality. I am more than willing to support the underdog assuming they earn it, but I would never cheer for the underdog “just because”.

    Ultimately, the bolded line is the most important part of this article. Toyota Honda and Nissan in fact do not have anything to fear; Toyota and Honda especially. They continue to be the class leaders when it comes to small, fuel efficient cars and over the past several years, the gap between Hyundai and Toyo/Honda has barely gotten smaller.

    Most reviewers and industry people that praise Hyundai for improving their vehicles ignorantly fail to understand the Japanese aren’t just sitting around doing nothing. They too are improving; improving handling, improving fuel economy, improving quality, and just plain improving their cars overall.

    But the American automakers are definitely in trouble. Hyundai is not gaining lots of conquest sales from Toyota or Honda; they are gaining a lot of conquest sales from the domestic makers.

    GM really does have to watch out for Hyundai and their upcoming new models.

  • avatar
    Orian

    I think the biggest reason Hyundai/Kia are compared to Honda, Toyota, and Nissan is that they have improved their products very rapidly, not totally unlike the Japanese imports did shortly after arriving on our shores. The thing they tend to point out is that the South Koreans are improving at a much faster rate than the Japanese did.

    Whether that has anything to do with determination or the rapid advance of technology is certainly debatable, but you have to admit they have come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

    Which leads to the whole Chinese and Indian autos coming soon. The question is how bad with they be when they first arrive, and how quickly will they improve? I read an article last week on Chinese manufacturing in general and it appears that they are striving to be better than the ones they are currently imitating. If that’s the case, we could possibly end up with decent Chinese alternatives in the next 10 years or less. Right now I’d say hell no, but I wouldn’t count them out.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Looked at a Spectra back in 2005 – for less money I could get a fully loaded 2 year old Grand Marquis, and still have a car that will last far longer, and not be something I’d hate to drive every day.

    The extra gas is paid for by the huge savings on insurance.

  • avatar
    postjosh

    kia was not always part of hag. my understanding from talking to koreans is that kia was absorbed by hyundai to prevent it from falling into the hands of foreigners. the asian currency crisis allowed gm to swallow up daewoo at a bargain price and the korean didn’t like it one bit. in korea there are a lot more kia models including full size buses and trucks. btw, foreign cars are becoming much more common in seoul but it still is probably under 2% of what you see on the road there. the foreign cars that you see are mostly german followed by japanese, american and (gasp) french. the coolest cars in korea are the korean licensed versions of outdated foreign models like the “chairman” which is really a late 90′s 600 series benz.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    When I was looking for a car for the fiancee, she really wanted a Mazda Protege 5. But they were sadly out of production. Since KIA was advertising the Spectra5 as a sporty wagon comparable to it (you notice they were even cheesy enough to steal the name) I figured we would go test drive it. I actually liked the way the exterior looked. I thought it was kind of sporty looking, especially in the bright blue and red ones they had on the lot. Climbed into the interior, and wasn’t so impressed anymore. Cheap, nasty looking materials. Do other companies still use bright barf green backlighting for their instrument panels? Anyway, we went for our test ride. The engine was harsh, buzzy, and anemic. Didn’t give me good feelings about long-term reliability. The suspension crashed over bumps and the car just didn’t feel sporty to drive. I was expecting it to feel light and tossable, and it just wasn’t.

    We drove a used Protege5(which sold the day before I made an offer on it… *grr*) and it seemed like a much higher quality car even compared to the brand new Spectra. The interior was of higher quality materials, fit and finish were better, and it just felt more “comfortable” in general. Driving it, the engine felt like it had more power from less displacement, revved freely and smoothly, and it gets better gas mileage to boot. The transmission shifted much more smoothly and with less perceptible lag, and seemed maybe more intelligent about choosing gears or possibly the ratios were just better chosen to match the powerband (both cars slushboxes). The suspension was also tighter and felt better around the curves. It had the sporty, light and tossable feeling we were looking for. Zoom Zoom indeed.

    Needless to say we weren’t impressed with the Spectra5 and didn’t buy. The warranty wasn’t enough to sell us on an inferior car. I think when KIA says “sporty” they mean it “looks sporty” rather than it “drives sporty”. Many companies dress up their standard economy cars that drive like pigs in a bodykit and spoiler and say they are sporty to try to get younger buyers interested in them. I guess to some people it would seem to drive sporty compared to the SUVs they are trading in for cars like these. But if you are a small car aficionado, the Spectra isn’t going to impress you on its dynamic qualities, and maybe not on anything else about it either.

  • avatar
    Yuppie

    “The Spectra offers disinterested onlookers styling cues cribbed [weakly] from Honda and Toyota.”

    From the top right picture, the front looks more like a pseudo Subaru Impreza WRX (last gen) with some Toyota Corolla blandness in the mix. But I am not going to Kia’s website to verify.

    “And when you nail the brakes, the nose dives like WorldCom stock.”

    Just when I thought I would be getting jaded by all the ascerbic TTAC lines, this one gave me a guffaw, unexpectedly.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Boy oh boy, the things you pick up at TTAC.I never knew that Kia and Hyundai were one in the same.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    I seem to remember a couple of years ago seeing on the KIA dealer lot, a bunch of cars that looked like 3/4 scale Subaru STIs, with comical rear wings and hood scoops. No doubt they made the car slower than the standard model.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    “Most reviewers and industry people that praise Hyundai for improving their vehicles ignorantly fail to understand the Japanese aren’t just sitting around doing nothing. They too are improving; improving handling, improving fuel economy, improving quality, and just plain improving their cars overall.”

    Except maybe Toyota. That’s why Toyota execs are shaking in their boots about Hyundai — because Toyota, more than Honda or Nissan, lacks style and driving appeal and therefore is totally dependent on the Consumer Reports virtues. That’s exactly the area where they’re wavering just a bit, and Hyundai is catching up to them like gangbusters.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    Although Kia’s “sporty” brand positioning isn’t communicated very clearly through its products, it’s not just in the imaginations of reviewers. In 2005, HAG execs announced their plan to differentiate Hyundai and Kia through differing core values: “refined and confident” for Hyundai, and “exciting and enabling” for Kia. To the extent that Kia has expressed those values, they’ve done it through sportier tuning and edgier styling, a la Pontiac.

    It’s easiest to see what they’re going for when you compare Hyundai/Kia products that share a platform. Drive the Accent and Rio back-to-back, or the Tucson and Sportage, and you’ll notice marginally stiffer suspension tuning, tighter steering, and interiors with sharper angles, darker colors and metallic trim on the Kias.

    I believe this is also why HAG’s ladder-framed, truck-type SUVs (the Sorento and upcoming Mesa) are badged as Kias, while Hyundai sells the crossovers. Off-roading is apparently more “exciting and enabling.”

    Naturally, since this positioning strategy was only formulated in ‘05, there are lots of inconsistencies. The land-yacht Kia Amanti is one; the Hyundai Tiburon is another. This is also why I criticized the Spectra’s failure to toe the company line. If Kia wants to capture more market share and truly take on Honda and Toyota, it needs to create a more consistent, convincing brand identity. As it is, the only real common theme in Kia’s lineup is “low price, lots of stuff.” That’ll keep the company afloat, but it won’t make people want to drive a Kia. Nor will it address the brand’s awful resale value.

    As for Spectra vs. Aveo, ugh. Definitely Spectra. HAG’s engineering may be noticeably weaker than the big Japanese brands’, but they’re about ten years ahead of Daewoo.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    The Kia Spectra 5 is the one with the best exterior design. A car dealer friend who saw the one I drove on a 300 mile round trip in March, 2005, thought it was a Mazda 3 – not a bad car to be confused with.

    Most of that trip was freeway miles. But the handling was more than acceptable and the DOHC four-cylinder engine could pull 80 mph (much of the time) and yield about 30 miles-per-gallon.

    You can pick the nits all day long, on any car; but for most folks, the Kia Spectra 5 will provide fun and fuel economy, at a decent price and with more than decent looks.

    Back in the nineties, Kia bought the tooling for the Lotus Elan and built them for the South Korean market. One has to wonder what happened to that car.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    140 mph
    Loaded with people
    Full of rocks in the trunk
    Off of the rim of the Grand Canyon
    With a jet engine at full throttle strapped to the trunk lid
    With 100x gravity pushing it down
    Maybe then it will hit 140! (Of course it would be a short trip…but the memories!)

  • avatar
    Orian

    The Spectra 5 nomenclature wasn’t just coincidence. Kia actually hired one of Mazda’s engineers that worked on the Protege 5.

    Sadly they missed the mark then, but give them time.

    As for the comment of the Grand Marquis vs the Spectra lasting longer, I wouldn’t bet on it (cruise control recall not included). The engine in the spectra is the Beta II engine that’s been around for close to 10 years now. It’s pretty bullet proof, as long as you change the timing belt at scheduled intervals (this is the only hold back I have on the 2.0l engine they make – they really need to get away from the timing belt since every other manufacturer has in this segment).

  • avatar
    Rodney M.

    A car dealer friend who saw the one I drove on a 300 mile round trip in March, 2005, thought it was a Mazda 3…

    How? I can’t find a single angle on any Spectra that resembles a Mazda 3. Maybe because they are roughly the same size?

    I’m not bashing the Kia at all, but that baffles me. But then again I have been slightly Mazda biased the last few years.

    lzaffuto, the Protege5 was a very good car. I bought a 2002 model back in 2004. It’s still going strong today with not a single visit to a mechanic/dealer. I’ve been very pleased with mine, though it isn’t perfect – it has character. I considered trading it a couple of years ago for a Nissan Frontier. I’m glad I didn’t.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    tonycd
    Except maybe Toyota. That’s why Toyota execs are shaking in their boots about Hyundai — because Toyota, more than Honda or Nissan, lacks style and driving appeal and therefore is totally dependent on the Consumer Reports virtues. That’s exactly the area where they’re wavering just a bit, and Hyundai is catching up to them like gangbusters.

    Again, Hyundai is achieving conquest sales mostly from the American automakers, not from Toyota and Honda. The conquest sales from Toyota is a very small percentage. That shows that Hyundai really is not winning over Toyota buyers. And their sales have been pretty much flat last year, just as they are this year despite a whole bunch of new models. KIA is also struggling with flat sales.

  • avatar
    Rodney M.

    Johnson, I will respectfully disagree with you. Is there any documentation that shows that Hyundai is achieving conquest sales more from American automakers rather than the Japanese? My parents were in the market for a new car last year. They were originally intested in the Camry and maybe one or two other cars. I mentioned that they should at least take a look at the Sonata before they bought anything. Well, not only did they look, but they bought one as well. What were they driving before? A Toyota Corolla they purchased in ’92. Many people don’t care that you can get more car from Toyota or Honda if you have to pay more to get it. Price is still the determining factor for a HUGE segment of the population – thus the reason why so many folks buy American cars with deeply discounted pricing. For many people who have lost their jobs to overseas workforces, a similarly equipped Toyota or Honda simply costs too much. Hyundai has succeeded partially because of a changing demographic. One that values price vs. features rather than (percieved) reliability at a higher cost.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Another drop of my 50 cent….

    Kia is much better looking now than it’s previous design quite frankly I rather buy Korean than Chinese made cars especially if the Chinese are using Lead Car Paint on their cars. Korean made products are almost identical to Japanese quality except for their Infant car design.

    Remember that Korea is the Land of the Can do Spirit.

    Mazda struggled in the United States before from the 90′s and early 2000′s. If you Remember they Changed Their Logo several times for the past 25 yrs in America. Kia is Korean and comparing their cars to Japanese is an insult to them.

    But hey have you tried buying their heavy equipments like the biggest and longest Oil Super Tanker in the world and the Korean winter Jackets.

    You better because Michael Jackson is wearing one.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Well Rodney, maybe my dealer friend might have meant to say “Protege 5″ (see the post by another person that mentions Kia hired an engineer who’d worked on the Protege 5) but he said “Mazda 3″ as I recall. Admittedly, the area from the end of the front door to the front is longer, than the Mazda 3; but I think it was the spoiler on the rear of the Spectra 5 and its general gestalt, rather than matching up the lines directly. Give it to a tuner who’d throw some aero body panels on it and you might be fooled, too.

  • avatar
    Rodney M.

    I would agree that there are some hints at the Protege5 design in the Spectra5. But unless a tuner put Protege body panels on the Spectra there’s no way I’d mistake it for a Mazda. I’ve owned the Protege5 for 3 years now – I’ve looked at it everyday. I KNOW what it looks like, so I’m biased and not at all a fair judge. Of course I’m going to say “No way, the Spectra5 doesn’t look like a Mazda”. But ask my mom (and maybe even my wife) and you would get a different answer.

    Maybe I’m just a Mazda snob.

    Or just another idiot!

  • avatar

    I noticed this reminded me of the last gen Proteges as well. Those in turn looks like a miniature mid 90′s A4. The Protege also had a bit of an oversize rear too.

    I think this Kia looks better than the Focus, Cobalt, Calibur, Sentra, and Corrolla. To bad about the interior and handling. I love my Protege ES, but damn does Cleveland road construction do a number on my suspension/rims. Also, what’s with the American car gas mileage?It’s at the dealership for some last minute warranty work, and I have a loaner Focus.

    I asked the mechanic if he knew why Ford was neglecting the Focus. “They’re updating it for 08!” he replied. I told him the update included dropping the wagon and some other styles, as well as dropping some engine choices. No answer for that. Poor Focus, looks like a Yugo, sounds like a Neon. The interior is so nasty. It even smells bad. Oh well.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Rodney M,

    Sorry to say but a personal observation about your parents moving from a Toyota to a Hyundai is NOT fact nor is it market reality. It is a personal, anecdotal observation, and nothing more.

    There is in fact proof that most of Hyundai’s conquest sales are coming from the American Big 3, not from Toyota or Honda. At the moment though I can’t find the link.

  • avatar

    Good review. But I wish TTAC wouild lose the “verb,” “to holster,” as in: The sporty Spectra holsters a 2.0-liter, 138-horsepower four cylinder engine.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    My mother-in-law has this car. She likes it. It’s nothing special. Yeah, I find it boring, but its kind of cute in an honest sort of way. What I mean is, it does what its supposed to, which is be cheap and practical, without trying to be something it’s not. (Word to the makers of the Sonata: Cramming a stupid, clunky, bucket of bolts with luxury features doesn’t make it equal to a Lexus.) The Spectra is a perfect example of basicness. Of all the Korean cars, I like the base-level ones the best (Spectra, Elantra, Rio, and Accent). They’re cheap because they’re basic, not because they suck. That’s what’s good about Kia/Hyundai.


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