By on August 9, 2011


Kia no longer exists. Yes there is that Hyundai subsidiary now known as Kia. But before Kia Motors went Chapter 11, there was this strange Korean company that sold spasm inducing horrific vehicles.

I’m not sure any female car enthusiast would ever be happy with the name Sephia. Just saying that name alone can induce ugly flashbacks for prior owners and dealers. Sportage rhymed with ‘shortage’ and had parts that may have indeed come directly from plastic soda bottles and aluminum foil. Then there was this plain wretched thing…

Rent: I bought the 2004 Spectra GS for $1650 back in tax season. A time when dealers gleefully pay too much money for crap that nobody wants. I thought a late model Kia would be an easy sell since everyone’s dog now wants a small car with great MPG’s. The Spectra delivers on that count alone. But pretty much has lost it quite literally on everything else.

The top of the steering wheel had whittled to nearly half it’s diameter thanks to Kia’s use of cheap leftover rubbers. Or was it hardened play-doh?

The Tonka rivets that had kept the door handle assembly together had somehow melted to gristle. Not even a rattles worth of their past existence. Or the three cent grommets that had been glued to a leftover post-it note to hold the rest of it in place. I had to position three large screws from an old TV set just to keep the thing attached to the door.

Lease: Then there was the dashboard. Those who have old beater Tauruses in arid climates will be familiar with the gaping holes between the dash and the instrument cluster. As the vehicle ages the glue holding the two together gives out. Leaving a corroded glue gaping mouth as a painful reminder of Ford’s cost cutting.

In the Spectra this ‘mouth’ wasn’t measured in centimeters but BIG gaping inches. Enough space to serve as CD storage for an aftermarket stereo that was no doubt recycled from a Clinton era pawn shop.

Sell: Truth be told the Spectra has only two things worth mentioning. The mileage and the price. With 115k miles some folks would assume that the vehicle has another 70k to go. It does if it gets recycled into something else. I’m not saying this car is complete garbage. The replacement engine is quiet and the second (or third) clutch does the job.

But there is no joy here. It’s as if Kia had aspired to create a Corolla and came up with a colonic. I have received over 50 interested parties since February and with each test drive came the ubiquitous words, “Do you have anything else?”. Or “I just wish this car had…” usually finished with a disparaging remark about it’s quality levels. Which over a brief seven years have left this Kia as somewhere between Soviet and third world.

Keep: I may have to keep it until the next ‘tax season’. While the 1985 Cressida sold in a matter of hours and a 1991 Volvo 240 was bought within minutes of it coming on the lot. This Kia may indeed be the ‘unsellable car’. Joining three door minivans, V6 powered Mercury Cougars, and the Chevy Corsica as permanent fixtures in wholesale heaven.

Certain vehicles tend to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries at the auctions. The wrong car with the wrong build quality, and the wrong features, and the wrong color. Let’s visualize: just imagine an old beater with peeling brown paint and some ‘authentic’ quality quirk. No door handle. A ball of rubber bands serving as the top of the stickshift. Maybe some pliers in place of the steering wheel. That car of imminent crusher fodder may indeed be more sellable than this Kia. I screwed the pooch on this one.

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30 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 2004 Kia Spectra...”


  • avatar
    WRohrl

    I say take a loss in it (i.e. drop the price, at some point, everything sells…and move on, fill the space with something else…)
    Oh, and where is the real picture? That’s always the best part…

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      As someone looking for a used car right now, I wouldn’t buy this unless it was cheap enough that I could make a profit driving it directly to The Crusher.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    These things are modern-day Yugos.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Take the loss and move on. Immediately.

    A larger question beckons: You deal with cars. You know cars. Very well. Why on earth did you buy this thing if you knew it was that bad?

    Steve, the only difference between you and me is that somehow, you always come out ahead. Me? I always lose!

  • avatar

    Thanks for reminding me of my family’s 1996 Taurus, and its amazing sperato dash!

    Also, these Kias were trash.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Did Kia take a quantum leap between 04 and 05? My friend has an 05 Accent, bought new, with 115k or so and it appears to be keeping up. He’s also not particularly kind to his car either, even uses it for very light-duty towing (jet-ski on trailer).

    EDIT: Scratch that, I had a lapse and forgot his car is a Hyundai, but the question stands as they are vaguely related.

  • avatar

    Option 5: crush into cube.

  • avatar
    ehsteve

    Why isn’t one of the options “Kill it with fire?”

  • avatar
    uncleAl

    This should be required reading for anyone contemplating a new Kia or Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar
      ppxhbqt

      Why? This car was made by a company that doesn’t even exist any more. And it had nothing to do with Hyundai excepting HQ’s in the same city. Should every potential Dodge buyer be forced to read stories of old Aspens and Volare’s? Every Toyota prospect be forced to read Toyopet reviews? Every Lincoln intender to read the story of the Edsel?

      It’s the past; let it go and move on.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    Option 8 (7 is Kill it With fire): Donate to the Mythbusters.

    Lose it anyway possible.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I am glad I saw this, as we are currently wading through dozens of ads for cheap college student cars, and early 2000s Kias pop up a lot. I had no idea they were not related to Hyundai until as late as 2004, and I had no idea they were so craptastic.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Hyundai bought them (well, 51% of them) in 1998, but the Spectra/Sephia was a 1997 design. It takes a few years for a new owner to change the company.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I heard a story that those early Kias had wiring that was all the same color. Is it true or was that someone’s tall tale?

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Just chuck it into an auction someone will take it away after all you did

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    Back in 1999 I found myself working for a large Chevrolet dealer in Ocala, FL. For some reason the owner decided to try his hand at selling Kias there too.

    Now I’m not one to badmouth anyone or anything, but let me tell you, those poor brand new cars, were JUNK! You could tell that they were not designed to last long.

    However, they were better than the 1994 or so model that a customer brought in and wanted reconditioned. The woman that had it DID NOT take care of it. At all. And despite all our efforts, there was NO WAY that car could be reconditioned. The materials were of such poor quality that we couldn’t get the interior to come clean.

    I’m glad for their own sake that they have improved, but these early ones need to be avoided at all costs I fear.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Option 9- Set up a $1 a whack booth. Earn money while people beat the ever loving wee out of this POS. When done, bring to junkyard.

    Option 10- If Corsica is a 95-96 3.1, bring it to mazder3. Yeah, Corsicas are junk but they’re fun to hoon.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Garbage, garbage, garbage. Worth less than the paper its title is printed on.

  • avatar
    Liger

    Car and Driver did an excellent review of this Spectra in a 2002 comparison test.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/comparisons/02q4/2002_kia_spectra_vs._dodge_neon_ford_focus_honda_civic_and_four_more_economy_cars-comparison_tests/2002_kia_spectra_ls_page_7

    I remember the car’s highlight was that it started everytime! This was a terrible car even in it’s day

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Not just a crappy car, but a crappy car with stickshift, which takes it out of the running for 70-80% of your buyers who would be willing to put $500 down and finance another two grand for anything that moves under its own power.

  • avatar
    amca

    Set it on fire and roast marshmallows. Insurance scam. That’s what I’d do with an ’04 Kia.

  • avatar
    406driver

    There’s no such thing as an unsellable car. It’s just that you have the price too high

  • avatar
    sastexan

    V6 cougars? Did you not attempt to sell to Sajeev?

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The Ford 3.8 in the late 80′s mid-90′s was notorious for head gasket issues so much so Ford recalled a few million of them. However any of them are better than the early-mid 90′s Kia.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Ford once invested 100M USD in buying some Kia equity. And used it to build either the Festiva or the Aspire crap mobile, while at the same time Kia seemed to be ripping off Ford styling cues on everything from Windstar to Jaguar…

    Anyhow, when the company headed south, Ford’s CFO was asked if Ford would send more good money after bad. His reply was something like, in this business, 100M is not a lot, and sometimes every investment doesn’t work out.”

    My advice to Stephen: Given how crap Kia cars were, and that this is one of the pre-Hyundai crapmobiles, sell it before it strands you or starts to cost you money.


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