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You'll Like The 2008 Kia Spectra If...

If your brain says no frills, but your gut says go for more than just value and versatility, the sporty 2008 Kia Spectra5 SX should win a slot on your shopping list.

You May Not Like The 2008 Kia Spectra If...

If you think good handling is wasted without the proper horsepower to back it up, the Spectra5's four-cylinder engine isn't going to win you over.

What's New

No major changes for 2008.

Interior Features

Even if you don't have problems with headroom, you'll immediately notice the Spectra5's vaulted ceiling-like canopy. The modern, attractive interior features a silver-ringed center console with controls placed within easy reach. More than one reviewer, however, had trouble getting comfortable in the driver's seat. As you might expect from a tall vehicle with eight windows, visibility is good. Rear-seat passengers are treated to legroom in line with the car's impressive headroom, and the versatile cargo area is substantial with the 60/40-split rear seat folded down.

Exterior Features

As we've become increasingly accustomed to the tall hatchback design that we're seeing more often, we think the 2008 Kia Spectra5 looks pretty sharp. Sporty styling includes integrated fog lamps up front and a rear spoiler. The 16-inch alloys are adequate in style and size, but bigger wheels and tires might serve the Specrta5's stance even better.

Driving Impressions

You can spin the tires if you try, but otherwise the Spectra5's 138-horsepower 2.0-liter 16-valve four-cylinder is nothing to write home about. Shifting could be smoother as well. With the "sport-tuned" suspension the 2008 Kia Spectra5 earns its stripes when pushed, with good response when driven enthusiastically and four-wheel disc brakes that can bring everything to a stop in a hurry. Ride quality is good, but we found that a decent crosswind can have its way with the tall, lightweight five-door. In the end, if you subscribe to the theory that it's better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, the Spectra5 might be ready to show you a good time.

Pricing Notes

The 2008 Kia Spectra5 SX with manual transmission has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just over $16,500. Add in the automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, remote start, six-disc CD changer and power moonroof, and the price tops out around $19,000. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price as well as the Incentives tab. Though it may appear a great bargain at the time of purchase, the Spectra5's resale value cannot match those of the MAZDA3, Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla over time.

Notable Equipment

The Spectra5 sports an impressive list of standard safety equipment including front airbags, front-side airbags and front-to-back side-curtain airbags. Also notable as standard are a six-speaker CD stereo, auxiliary audio input jack, air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, sport seats, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and fog lamps.

Notable Options

The Spectra5's options list is a short one, comprised of a four-speed automatic transmission, a six-disc CD/MP3 changer, remote engine start (automatic only), anti-lock brakes (ABS) and power moonroof.

Favorite Features

Leather Wheel and Shifter

The Spectra5's leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob further the sporty hatchback's performance feel.

Front Strut Tower Bar

A metal bar spanning the width of the engine compartment stiffens the front end and contributes to crisper steering response and handling.

Under the Hood

The Spectra5's 2.0-liter engine just doesn't have the get-up-and-go to make this vehicle's moves match its racy looks. The Kia powerplant lacks the refinement mastered by Honda and Toyota, and even pales when compared with the 2.0-liter engine found in the Ford Focus. On the flip side, the Spectra5's highway fuel economy is very attractive.

2.0-liter in-line 4

138 horsepower @ 6000 rpm

136 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 (manual), 24/32(automatic)

Editors' Notes

In America the hatchback seems to fall in and out of favor with regular frequency. Young drivers appear to like them at the moment, so they are back in vogue. Whereas earlier hatchbacks, such as the Honda Civic and Volkswagen GTI, had only two doors, today's hot hatches have four (five if you count the hatch itself). The 2008 Kia Spectra5 follows this logic, providing the interior room and accessibility of the Spectra sedan in a sportier package that closely mimics the hottest of hot hatches, the Mazda MAZDA3s. While the Spectra5 can't yet match the Mazda in the areas of performance, features and resale, it does offer an inexpensive alternative with a lot of aftermarket potential. Don't forget that Kia's incredible 10-year/100,000 powertrain warranty comes standard, too.

Road Test Video Reviews

2008 Kia Spectra Owner Reviews

107 Reviews
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Great, roomy, family friendly car.

2008 Kia Spectra EX

The car comfortably fits 5 people. The back seat is spacious. The head room is nice for an average size person. Anyone close to 6 feet tall will not fit comfortably inside. The seatbelts are nice, but after a lot of use they don't quickly retract. The seats recline nicely. The driver seat can be moved forward and backward. Also, you can easily raise the height of the driver seat. The outside mirrors are electronic and can be easily positioned. The rearview mirror is nicely positioned. Looking out the back window can be a little tricky. The angle of the window sometimes makes it hard to see behind you. The gas mileage is awesome. I can get 240 miles in town and 350 miles highway. The a/c and heater work really well. The only downside to them is they don't efficiently reach passengers in the back seat. The CD player started having problems after 2 years. The automatic locks are really nice. After too much use they don't work well. After several years the car has some mechanical issues where the locks will lock on their own. The steering is smooth. It has cruise control which is nice on long trips. The headlights are bright. However, changing the driver side headlight is not easy. You have to remove the battery to do it. The spare tire has its own place in the trunk under the mat. It's nice out of the way. The car jack is just a basic one and can be tricky to use. Overall it's a great car for around town and short trips.

- Sarah O

Overall I recommend this with flying colors.

2008 Kia Spectra

Well the performance really does wonders. For one it does save on gas. I can be close to empty and fill up the gas tank with $20 - $25. Second is that it really drives very smooth when on the road and have a lot more control over the wheel than anything. I would say that since it is a lite car, with strong winds it can move the car from side to side a little when driving on the highway. I have about 140, 000 miles already and barely had to switch my brake pads and work a little on the ac unit but next thing for sure is the timing belt I would to switch out and replace it. I truly believe if you take care of the maintenance when it is times are due, the car can last you a long time especially from my point of view since I have had it, it is still going strong.

- Christopher G

Kia is a great small car with low affordable maintenance.

2008 Kia Spectra

It is a very comfortable riding vehicle even though it is a small car. Very low maintenance for brakes and tires. Gas mileage has been very good. I have owned the car for 8 years without any major problems and would certainly consider buying a Kia in the future. Perhaps the one problem I had, I might ad this problem also occurred when I owned a Toyota Celica was with the front seat door handles, the inside needed to be replaced. Was a low cost job and with regular daily use caused it to snap. Love this car and would recommend it to anyone looking for a small car.

- Judy S

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