Monday, March 06, 2006

Kudos for Affordable Kia Spectra

Mention Kia and a lot of folks still think “cheap cars” but the 2006 Spectra SX provides more evidence that the South Korean subsidiary of Hyundai is making major progress toward becoming an automaker to be reckoned with in the U.S. market.

The Spectra is Kia’s main economy sedan offering, being a little more expensive and with more comfort and convenience features than its Rio stable mate. Performance is also better and the Spectra’s styling displays a bit more sophistication.

Power is provided by a 138 horsepower 2.0 liter four cylinder with dual overhead camshafts, fuel injection and variable valve timing. It’s a revvy engine that provides good power and returns acceptable fuel economy for an econo-class sedan.

My “Spark Blue/Gray” tester came with a five-speed stick shift but you can also get a Sepctra SX with a four-speed automatic, which will add a tad under $1,000 to the bottom-line on the sticker. With the stick shift, the 0-60 mph time was 8.84 seconds.

The Spectra SX gets a little bit firmer suspension tuning and slightly wider tires than the less expensive EX and LX editions, but all Spectras are aimed at providing a softer ride quality.

Exterior styling is conservative and restrained, but the Spectra SX is certainly not faceless. The fit and finish of my tester seemed quite good, too, with all the visible gaps between adjoining panels being consistent and tight.

Kia tends to sell a bunch of cars to middle-age parents who then give the vehicle to college age sons and daughters. For that reason, the Spectra SX comes with an impressive standard safety equipment list that includes driver and front passenger front and side air bags, as well as side curtain air bags front and back.

Scanning the sticker, other standard equipment stands out, including a tilt steering wheel, 60-40 folding rear seat, variable intermittent windshield wipers, six-way adjustable driver’s seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

At $16,820, my Spectra tester presents an appealing combination of performance, affordability, safety consciousness and interior comfort. For those who are still not quite convinced, remember that the Spectra comes with a 10-year/100,000 limited powertain warranty.