2009 Kia Spectra Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Kia Spectra was new.


Performance: 7.3

Very few test drivers have taken the 2009 Kia Spectra for a spin, but those that did uphold the opinion of previous reviewers. The car meets but doesn't exceed the expectations of an economy car.

  • "On the road, the Spectra rides well as any car in this class. Handling isn't up to the level of the Civic, but it's close." -- Orlando Sentinel
  • "The Spectra's 2.0-liter engine doesn't exactly inspire spirited driving, but it is a miserly consumer of fossil fuels." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Spectra provides a very pleasant drive overall." -- Edmunds
  • "Power and economy mesh well. … We could drive one of these every day and be happy." -- New Car Test Drive

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Kia Spectra's acceleration and power is sufficient. The Spectra's standard engine is a 2.0-liter inline four that creates 138 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque. Reviewers like the five-speed manual transmission with overdrive better than the optional electronically controlled five-speed automatic, but they still say either one will deliver adequate performance on the highway or in the city. The EPA reports the 2009 Kia Spectra should achieve 23/30 mpg city/highway with the manual, and 24/32 mpg with an automatic.

  • "The four-cylinder engine has enough muscle and a healthy amount of torque delivered right off the line for getting around town. Unfortunately, engine is a bit intrusive at higher revs." -- Edmunds
  • "The four-cylinder engine delivers responsive acceleration and enough power to make the four-speed automatic a perfectly valid option. With the manual transmission, the shift level functions adequately enough but the action feels awkward and unrefined." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Acceleration is good, better with the manual than the automatic, of course, but the automatic offers more than adequate power even for high-speed, long-distance cruising." -- New Car Test Drive

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Kia Spectra has a soft ride, but test drivers disagree as to whether this is good, bad or simply a matter of preference. They do generally praise the car's light steering, but once again differ when it comes to braking. As in previous years, anti-lock brakes are optional for the higher EX and SX trims, but the base LX does without.

  • "The Spectra SX was impressive as a city car -- very nimble and maneuverable in brake-and-screech urban traffic; and it was easily parked in tight spaces." -- The Washington Post
  • "In terms of dynamics, Kia clings to the notion that softness is next to godliness." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Low-speed maneuverability is good, with quick steering, but the Spectra doesn't like to be driven more than moderately hard. … The brake pedal helps allow easy stops with its progressive action." -- MSN
  • "Test EX was prone to wander in highway crosswinds and exhibited unwanted nosedive in simulated panic stops." -- Consumer Guide

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