2008 Kia Spectra5


2008 Kia Spectra5 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Kia Spectra5 was new.


Performance: 7.0

On the road the 2008 Kia Spectra5 is spry as opposed to strong. The Auto Channel sums up opinion best, calling the Spectra "fun to drive, and if it's not the fastest car in the world in a straight line, no big deal. Wanna go fast in a straight line? Buy an airplane ticket. Corners are where the fun is."

Acceleration and Power

Several report that the Spectra5 has adequate power, but recommend you don't look for thrills. Edmunds says "the Spectra's off-the-line spunk," but still complains "there isn't much extra power at higher speeds." Kelley Blue Book adds "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."

According to Cars.com, the 2008 Spectra5's "isn't designed for leap-from-the-light performance, but rather to deliver optimum fuel economy," and others agree. The EPA rates the Spectra at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway with an automatic transmission. With the standard manual transmission, the EPA rating is 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on highways.

Most tested the Spectra5's five-speed manual transmission, as opposed to the optional four-speed automatic. They Spectra5 delivers zippy acceleration with the manual, but Road and Track notes it "feels a mite sticky into and out of each gate, and the 4-5 shift will occasionally balk. Clutch take-up tallies another demerit; it seems it either grabs just off idle or slips with slightly higher revs, leaving you searching for the engagement sweet spot."

But Car and Driver reports, "The lever might not snick through the gates with quite the same fluidity as a Honda's, but we never missed a shift -- not even when whipping through the gears at the test track -- and the timing of double-clutch downshifts … came naturally." Cars.com says, "Performance with the manual shift is eager but not exactly action-packed. Except for some clanking, the gearshift behaves as adeptly as those in many sporty cars."

Handling and Braking

The Spectra5 earns respect for its good handling. Kelley Blue Book writes that "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." Road and Track adds "we're not talking Miata-like levels of responsiveness or flingability here; rather, enough precision, steering feedback and roll control to make attacking the serpentine stuff a pleasure instead of a tire-punishing chore." Cars.com also notes, "Maneuverability is a strong point for the Spectra5, which serves as a satisfying urban runabout. Unlike some small cars, it can be fun to drive and it easily heads wherever it's pointed." However, they add it's "an unwise choice on snow-covered pavement."

The Spectra5 has a sport-tuned independent suspension, courtesy of MacPherson struts for the front and dual-link with struts in the rear, with both front and rear receiving coil springs and a stabilizer bar that The Auto Channel says is "tuned for fun and comfort." Meanwhile, Autoweb credits the strut tower brace for stiffening the wagon's front end, "which results in improved handling and crisper response from the engine-speed rack-and-pinion steering."

Although the anti-lock braking system is optional, the Spectra5's standard four-wheel discs are commendable and "can bring everything to a stop in a hurry," Kelley Blue Book finds. Nonetheless, most recommend splurging for ABS. "The distance with ABS is always shorter than what can be managed by humans, and we welcome it in every car," says Car and Driver, while Edmunds praises the ABS brakes as "quite strong" with "good feel."

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