2005 Kia Spectra5
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Another compact hatchback has joined the ranks of the Mazda3 Sport, Toyota Matrix, Suzuki Aerio, Hyundai Elantra GT, Chevrolet Optra5, and Pontiac Vibe. Introduced in July, the 2005 Kia Spectra5 hatchback follows in the footsteps of the redesigned 2005 Spectra sedan. It shares the same Hyundai Elantra-based platform, suspension, engine and transmission, but has a larger, roomier cargo area even though it is about six inches shorter.

Like many sporty hatchbacks, the Spectra5 is offered in one, well-equipped trim level only – a base model is not offered. Starting at $19,995, the Spectra5 includes a standard 138 horsepower 2.0 litre four cylinder engine with variable valve timing, 5 speed manual transmission, 16 inch tires with alloys, a fully independent suspension, four disc brakes, and fog lamps.

Inside, standard stuff includes air conditioning, power windows with driver’s auto down and power reserve with ignition off; central locking and remote keyless entry, power heated mirrors, AM/FM/CD with four 20 watt speakers and 2 front tweeters, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake handle; and 60/40 folding rear seatbacks.

Exclusive in its class are the Spectra5’s standard front, side and curtain airbags. It also comes with Kia’s generous 5 year/100,000 kilometre comprehensive warranty which includes the powertrain and roadside assistance – and “lifetime” engine oil/filter changes (for as long as the first owner owns the car). That’s worth some money!

2005 Kia Spectra5

2005 Kia Spectra5

2005 Kia Spectra5

2005 Kia Spectra5

2005 Kia Spectra5

2005 Kia Spectra5
Click image to enlarge

Options include a 4-speed automatic transmission ($1,100), and anti-lock brakes which are available in a package that includes a moonroof ($1,600). Equipped with everything, a Spectra5 can be had for under $23,000 plus Freight and taxes.

Nicely-finished interior

Compared to the smaller Kia RX-V hatchback, or the previous-generation Spectra, the 2005 model’s interior is a quantum leap in design and materials quality. The gauges (including a tachometer) are large and easily readable, the stalks for the lights and wipers and simple and elegant, and the centre console is a model of simplicity and functionality. The dashboard plastics are made of good quality materials, and the metal-look trim and leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake add a sporty feel to the cabin.

Both front and rear seats have adequate legroom and headroom for four adults, possibly five, even with the space-hogging optional moonroof. The rear headliner was gouged out to increase headroom for rear passengers. The cloth seats in my car were firm, but comfortable with adequate side support. The driver’s seat has a manual ratchet-style height adjuster on the left side of the seat cushion, and a lumbar dial adjustment on the right side. As well, the steering wheel is tilt-adjustable. Despite these features though, I had a hard time seeing the instruments with the steering wheel and seat positioned at a comfortable level for me.

I had two other criticisms: the light-coloured floor mats will soon get soiled; and a warning light at top of dash that says “passenger airbag off” stays on when no one is sitting in the front passenger seat. It’s distracting and unnecessary.

Here’s a few things I liked: a large ‘dead pedal’ to the left of the clutch pedal; an open storage area just ahead of the shifter which contains a 12 volt powerpoint for charging phones; two cupholders behind the shift lever with removable washable rubber inserts; a coin tray to the left of the steering wheel; mesh type storage nets on the back of the front seats; and two rear cupholders that flip out of the centre console.

The cargo area is fully lined and easy to access via the lightweight rear hatch. There’s 18 cubic feet behind the rear seats, compared to 12 cubic feet in the Spectra sedan’s trunk. However, the hatchback cargo area is calculated from floor to ceiling, and the practical cargo area below the tops of the rear seats is probably less than in the sedan. But with one or both of the split rear seats folded down, cargo area increases substantially. The advantage of 60/40 split rear seatbacks is that one or two passengers can be seated in the rear while a long load is transported on the other side.

The Spectra5 includes a sliding privacy cover that shields the contents from view. Under the floor are two extra storage areas which can be accessed by pulling up the panels just behind the wheelwells, or pulling up the entire floor.

Exceptional safety features

As mentioned, the Spectra5 has STANDARD dual-stage front airbags, side-airbags in the front seats, and side curtain airbags designed to protect the heads of front and rear seat passengers in a side collision. As well, the Spectra5 has four height adjustable head restraints – the front ones are ‘active’ head restraints designed to reduce whiplash – and five three-point seatbelts, rear child door locks, and rear child seat upper and lower anchors.

There are no crash-test results for the Spectra5 yet, but the 2005 Spectra sedan received four out of five stars for the driver and passenger in a 35 mph frontal crash test conducted by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration. Five stars means 10% or less chance of serious injury; four stars means 11% to 20% chance of serious injury.

In a side impact test, the Spectra sedan received four stars for the front passenger and three stars for the rear passengers. In a side collision, four stars means 6% to 10% chance of serious injury, and three stars means 11% to 20% chance of serious injury.

Performance OK, but fuel economy so-so

2005 Kia Spectra5

2005 Kia Spectra5

2005 Kia Spectra5
Click image to enlarge

The Spectra5 is a very easy car to drive, and offers a comfortable ride and a quiet cabin. It’s a bit softly sprung but has a fully independent suspension (front McPherson struts/rear multi-link) and meaty 205/50R-16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A radials.

The 138 horsepower 2.0 litre four cylinder engine is willing but not overly powerful: 0 to 100 km/h goes by in just under 10 seconds. I found it weakest when pulling out to change lanes on the freeway, but the manual transmission helps improve responsiveness. At cruising speeds in top gear, the Spectra5 does 2800 rpm at 100 km/h, and 3400 rpm at 120 km/h.

Fuel consumption, while not thirsty, is not as good as it Japanese competitors. The Spectra5 offers 9.5 l/100 km (30 mpg) in the city, and 6.6 l/100 km (43 mpg) on the highway. A Toyota Matrix, for example, offers 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg) city and 6.0 l/100 km (47 mpg) on the highway.

The Spectra5 has a wonderfully smooth 5-speed manual floor shifter and light clutch pedal effort, but the clutch engagement point is high and it lead to a few jerky starts.

Its power rack and pinion steering is quick and precise, and a tight turning circle makes it really manoeuvrable. Driver visibility is very good, and I liked the front variable intermittent wipers and its rear wiper with a fixed intermittent setting.

Standard four-wheel disc brakes provide good stopping power, but anti-lock brakes are optional, and of course, you have to buy the moonroof to get them!

A 4-speed automatic transmission will cost you another $1,100.



A very well-finished, practical, and easy car to drive, the 2005 Kia Spectra5 hatchback is well-equipped for under $20,000. Noteworthy features include standard side and curtain airbags. So-so fuel economy and weak passing power are my biggest complaints.

Technical Data: 2005 Kia Spectra5

Base price $19,995
Options $1,600 (anti-lock brakes, power moonroof
Freight $995
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $22,690
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact hatchback
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.0 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, CVVT
Horsepower 138 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 136 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Tires P205/50R-16
Curb weight 1290 kg (2844 lb.)
Wheelbase 2610 mm (102.8 in.)
Length 4340 mm (170.9 in.)
Width 1735 mm ( 68.3 in.)
Height 1470 mm (57.9 in.)
Cargo capacity 518 litres (18.3 cu. ft.) (seats up)
  1494 litres (52.8 cu. ft.) (seats down)
Fuel consumption City: 9.5 l/100 km (30 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
  Hwy: 6.6 l/100 km (43 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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