2008 Kia Spectra5
2008 Kia Spectra5
2008 Kia Spectra5; photos by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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2008 Kia Spectra

The second-generation Kia Spectra, which reached Canada as a 2005 model, was actually Kia’s third attempt at cracking the compact car class. The first was the Sephia, an underwhelming model sold here in the late 1990s.

The first iteration of the Spectra was really a redesigned version of the Sephia, and wasn’t much of an improvement in terms of quality. The 2005 Spectra, though, was an improvement, mostly thanks to parent company Hyundai; the then-new Spectra was based on the same platform that would eventually underpin the 2007 Elantra.

The engine and transmissions were familiar, too, being the same ones used in the Elantra. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder made 138 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque, and could be matched up with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Little changed mechanically over the years for this car, save for a new automatic transmission in 2006, which was designed for better durability.

The Spectra could be had as either a sedan or a hatchback, which was dubbed the Spectra5 and got a firmer suspension than the sedan.

Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption ratings in 2005 were 9.5/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway) with the automatic transmission, and 9.3/6.8 with the manual.

2005 Kia Spectra5
2005 Kia Spectra; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

By 2008, those figures had improved to 8.6/6.2 (city/highway) with the automatic, and 8.8/6.5 with the manual. Note that the second-generation Spectra – which competed as a compact but was classed by the government as a mid-size car based on interior volume – continued into the 2009 model year, and fuel consumption numbers for that year are the same as those for 2008.

The Spectra suffered from some first year growing pains, according to Consumer Reports’ used car reliability data. It shows the 2005 model as not much better than the previous-generation car, while 2006 and newer models show a marked improvement.

The sound of water sloshing around somewhere behind the dashboard is caused by air bubbles trapped in the cooling system and heater core.

Some early second-generation Spectras (2004.5 and 2005 models) with automatic transmisions suffered from rough shifting from second to third under heavy throttle. According to this post at Edmunds.com (http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/.f0f7b1d/0) this relatively rare problem lay with the transmission’s electronic brain, which Kia was aware of. Remember, as mentioned above, that the automatic transmission offered in 2006 and new models is supposed to be a more robust unit.

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