Sometimes you need to buy aninexpensive car. If you're lookingfor the best car at the bestprice, you'll want to check outthe Kia Spectra. The 2005 Spectra nowcomes in two body styles, a 4-doorsedan and a 5-door sports wagon.
The transversely mounted 2.0-liter,4-cylinder engine puts out 136 footpoundsof torque and 138 horsepower.It might seem wimpy compared to mostcars we cover that have well over 250horsepower, but consider that 2 decadesago it was common for a vehicle of thissize to have only up to 95 horsepower.The Spectra performs well with itshorsepower and gearing. The 5-speedmanual is fun to drive because its wholeoperation is crisp and clean, but we alsoenjoyed the 4-speed automatic.
While the transmission performedwell, it was the engine's excellence thatsurprised us. The double overhead camwith variable valve timing and 24 valvesis fun to drive. The variable valve timingchanges the character of the way theengine will breathe and create a longer,stronger power range. The engine hasan enjoyable, elastic feel that makes drivingthe automatic pleasant with predictableperformance.
Power to the front wheels is verypredictable, as is the fast steering. Thefour-wheel independent suspension iscomfortable and not jarring. It's fun todrive in most situations and feels quitesteady well above 80 mph.
We found the pan Asian styling pleasing.The soft rounded curves and flowinglines present a friendly, likable picture.Other drivers are more likely to let theamiable little Spectra into the mergingline of traffic, unlike a bulky SUV. Thediminutive Spectra EX with signature foglamps in the front is especially good inurban areas. The interior is comfortablefor four adults, with seating for five.
One reason SUVs have become popularis that they are the configuration of astation wagon. The front-wheel drive stationwagon offers the best efficiency andthe most enjoyable driving. There is a resurrectionof new station wagon modelscoming out and the Spectra5 is a greatexample. Its body style is surprisinglysporty and is effortless to park. Everyfamily should consider having at least onefuel-efficient economy car, and as gasolineprices continue to rise, the 25 city/32highway Spectra is a good choice.
Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent
research reporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.