Machine Design

2007 Kia Spectra

It’s a good thing the emergency brake worked well on our test 2007 Kia Spectra test car.

With only about 5,000 miles under its belt, and on the way back from an otherwise great get-away, the car suddenly would not shift into Park. So there we were — 100 miles from home, the key stuck in the ignition, and a car that could not be turned off or locked. At least the brake kept the vehicle from rolling when parked and placed in Neutral. After that episode, I don’t care much for the Spectra.

That said, there are some upsides. For example, it’s kind of amazing a new car is even available for around $16,000. And gas mileage is good at 27/35 EPA.

Outside, the vehicle is nothing special. Out tester’s Radiant Red paint job helped spice things up a bit. The car has four doors and a serviceable interior with cloth-covered seats. These include a 60/40 split folding rear, along with a fully reclining passenger seat, handy for taking a nap. The steering column is clad in cheap-looking plastic, a bad choice. It was full of ugly scratches from drivers missing the slot when inserting the ignition key.

My front-seat passenger complained about the leg room. Another annoyance: poorly placed window controls. A natural motion to lower the driver window inevitably lowered the rear window instead. Nice interior touches came from coffee holders between the front seats that adjust for cup size and a retractable plastic hook on the right side of the dash handy for hanging a purse or a small trash bag.

The ride is a bit bumpy and harsh, but a 2.0 L four-cylinder 16 valve DOHC engine provided plenty of passing power even on hilly Pennsylvania roads. Power rack-and-pinion steering took the curves neatly and power, disc brakes on all four wheels stopped the car quickly. However, even before the four-speed transmission jammed, it was sometimes hard to shift into gear. Fortunately, a display near the speedometer shows what gear the car is in.

Where the Spectra probably passes muster is safety. Features include side-door impact beams, front and rear crumple zones, and dual front and full-length side airbags. There are also front height-adjustable seatbelt anchors, front seat-belt pretensioners with force limiters, and lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH).

The manufacturer’s suggested retail on our tester was $15,895.00. Cruise control ($250.00) and freight and handling brought this to $16,745.00.

—Leslie Gordon.

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