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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Kia Spectra Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Kia Spectra Overview

An Unexpected Treat

There are plenty of small sedans on the market, all with reasonably good handling, strong engines and lots of options. The trouble is finding one with all these attributes for a reasonable price. If you're looking at small to midsize sedans, and you fancy yourself one with a nose for a bargain, then you should definitely be test-driving the Kia Spectra.

Kia has quietly been making huge strides in the market place. As it expands its lineup, each new product continues to offer style, value and an unbeatable warranty. For 2003, the Spectra receives a cosmetic makeover, a new interior and a larger standard equipment list. Available as either a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback, the Spectra offers four trim levels including base, LS, GS and the sporty GSX. Considering that the base model is priced at just a hair over $11K and comes standard with such features as a rear defroster, auto off headlamps, AM/FM cassette stereo, intermittent wipers, 5-speed manual transmission and dual remote mirrors, it's pretty clear to see that the Spectra truly is a value leader in the segment.

A quick walk around the Spectra reveals a handsomely styled small sedan with a good build quality and attention to detail. The new grille and headlight treatments blend well with the car's lines. All Spectras now feature the side molding and lower sill package that was an option on last year's car. The smartly styled LS and GSX models include front fog lights, power outside mirrors and 5-spoke alloy wheels. In addition, both the GS and GSX hatchback now feature a standard rear wiper/washer. In all, the Spectra presents a pleasant package that gives the appearance of costing thousands more than it actually does.

The Spectra is equally nice inside, with room for four adults (five if someone is holding their breath.) The 60/40 split-folding rear seat greatly increases the Spectra's cargo hauling capability, especially on the hatchback model. The seats in the Spectra are surprisingly good; they offer firm support for the lower back and thighs, and the head restraints pull up high enough to protect the tallest of drivers. Legroom is good for the front seat passengers, but only so-so for the rear. The dash design is simple and clean, though you may find the plastic a bit hard to the touch and devoid of much color. There are two cup holders up front, but none for the rear seat passengers.

Out on the road, the Spectra will again surprise you with its smooth ride and fairly nimble handling. The GSX model has a really nice suspension setup, not one usually found on entry-level sedans; 4-wheel disc brakes and ABS are available on the LS and GSX and are a worthwhile option. If you're into aftermarket tinkering, you could add some stiffer shocks and springs and a set of 16-inch wheels and tires and go chase down much more expensive rides. The steering is a bit light, but the turn in is quick and the steering wheel returns to center without much prodding from the driver. All Spectra's are powered by a 1.8-liter engine rated at 124 horsepower; acceleration and passing power is adequate, but nothing to write home about. Fuel economy is excellent, with the 5-speed manual earning 24-mpg city and 32-mpg highway.

If you really want to brag to you friends, first show them what you paid. A fully-loaded GSX will run you around $17K. For that sum you get air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, illuminated ignition switch, cruise control, 4-speed automatic transmission, AM/FM CD with 6-disc changer, ABS, 4-wheel disc brakes, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel and dual visor vanity mirrors. If that doesn't make them cry, just show them the warranty you got for no extra charge: 10-years/100,000 miles limited on the engine and powertrain and a 5-year/60,000 mile basic to cover everything else.

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