Car companies today flourish in the compact car market as they strive to meet the demand on affordable, fuel-efficient cars. Kia is no exception. This Korean car manufacturer, whose name means "rising up out of Asia," has truly made a name for itself in the global automobile market. And although it did not quite become a hit, the Kia Spectra still undeniably made its mark in the automobile industry.
First generation: 2000-2003
The Kia Spectra was launched in 2000 as a four-door hatchback. It came out as a sporty match for the then-strider Sephia sedan. And since they share the same powerhouse, a 124 hp, 1.8 L four-cylinder engine, Kia dropped the name Sephia in 2002 and started calling the sedan "Spectra" as well.
The hatchback initially came in two trim levels, the base GS and the GSX. The GS featured a little something more than the basics as standard--a CD player and an adjustable driver seat. In 2004, they added the air conditioner in that list. The GSX, on the other hand, had standard air conditioner, power windows and locks, a tilt steering wheel, and a few body modifications to give it a sporty look. Conversely, the Spectra sedan, following its launch in 2002, immediately carried over the full trims of the Sephia.
The first generation Spectra pleased critics and reviewers at the time with its good handling and more so with its impressive Lotus-tuned suspension. Although it couldn't effectively compete much with its contemporaries with regard to engine power, speed, and braking performance, it was more than able to make up for it through a roomy interior and a smooth ride. Of course, speed did not matter much when it comes to city driving, which was largely its market.
Second generation: 2004-2009
The second generation Kia Spectra saw many good improvements from the previous generation. Still offered in hatchback and sedan, the Sephia is endowed with a 138 hp, 2 L four-cylinder engine. This engine upgrade provided the Sephia with a more spirited performance. It came in a standard five-speed manual and an optional four-speed automatic. It also came in three trim levels: LX, EX, and SX. All the trims each had their share of upgrades such as better interior and exterior, keyless entry, firmer suspension tuning, and bigger wheels and tires. Safety features, such as standard seat-mounted and curtain airbags, and four-wheel disc brakes, were also included.
The 2004 hatchback model used the name Spectra5 when the model year was introduced. But this is actually the first generation of another one of Kia's line of compact cars, the Kia Cerato. It was offered in a variety of gasoline and diesel engines, offering more choices to the market.
Although the list of improvements may be lengthy, the Spectra was discontinued in 2009 to make way for the Kia Forte, which became one of the car company's main entries in the compact car category.