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#28

in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $5,826 - $7,192
Original MSRP: $13,550 - $17,450
MPG: 23 City / 30 Hwy
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2009 Kia Spectra Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Very few test drivers have taken the 2009 Kia Spectra for a spin, but those that did uphold the opinion of previous reviewers. The car meets but doesn't exceed the expectations of an economy car.

  • "On the road, the Spectra rides well as any car in this class. Handling isn't up to the level of the Civic, but it's close." -- Orlando Sentinel
  • "The Spectra's 2.0-liter engine doesn't exactly inspire spirited driving, but it is a miserly consumer of fossil fuels." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Spectra provides a very pleasant drive overall." -- Edmunds
  • "Power and economy mesh well. … We could drive one of these every day and be happy." -- New Car Test Drive

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Kia Spectra's acceleration and power is sufficient. The Spectra's standard engine is a 2.0-liter inline four that creates 138 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque. Reviewers like the five-speed manual transmission with overdrive better than the optional electronically controlled five-speed automatic, but they still say either one will deliver adequate performance on the highway or in the city. The EPA reports the 2009 Kia Spectra should achieve 23/30 mpg city/highway with the manual, and 24/32 mpg with an automatic.

  • "The four-cylinder engine has enough muscle and a healthy amount of torque delivered right off the line for getting around town. Unfortunately, engine is a bit intrusive at higher revs." -- Edmunds
  • "The four-cylinder engine delivers responsive acceleration and enough power to make the four-speed automatic a perfectly valid option. With the manual transmission, the shift level functions adequately enough but the action feels awkward and unrefined." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Acceleration is good, better with the manual than the automatic, of course, but the automatic offers more than adequate power even for high-speed, long-distance cruising." -- New Car Test Drive

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Kia Spectra has a soft ride, but test drivers disagree as to whether this is good, bad or simply a matter of preference. They do generally praise the car's light steering, but once again differ when it comes to braking. As in previous years, anti-lock brakes are optional for the higher EX and SX trims, but the base LX does without.

  • "The Spectra SX was impressive as a city car -- very nimble and maneuverable in brake-and-screech urban traffic; and it was easily parked in tight spaces." -- The Washington Post
  • "In terms of dynamics, Kia clings to the notion that softness is next to godliness." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Low-speed maneuverability is good, with quick steering, but the Spectra doesn't like to be driven more than moderately hard. … The brake pedal helps allow easy stops with its progressive action." -- MSN
  • "Test EX was prone to wander in highway crosswinds and exhibited unwanted nosedive in simulated panic stops." -- Consumer Guide

Next Steps: 2009 Kia Spectra

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