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Car Review: 2005 KIA Spectra 5

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

KIA SPECTRA 5 and high performance future.

Nicholas Frankl
Contributing Editor

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Kia

Mention Pebble Beach to an auto enthusiast and the conversation will likely revolve around talk of Bugatti’s, Aston Martin’s and lots of Italian exotica. Clearly no one had mentioned this to KIA. They cheekily imported a bright ‘Daytona’ yellow 2005 KIA Spectra 5 to wiz around Monterrey and impress the assembled motoring media and local cognoscenti alike. In a city crawling with Ferrari Enzo’s (I counted four parked on the high street next to a couple of 250 SWB’s) The Spectra really was in an exotic space all on its own.

KIA, the Korean manufacturer that has quietly been building much improved vehicles that are well assembled, well designed (if a little Euro clone like) and solidly engineered is now taking on the SCION and Honda Civic aftermarket customer. With the newly released 2005 Spectra 5, a sporty four door hatch back, featuring front and rear fog lights, chin and rear spoiler, side sills, metal pedals and roof top mounted antenna, KIA has a platform to appeal to the younger consumer and has wasted no time in preparing a ‘SEMA’ performance show car, one of six models they will be showcasing at this years event. “KIA is serious about developing official factory performance parts for our new models, we are pushing the horsepower and modification envelop” confirmed KIA PR chief Kim Custers.

. Modifications on this vehicle include custom yellow paint, TSW "Turn 6" Hyper Black six-spoke 18 x 7-inch alloy wheels, replacing the quite adequate standard 16ins rims, Toyo Proxes F4 tires—215/35ZR18, Eibach Prokit lowering springs: 1.30-inch drop front and rear, and white-faced gauges. The results are certainly what the Fast and Furious crowd demand. Loud, proud, cool and different. As this was a show vehicle there was no comment on a projected price for this high quality kit, but I suspect you wouldn’t have too much change out of $3,000, which is not insignificant on a vehicle that costs $14,995 without ABS, floor mats or destination charges.

So how did it perform on beautiful Highway 1? After getting used to seeing so many Enzo’s flashing by in the opposite direction, me craning to get a look and earful of their beautiful rides, them craning to get an eye full of this bright yellow, lowered ‘beast’, I found the car to be dynamically very responsive. Given that this was an altered vehicle, I expected there to be a few niggles and there were. The steering was a little dead and poorly weighted in the center position and the interior hadn’t been finished off properly, with exposed shiny metal A-pillars, which did add to the street cred, although technically illegal. The standard road car interior is more subdued. Once out on the turns the car reacted very well, the suspension was tight, responsive and comfortable, even in-town and over uneven tarmac. Although with lowered suspension careful attention had to be paid to avoid scuffing the chin spoiler. The turn-in and bite from the Toyo’s was excellent, the car tracking well through the corners and remaining surprisingly neutral.

After an hour I jumped into the Spectra 4-door which looked standard, apart from a slightly larger exhaust and louder rumble. KIA’s stage 2 aftermarket strategy was to add an Eaton MP-45 Supercharger running 7 psi, using a custom unichip fuel management system. The add-on was designed and plumped in by Alpine developments, a southern California based turbo and supercharger specialist, whose South African president, John Conichie, has spent thirty years in the business. He explained that the kit wasn’t too complicated to install and could even be further enhanced. The blower raises the output of in-line four cylinder DOHC unit from 138 bhp @ 6,000 rpm, developing 136 lb-ft. @ 4,500 Torque to approx 200 horsepower and 175 ft.-lbs. of torque. Of course the car felt much more responsive through the gears than the normally aspirated Spectra 5. The power delivery was smooth and constant right up to red line, although once up there it is a little noisy and harsh. The exhaust note had not been tuned quite right either with a significant drone on liftoff. Apart from that, and the standard chassis’ tire (P195/65R15) and suspension limitations being unable to keep up with our increased speeds, the power plant has a great deal of potential. Again, prices or even production was not confirmed, but we hear that KIA will announce this or a very similar performance package for 2005. What this would do to the 100,000 mile, 10 year warranty program is another question.

The ‘power combination’ would be the Spectra 5 chassis combined with the supercharged engine, something that, if not too cost prohibitive, would deliver on all levels creating quite a little street machine that would make for a very exciting OEM aftermarket kit and give Toyota and Honda something to worry about. Overall the new 2005 Spectra 5 is an aggressively priced and competitive hatch. It ticks all the boxes on what a consumer would expect from this type of vehicle at the $15,000 level. Exterior styling is fresh mixed with a functional, if not altogether inspirational interior. The standard car features are excellent, equipped with 6 airbags, side curtains and side impact bars as standard and KIA’s official “fast and furious” direction can only be welcomed and applauded.

Type	2.0-liter, in-line 4-cylinder, iron block and aluminum head
Valve	DOHC, four valves per cylinder, (CVVT)
Displacement	1,975 cc
Compression ratio	10.1:1
Horsepower (SAE net)	138 bhp @ 6,000 rpm, 132 @ 6,000 rpm (SULEV)*
Torque (SAE net)	136 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm, 133 @ 4,500 rpm (SULEV)
Transmission	5-speed manual, overdrive
Electronically controlled 4-speed automatic, overdrive
Fuel tank capacity	14.5 gal.
Wheelbase	102.8 in	
Track	Front: 58.9 in.	Rear: 58.5 in.
Length	176.4 in.	
Width	68.3 in	
Height	57.9 in.	
Ground Clearance	6.3 in.	
Head room	Front: 40.0 in.	Rear: 38.2 in.
Shoulder Room	Front: 55.1 in.	Rear: 53.9 in.
Leg room	Front: 42.8 in.	Rear: 35.4 in.
Hip Room	Front: 52.4 in.	Rear: 53.9 in.
Interior SAE Volume	97.0 cu. ft.	
Trunk SAE Volume	12.2 cu. ft.	
5-speed manual	2,701 lbs. - 2,826 lbs.
4-speed automatic	2,767 lbs. - 2,829 lbs.
Layout	Front engine, front-wheel drive
Body type	Steel unibody
Front suspension	Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Rear suspension	Independent, multi-link with struts, stabilizer bar
Steering type	Rack-and-pinion, power assisted
Turns, lock-to-lock	2.8
Turning Circle, curb-to-curb	33.2 ft.
Type	Hydraulic, power-assisted vacuum, 4-sensor, 4-channel ABS (optional)
Front	10.8-in. (1.0-in. thickness)
Rear	10.2-in. (0.4-in. thickness)
Tires	P195/65R15
Wheels	6.0J x 15, steel
6.0J x 15, alloy (EX option)
6.0J x 16, alloy (SX)
5-speed manual	25 city / 32 hwy (mpg)
4-speed automatic	24 city / 34 hwy (mpg)

Spectra5 Yellow SEMA Vehicle

Modifications Include:

•	Custom yellow paint
•	TSW "Turn 6" Hyper Black six-spoke 18 x 7-inch alloy wheels
•	Toyo Proxes F4 tires—215/35ZR18
•	Eibach Prokit lowering springs: 1.30-inch drop front and rear
•	Black and yellow ground effects
•	White-faced gauges

Alpine Supercharged Spectra Sedan

	Highlights include:

•	Eaton MP-45 Supercharger running 7 psi
•	Unichip fuel management system
•	Custom stainless steel catback exhaust
•	Approx. 200 horsepower and 175 ft.-lbs. of torque