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2009 Kia Spectra5

Posted: 08/28/2008 - 2:08 PM ET

The 2009 Kia Spectra5, a five-door hatchback, is officially a midsize station wagon based on the Spectra Sedan. It takes its name from the number of doors it has: four and a hatchback. Any changes from last year's model are small enough they are hard to notice. This is your basic college student or new family car.

Up front, the Spectra5 has an I4 2.0 liter engine with 138 horsepower. This provides a cool 23 miles per gallon city driving and 30 miles per gallon on the highway when paired with the standard five speed manual transmission. It gets even better when you choose the four-speed automatic with 24 city and 32 highway mpg. Either transmission comes with overdrive.

In an era of boxy cars, like the Scion xB, the Kia Spectra5 manages to be boxy without looking overtly so. Stylishly designed with a black mesh grill, sixteen-inch alloy wheels, clear-lens headlights (with auto on/off) and an overall swept look, it gives the impression of a small SUV more than a traditional hatchback.

While it's rated for five passengers, the Spectra5 seats four adult passengers in reasonable comfort, or two with the rear seats down. Seats up and you can go grocery shopping with no problem. Down, you can head out on a two-week vacation, take your Golden Retriever to the vet, or help a friend move their packed boxes.

The Spectra5 only comes in one trim style, the SX. It includes a rear spoiler, front fog lamps, power heated mirrors and front and rear intermittent windshield wipers. Inside you get a 60/40 folding rear seat, two twelve volt outlets, leather wrapped shift knob and tilt wheel, tire pressure monitoring system, power windows, power door locks, rear window defroster and CD player, among other things. The interior manages to look sharp in spite of being cloth and plastic, making it very serviceable for children (including college age ones).

Available options include a six-disc CD changer, sunroof, anti-lock brakes and wheel locks. You also get Kia's ten year/100,000 mile "best warranty in America."

The Spectra5 gets a five star NHTSA front crash rating. All other ratings are four star, which is very good for a car this size. Safety features include all around airbags, rear child safety door locks, lower anchors and tethers for children (the LATCH system), side impact door beams, front and rear crumple zones and an energy absorbing steering column.

This Kia starts at $16,345 and doesn't go up much from there. The total cost of all options is just under $1,500, which makes it affordable for most families. When you consider looks, room, operating costs, price and safety, the 2009 Kia Spectra5 is definitely a choice that many young families and college students should consider.



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