2004 Spectra New Car Test Drive
Kia really isn't trying to confuse us. That the company's dealers have two 2004 Spectra models for sale is the consequence of federal fuel economy regulations, not the car maker's choice.
Fortunately, it's easy to distinguish the new 2004 Spectra from the old 2004 Spectra. The old one is a carryover from the 2003 model year. The new one is all-new, with sharper styling. It's noticeably bigger. It's also priced only a couple of hundred dollars more.
Mechanically, the new 2004 Spectra is all-new. The engine is more powerful, more fuel efficient and cleaner. The wheelbase is longer, which improves the ride. The track is wider, which improves handling. Four-wheel disc brakes are now standard, where the previous model had rear drum brakes.
The interior is redesigned and upgraded. Materials are higher quality. Fit and finish is better. Ergonomics are improved. There's more headroom, more hip room and more rear legroom. The trunk is larger.
All these advances and improvements pale, however, alongside the new 2004 Spectra's occupant safety features. No other car in this price range or size class, nor many costing thousands of dollars more and in larger classes, offer the same, full complement of standard airbag supplemental restraints. In addition to the mandatory two frontal airbags, front-seat occupants are protected by seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and full-coverage side curtain airbags protect front- and rear-seat occupants. The competition has some catching up to do.
Kia offers the all-new 2004 Spectra in two models, the LX and the EX. Both are four-door, five-passenger sedans and come with a 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual. A four-speed automatic is optional ($975).
The LX ($12,620) comes with a short, but interesting list of comfort and convenience features. Auto-off headlights are standard, but outside mirrors are manually adjustable, and windows have hand cranks. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, but antilock brakes aren't even an option, nor is cruise control. But a tilt steering wheel is standard, as are an AM/FM/CD six-speaker stereo and a six-way adjustable driver's seat. Air conditioning is optional ($960).
The EX ($13,750) adds air conditioning, power windows, heated power mirrors, power central locking, remote keyless entry, and fog lights. Optional on the EX are anti-lock brakes ($400), alloy wheels ($360), cruise control ($200) and power tilt moonroof ($700).
Optional on both the LX and the EX are a rear spoiler ($250) and carpeted floor mats ($80).
The LX and EX enjoy impressively comprehensive standard occupant protection features, comprising dual two-stage frontal airbags; dual front seat-mounted side airbags; and front and rear side-curtain airbags.