2003 Kia Spectra

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2003 Kia Spectra
RCR Kia Spectra Thumb.jpg
Car Details
Make Kia
Model Spectra
Year 2003
Owner Duncan
Episode Details
Episode Link Watch
Season All Bets Are Off.
Air Date August 1, 2016
Credits u/lanator

We review a beige every-man car: The univesal $1,000 Craigslist special: The Kia Spectra.


Kia Spectra. The official car of a way-too-old guy at Shorty's bar in Kutztown. Show me an over-40 man who still likes to party and I'll show you a man who isn't learning from his mistakes.


To the tune of (INSERT SONG HERE)

   Hey there Shorty
   I can promise I'm not forty
   I don't have to rethink my mistake
   'Cause I already paid for abortions- wait...



The Kia Spectra is a Hyundai Elantra but I don't know who's trying to out-cheap who here. Euh, it's a cheap car. I know I'm starting to sound like an old man who goes inside a bank to withdraw cash just so he has someone to talk to, but you don't know how good you have it today.

Compare the Kia Spectra, a 2000s cheap car, to Justin Kramer's Chevette, a 1970s cheap car. The Kia Spectra has a hundred twenty-six horsepower, its fuel delivery is port fuel injection, it has dual airbags, it has a four-speed overdrive automatic transmission and a top speed of a hundred and twelve miles an hour. It has rollover protection and air conditioning.

A Chevy Chevette had twenty-three horsepower powered by a carburetor, it had no airbags, its transmission was a three-speed and unladen this car could go seventy miles an hour maybe. Rollover protection nope and air conditioning none.

So cheap cars of the 2000s would've been considered luxury cars in the 70s. Yeah, yeah, I- thank you, grandpa, yea-yeah I know, and my iPhone has more computing power than the Apollo space program. I- yea- and I'm am grateful. Thank you. You need a beer? ...No? A'ight, I'm goin' out to the pool.

2003 Kia Spectra. How long did it take the 2000s to stop being the 90s, anyway?

The Kia Spectra came off the factory line as a completely forgettable automotive experience. Look at it. It's hard to believe it actually exists. It looks like the fictional idea of a regular car, a completely made-up symptom of the ridiculousness of the human condition.

Kia Spectra: sponsored by STREP DICK.

Sharing a platform with the Hyundai Elantra, the Spectra replaced the Kia Sephia but was itself replaced by the Kia Forte. It's like replacing squash with eggplant and then replacing the eggplant with a zucchini. It's good, reliable nutrition.

But much like the guy who tries to watch his cholesterol, the Kia Spectra isn't the type of car you come to if you have any other choice. I mean, the owner's manual proudly declared, “Every new Kia includes a full tank of gasoline!” Yeah, it better. Have you ever gone to a dealership and they've not given you a full tank? That happened with Silicone Sally. Get this: they said, “Because we negotiated on the price with you, the gas that's in it is what you're getting.” Dicks.

Tha- that's the automotive equivalent of the teacher smiling and, you know, you're protesting that you're getting homework over Christmas vacation and your teacher stands there with a shit-eating grin and just says, “Well, since you got more time to work on it...”


According to the owner's manual, the first syllable, Ki, means “to arise from to the world” or “to come up out of to the world.” The second syllable, a, just means “Asia.” So Kia literally means, “To come out of Asia to the world.”

The Kia Sephia is the official car of Cash for CLUUUNKEEERS (burped). It's the car that fed into the American belief that Korean cars were cheap and flimsy. Right or wrong, that's the impression this car gave off. I mean this is a car that, according to the owner, came with a little can of stone beige paint as if they knew it was made with cheap paint and cheaper steel.

And yet it's easy to miss the forest for the trees with a car like this. See, you're probably not gonna be impressed with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, sixteen-valve, double cam engine or the four-speed automatic transmission. I wasn't. Right? I- I was just driving this car and just stomping on the gas, like pow pow pow, like- just seeing what the throttle response was be (sic) and it was nothin', nothin', nothin', nothin'... It's like this thing has a 3000 RPM stall converter in it and it was just spinnin' away, not doin' anything, just fweh feh feh feh feh


This Kia's reliable. Really, that's the Kia's brand, it's not aesthetic or motivation that gets the Kia's foot in the door, it's cheap reliability. For example, this particular example was involved in a series of wrecks that weren't the owner's fault. Because the Kia, as the owner described, is invisible to the other drivers. You see these things and you don't even register that it's there and on top of that it's beige.

He took a hit at a Redner's market in Westchester, got rear-ended by a Suburban in New York City and it's been taking dings left and right ever since. But it's still here. It blew out a tire in the rain but it's still here. It loses power in reverse and the owner had to do a transmission fluid swap to keep it running but she's still here.

A Kia isn't going to be problem-free but what car really is? And hell, you get what you pay for. Duncan, the owner, got it for free. So he got his cheaper than Doug DeMuro's, huhuhuh. It belonged to his ex-step-grandmother. And it came to Duncan because, why sell it? You're not going to get a lot of money on a thirteen-year-old Kia that's been through the wringer.

Granted, some people would try to sell it on principle, figuring if it still runs well there has to be a market for it somewhere but sometimes you just have to be smart enough to know when to cut your losses and pass the reliability on to the next driver in your family who needs it.

Anecdote time.

About a month ago, a fan messaged me and asked me to give him help on a Craigslist ad he was selling. He just had a truck, it may have been either a Ford Ranger or a Chevy S-10, honestly I can't remember what it was. And he showed me the ad and he wanted my thoughts on it because he wasn't getting any responses.

And I just pointed out a bunch of things that made the ad unappealing. A bunch of crap on the porch behind, like, stuff in the background of the picture. Your porch is kinda messy, and plus all your pictures are vertical, I mean... not vertical but upright, I mean, you have to turn your head, the hood's pointing at the sky. And there was some junk in the bed of the truck.

And I told- and I told him all of this. And his only response was, “But the truck runs fine.” Yeah but, your ad has all this other stuff in it. “But the truck runs fine,” he kept coming back to that. But that's just it. If anybody else is trying to sell stuff on Craigslist, remember this line: “Selling a car is not a meritocracy.” You can have the best product in the world but if it's not presented well, no-one wants to give it a shot.

It's like a guy's OKCupid profile and he leads off with, “I would never do anything to hurt you.” “I like all music except country and rap.” Maybe that's the story of the Kia. A car that will last and last and last but no-one wants to give it a chance because all that dependability is wrapped up in a beige exterior. It's like the automotive version of the Lawrence Welk show.

Believe it or not, Kia-slash-Hyundai gave it a surprisingly robust sound system. Hm, music sounds alright. And some solid handling when compared to economy compacts of the early 2000s. Dodge Neon. But it had wonky electrical wiring with headlights that occasionally would go out. And while this one had air conditioning and carpets, those were options. And this car cost you in 2003... twelve thousand two hundred and thirty-five dollars new.

A Kia Spectra won't impoverish you but it's not exactly gonna get you laid, either. Then again, if your cock can be blocked by a set of wheels, apple pie wasn't on the menu in the first place. We need cars like this to remind us not to take beauty for granted. Because beauty only exists in opposition to lack thereof.


to the tune of
REAL EMOTION from FINAL FANTASY X-2 (but slower)

   But now I know
   The world of Kia Spectra is surrounding me
   Its paint so beige but
   It lives, it goes
   'cause forward is the only way this car will go
   It loses power when in reverse
   From Asia to the world