Meh Car Monday: The Kia Spectra Is Like Antimatter To Interest

I feel like I always need to re-state a disclaimer before Meh Car Mondays about the fundamental nature of a Meh car: a Meh car is not a bad car. A Meh car is just a boring car, a car, that while perhaps highly capable of fulfilling its position as a car, is nevertheless free of character, charm, or any intangible or tangible quality that would somehow make a human being give a shit about it. In short, a car like the Kia Spectra.


If you just read those last two words of the paragraph above and had any sort of notable emotive feeling whatsoever, I feel like maybe you should be apprehended by government science goons in white hazmat suits like E.T.

Then scientists could study you, in hopes of maybe, just maybe, understanding how any human being can have an emotional response to a car as generic and tepid as a Kia Spectra. Such a person would have to have some chemical in their veins that could be distilled into a drug that could really fuck you up, I bet.

I say this because the Kia Spectra is so staggeringly competent and forgettable and bland as to boggle the mind. You could literally stick any mass-market carmaker’s badge on that grille and you’d just accept it and move on, because every visual element that makes up this car’s design feels like every other small sedan’s visual elements all averaged and blended together.

The Kia Spectra is any small sedan seen through raindrop-spattered glass made real; a homogenized, gray oatmeal smoothie of a car.


The design team that came up with the Spectra—especially the facelifts it got in 2001 and 2004—must have taken a group inspirational retreat to a documentary film festival exclusively about baking soda and its uses and then topped that off with a night of watching a CPA’s assistant amortize loans, clad in chinos so baggy and shapeless they’d lose the ability to maintain an erection for months.


Like I said, the Spectra was a decent car—good gas mileage, well-built (more so the later generations) and with reasonably comparable specs. The Spectras had inline-four engines that ranged from 1.5 to 2 liters, and made somewhere between 122 and 138 horsepower, generally. It was fine, just fine. The engine made the car go, and the steering wheel would guide it to work or the mall or into a big, dark lake where you could just end it all one unhinged day full of sobbing and screams as you realize you have no idea what your life is about or if anything ever meant anything at all, ever.

Kia’s advertisers, of course, had their hands full trying to find what part of the Spectra would actually get people to buy Spectras or even process that a Spectra was a thing, called a car that existed and could be bought. They came up with gems like this:

So, they could have said absolutely anything about the Kia Spectra, and the most compelling thing they could find was that it’s possible to forget what side the fuel filler is on. Maybe the Spectra didn’t have a little arrow next to the fuel gauge, or, more likely, maybe the Spectra was so boring that a human brain simply cannot even retain even the slightest detail about it, leading to the inability to remember what side of the thing the dinosaur corpse-juice goes.


Here’s another ad, notable because it makes the idea of owning a beat-to-shit Chevy Citation seem a little bit appealing by comparison:

Well, maybe not appealing, but a little more interesting. Want to see another one? Too bad:

It’s a year’s worth of gas cheaper than a Corolla! Yay! That’ll be useful for all the self-immolating a Spectra owner will want to do so they can just feel something, anything, anything at all.


The Kia Spectra is like what cars would be like if our relationship with cars was like our relationship with washers and dryers. We’d have competent, comfortable, inoffensive machines like this exclusively, and when it came time to get a new one, we’d just drag the old one to the curb without a moment’s thought or hesitation.


Thankfully, cars, or at least non Meh cars, are not like that. They’re different. Have you ever heard of anyone hunting down their dad’s old dryer so they can restore it and surprise their dad with the machine that used to dry his clothes when he was young and beautiful? No, you haven’t because that shit never happens.

But it happens with cars. Well, cars other than a Kia Spectra.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)