I bought this car as a demo after looking at some of the RIO's. I found them all pretty cheap, right from the door handles to the seating. The road noise was phenomenal in them and they were way to small for me. I'm 6'3". I saw the GSX on the lot and took it out and there was no comparison, and as it was a demo, the price wasn't that much more than the new RIO. I had a great salesman who wanted to make a sale really bad which helped me too. Also, the dealer put tinted windows and a bug deflector on the car which make it look more sportier, if that word can be used with a KIA.
The spectra is by no means roomy either though, and I have been in Toyota Echos and Hyundai Accents which have tons more leg and head room in them than my car. If this car continues to do well I would buy another one, otherwise I would look at a Toyota or something similar.
I have heard of transmission problems also with the spectra's, but the manual one seems to be doing great. I am receiving surprisingly great fuel mileage also. On a recent trip from Montreal to Toronto I got 44 mpg! This is doing 110 km/h, so if you can stand going a semi-snail's pace you'll get good fuel mileage. The mileage really takes a dive in the city and with the AC on. This is true for all cars, but seems to be enhanced in this car. In the city, I find that shifting up as quick as possible (even doing 60km/h in 5th gear) helps a lot with the fuel economy. This and smooth starts as well as gearing down to aid in braking.
I love the room of the hatchback, I can carry whatever I need to back there, especially with the seats folded down. I don't spend much time in the back seats, but I noticed there's not a lot of leg room, especially while I am in the drivers seat. Also, there is not a lot of head room back there as the roof of the car slopes down there. This is one thing I noticed about the RIO, that it had more head room in the back and front. I find that on long trips the seats get very uncomfortable for me. Thank goodness for the cruise so I can move my leg around and search, in vain, for a comfy spot. The fabric of the seats is OK and doesn't seem to be wearing quickly or anything. The metallic grain plastic of the dash is attractive and all the controls are easily accessible and intuitive, except for the cruise. They hid the on/off button for the cruise behind the steering wheel where you can't see it even. This is my only gripe about the controls.
The car handles very well and corners pretty good. I am not an aggressive driver, but it seems that it handles OK and doesn't roll too badly. I am curious to see what different tires would do to the car's handling. Maybe slightly wider tires?
I love the AC and heater, they work fast and are really powerful. I have had a few friends comment on how cold the AC is and how quick the heater works on cold start ups.
I am conscious of the problems people have had with KIA's, but my manual transmission GSX seems to be doing fine. Recently I have experienced some vibrating while idling and took it into the dealer, but nothing was found or 'duplicated' as they like to repeat. If anybody knows what this is, please comment. Like I say, I would buy another if things continue with the car as they are going now.