The transmission went out on my 2004 Kia Spectra with less than 40,000 miles. I wish it had went out during the test drive. Do not depend on the warranty or customer service at Kia to help either. Somehow, it is always the customer's fault. Worst customer service that I had ever encountered.
Perhaps the transmission was not assembled correctly. Errors can occur on the assembly line. My 2005 Spectra had the original manual transaxle and clutch with 225,000 miles on it. I had that car for seven years, and never had a problem with it.
I think both Kia and Hyundai have made great strides in recent years. Still, my test drive experience makes me a bit cautious. In 2003, before buying our rock-solid and reliable GMC (now at 110,000 miles with not even a brake job yet) I test drove the then new Kia Sorento. I got literally less than a mile from the dealership when it just died in the middle of a busy 6-lane street. The salesman called and mechanics were there very quickly. Unfortunately all they could do was just shake their heads and say "Well, we really don't know anything about these cars". Not very confident-inspiring. I bought domestic instead then.
A few years later I test drove the Kia Spectra and Rondo. Neither felt like it had anywhere near the claimed horsepower, so again I bought domestic. In addition, I also have heard nightmare stories about Hyundai and Kia's refusal to repairs cars under the warranty.
My best friend did buy a Hyundai Accent back in 2004, and that car has been incredibly reliable. It currently has 100,000 miles with never a repair and even the timing belt has not been changed as recommended at 60,000 miles. His only gripe was that the Hyundai dealership told him that if he had so much as one repair (including fixing a flat tire) done anywhere but a Hyundai dealership, his warranty would be voided. I'm not sure that is even legal.
At any rate, my choice is to support American industry and stick with better built and far more reliable domestic cars. Neither our Fords nor our GM have required a single repair. It doesn't get any better than that.