I told her to check out a late model used Taurus or Chevy Malibu instead.
For the money, a 1 or 2 year old off-lease Taurus is probably the best deal going in the midsize car market. They depreciate so badly that you can get a nicely equipped, low mileage car for a veary reasonable price, $11,000-ish. Especially in the Metro Detroit area, where Tauruses are commonly used by rental fleets and Ford employee leases.
Probably the best source for a used car are the rental car companies, because they maintain their cars regularly, which is not always the case with private owners.
A quick comparison chart:
2005 Kia Spectra EX,
2003 Chevy Malibu,
2003 Ford Taurus,
|Warranty||5 year (60,000mi)|
10 year powertrain
|1 year (12000mi)||1 year (12000mi)|
|Price (Invoice or Private Party KBB)||$15,800||$10,000||$11,200|
The Taurus is safer than the Spectra, is larger,can be had with a more powerful engine (though the Taurus is heavier), and is availible with more "high end" options such as leather seats and in-dash CD changer. The Spectra definitely has a better warranty, but for about $1,500 you can buy an extended warranty for the Taurus. (These are not usually worth it). The Malibu does not have safety specs that are as good, but is also a very good deal. Another good option in this same vein is the Buick Century.
The lady who asked me for my advice wound up buying a used Mercury Sable, with leather, fake wood, shiny wheels, the works, and is quite happy with it.