In 2004, Kia now sells a full range of cars,
including the subcompact Rio, Sorento SUV, Sedona minivan, and Optima sedan. So, with a
million Kias on American roads, the company proudly introduces the full size,
premium flavored Amanti.
The name sounds Italian, but there is no question of where Kia
borrowed the styling. The front half looks like a Mercedes E-Class sedan, with its quad
headlamps in two sizes flush-mounted beside a massive, vertical grille. The grill texture
is much coarser than that of the Mercedes, and as my wife noted, there is no Kia logo
anywhere in front. Many people will probably think it is a Mercedes.
The back half of the car borrows from late model Buicks, especially
in the window greenhouse. The taillamps have clear lenses with silvery circles inside
them, very 21st century, but their look sprang from the minds of Kias designers.
Sixteen-inch alloy wheels give presence to the side view. A nice extra is the spare wheel
is also a full-size alloy wheel.
The Amanti not only looks like a big car, it is one! Compared to the
Buick LeSabre and Toyota Avalon, two competitors, the passenger volume is tied with the
Toyota and just 2 cubic feet short of the Buick. The Kias front headroom is actually
slightly more, and rear headroom also is slightly greater than the other two cars. Front
and rear legroom areas are tops, too.
Outside, the Kia fits just between the Toyota and Buick in length,
at 196 inches, and its 110-inch wheelbase also fits neatly between. The Kia is 1-1/2
inches taller than the others. What is really surprising is that the Amanti outweighs the
Avalon by just over 600 pounds, and carries about 450 pounds more than the Buick!
Under the hood, the Amanti offers a 3.5 liter dual-overhead-cam V6
that puts out 200 horsepower at 5,500 rpm. Its 220 lb.-ft. of torque, along with the
horsepower, is comparable with the Toyota and Buick. It simply must carry around that
extra weight. On the road, the Amanti feels plenty strong, and with generous sound
insulation, conveys the whisper quiet associated with automobiles with luxury aspirations.
Fuel mileage is listed as 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, but I scored 17 mpg in mixed
The Amantis five-speed automatic transmission is one gear to
the good over the competitors four-speed units, and has the increasingly popular
sequential shifting feature so you can change gears manually, without a clutch, for a
sporty feel on those rural twisties.
Inside, the Amanti uses plenty of very realistic artificial
woodgrain to help convey a posh mood. Chrome details are used masterfully, with just a
touch on the door handles, door edge, shifter base, ashtray button, and steering wheel.
Satin silver rings upgrade the gauges. Everything looks nice and substantial.
There is nothing important lacking in the cabin. You can enjoy
dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows, power heated mirrors, power locks,
keyless entry with alarm, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise
controls. You also get an audio system with AM/FM stereo, cassette, and CD.
The drivers seat has eight-way adjustment with power lumbar;
the passenger gets four-way. The Amanti uses Mercedes style power seat controls. The
door-mounted controls are even lit around their perimeters. The only problem is, the
headrest portion is a dummy button, where in the Mercedes, it moves the headrest up and
My silver tester had two of the three available option packages. The
Leather Package ($1,805) adds leather seats, memory buttons for the drivers seat and
outside mirrors, and an upgrade to an Infinity 225-watt audio system with a six-disc
in-dash CD. With the Leather Package, you can order the Convenience Package ($900), which
features a sunroof, heated front seats, auto-dimming interior mirror and the Homelink
remote control system.
If you order both of those packages, you can get the ESP package
($550), which brings in electronic stability control, traction control and brake assist,
all features designed to keep the car more safely glued to the road.
Every Amanti gets the full safety treatment, with dual front
airbags, front and rear seat side-mounted airbags, and front and rear side curtain
airbags. Anti-pinch automatic windows protect little fingers. The best protection of all,
of course, is Kias amazing 10-year/100,000 mile Limited Powertrain Warranty and free
24-hour roadside assistance.
With all the virtues of the Kia Amanti, the buying decision will
probably come down to motivation. Folks who love their Kia Spectra hatchbacks and Optima
sedans now have an aspirational vehicle. But Kia also hopes to attract new buyers, who
have looked at Buicks and Toyotas and Chryslers and want a lot of car for the money. The
Amanti starts at $25,535 (including destination charges). My tester came to $28,260, and
you can push an Amanti close to $29,000 if you add the third option package.