Korean manufacturer Kia crossed into the near-luxury segment when it launched the Amanti. Based on the Hyundai XG350, it was not exactly a box office hit. That car has now been thoroughly updated and there are major improvements throughout.
They've lightened the platform by an amazing 251 pounds. They've changed the suspension for the better. They've also made the engine bigger, more powerful and quieter all at the same time, and they've fixed the somewhat geeky front-end styling of their flagship sedan. When you add it all up, they've created a car that offers more value than the car introduced for 2004.
The Kia Amanti is absolutely packed with standard features that the American, European and Japanese manufacturers simply can't offer at these bargain-basement prices, fully exploiting the labor-cost advantage they have over the competition.
Kia says the Amanti competes with the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse and Lucerne, Chrysler 300, and Hyundai Azera, a formidable group when it comes to interior package size and value.
If the Kia Amanti's strong suit is not its breathtakingly good looks, it looks a lot better than the previous model. The strong suit here is how much car, how many convenience and luxury features, how much operating economy, and how much warranty you will get for your money. Throw in that new 264-hp engine, and the increased performance that goes with it, and it starts to look pretty good.
Kia Amanti ($25,495)
Kia completely restyled the front end of the Amanti with a larger, better looking and more contemporary design for the grille, headlamps and driving lamps, with concomitant changes to the hood and fenders. Likewise, the taillamps, rear quarter panels and decklid have been redone, and the rear bumper has been rejiggered to feature dual exhaust tips. Altogether, this is a much, much better looking car than the original Amanti, the XG. It's somewhat reminiscent of the Lincoln Town Car in a smaller size, but the new nose misses out on one of its missions in that it does not contain a Kia logo anywhere.
The fact that it's 250 pounds lighter than its predecessor also counts when it comes to engineering refinement and fuel mileage.
Because our test car was loaded with almost $6000 worth of optional equipment, our expectations were high, and they were met.
The cabin is quite roomy front and rear, with plenty of leg and head room for six-footers in the rear, along with separate air conditioning circuitry and a second 12-volt power point. The seats were thick, supportive and nicely coved, front and rear, and the driver's seat had plenty of adjustment range including lumbar support.
There was a 3-D effect to the instrument package that we liked a lot, with a centered gear indicator that switched back and forth between manual and automatic modes. We particularly liked the layout of the buttons on the steering wheel for the cruise control and sound system, beautifully integrated and easy to use.
The Infinity sound system was easy to use, clean and powerful through its nine speakers, but was lacking an Aux input for digital music players, a significant minus these days. Another feature we really liked was the top center digital display screen with trip computer, a large display with large, easy to read markings for time, day, date, temperature, mileage, distance to empty, etc. However, a navigation system is not currently offered, a deal breaker for some buyers.
The 264-hp 24-valve V6 engine is now competitive with just about everything else in the class in terms of power output, smoothness and quietness in operation. It sounds virile and healthy when booted or downshifted, and it has a whopping 32 percent more power than its 3.5-liter predecessor, so accelerative power is prodigious, even at 3770 pounds. Yet, in fifth gear overdrive, you can hardly hear it running. If it had a sixth-gear overdrive like most of its contemporaries, it would be even quieter at highway speeds. The transmission shifted quickly and quietly, and is equipped with a manual-control gate for performance driving.
The EPA classifies the Amanti as a large car, and it is, with a 106 cubic-foot interior volume, but it drives and feels like a smaller, more nimble car overall.
We liked the way the new suspension system handled bumps, potholes and crashes, but we thought there was still a bit too much body roll (the car leans in corners). The power steering system doles out steering assist according to engine speed, not vehicle speed, a cheaper strategy. As a result, it is overboosted and uncommunicative, though within acceptable limits for a family car.
The brakes are as powerful and as quick to act as the throttle, which means they're very good, very linear brakes, with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution as backup.
The 2007 Kia Amanti is definitely worth a long look for buyers in the market for a family sedan, assuming a dealership is nearby. It's compact on the outside, big on the inside, and it is loaded with standard features and amenities at a base price under $25,000. The engine has big, smooth power, the car is whisper-quiet on the road, and the suspension is near-luxury in its ride quality, if not near-sports car in handling. Combine all those attributes with a superb warranty, free roadside assistance and the possibility of 30 miles per gallon, and it's a real contender.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Detroit.