Over the past year or two, Kia has been steadily expanding its lineup by adding the Sedona minivan and then the Sorento sport utility vehicle. The South Korean company’s latest addition to the U.S. market is a larger, more luxurious sedan named the Amanti.
Introduced at the New York International Auto Show in April 2003, the Amanti will offer roominess, comfort, safety and Kia’s brand of value, according to Randy Maurstad, director of product planning for Kia Motors America. Described using such terms as elegant, refined, bold and expressive, he says it’s also the “quietest Kia ever” and a “technology-packed showcase.”
The Amanti is based on the Hyundai XG350; however, the Amanti has a wheelbase that’s 2 inches longer and a body that’s 4 inches longer overall than the XG350. Kia’s new sedan made its world debut at the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland, but at that time, it was called the Opirus.
Availability of the Amanti “will clearly demonstrate that Kia is not limited to building entry- or midsegment vehicles,” Maurstad says. It gives existing customers a “logical step up” to a larger, more completely equipped automobile. Kia has priced the Amanti below its leading competitors, notably the Buick LeSabre and Toyota Avalon.
Like all Kia models, the Amanti will include a 10-year powertrain warranty. The automaker will target middle-aged “empty-nesters.” Kia hopes to sell about 15,000 Amantis per year. Sales began in late fall of 2003.
The styling of the new sedan was “heavily influenced by retro European designs,” Maurstad said. A bold, classic-inspired, squarish grille including thick chromed bars is the Amanti’s most noticeable styling feature. The elliptical headlights suggest those used on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, and fog lights are integrated into the outside sections. LED turn signals wrap around below the bumper. The roofline is rounded at the C-pillars in what Kia calls “neoclassic” and “limousinelike.” A power sunroof is available.
Nine-spoke alloy wheels hold 16-inch Michelin tires. The Amanti has a fully independent suspension. Measuring 196 inches long overall, the Amanti rides a 110.2-inch wheelbase and stands 58.5 inches tall.
Kia says the space within the Amanti’s five-passenger interior exceeds the Chrysler Concorde and Toyota Avalon in most dimensions. The panels are trimmed with simulated wood, and the driver’s seat includes eight-way power adjustment. A memory feature that stores information for two drivers is included in the optional Leather Package.
Dual-zone climate control includes rear vents. Heated mirrors and an eight-speaker cassette/CD stereo are standard, and a HomeLink transmitter is available. An in-dash six-CD changer is included with the optional nine-speaker Infinity audio system. Remote controls for the audio system and cruise control are mounted on the four-spoke steering wheel. A dashboard sill shades the instrument cluster from glare, and the lockable glove box contains a separate storage tray.
Kia’s 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine develops 200 horsepower and 220 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed-automatic transmission incorporates a Sportmatic manual-shifting mode.
In addition to the driver and front-passenger airbags, six other airbags come standard in the Amanti: front and rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain-type airbags. Active head restraints in the front seats move up and forward during a collision. All-disc antilock brakes are standard, and an Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with traction control is optional. The ESP system identifies potential skids, intervenes by controlling the braking at each wheel and reduces engine power, as needed.
Kia has entered a surprising market niche with the Amanti, which rates highly against the LeSabre or Concorde. Though it is short of perfection in performance and handling, this sedan rides with comfortable softness. The Amanti boasts ample passenger space and an appealing selection of standard comfort and convenience features.
Though the suspension is more flaccid than some drivers might prefer — suppressing the Amanti’s roadholding confidence in curves — it does not produce wooziness. You simply won’t want to push it too hard through tight turns. Then again, you wouldn’t do that with a Buick, either.
Kia’s well-behaved automatic transmission shifts back and forth smoothly on upgrades — perhaps with a few too many gear changes. Don’t expect massive response when passing or merging because there’s no real surge of power, but acceleration is wholly satisfactory for this league. The engine is quiet, and road noise is minimal.
The front seat bottoms are on the short side. The seatbacks are a tad hard and have average bolstering. Five occupants fit comfortably inside, and the driver gets great visiblity all around.