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By Jim Flammang
March 11, 2005
Vehicle Overview In recent years, Kia has been steadily expanding its U.S. lineup. For the 2004 model year, the South Korean company launched a full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan named the Amanti.
Though based on the Hyundai XG350, the Amanti has a wheelbase that's 2 inches longer and a body that's 4 inches longer overall. For 2005, the Leather Package includes heated front seats, a HomeLink transmitter and an auto-dimming inside mirror. New front airbags tailor deployment based on crash severity, seat belt use, and occupant size and position. An electronic stability system is now offered as a stand-alone option.
Exterior The Amanti's bold, square grille contains thick bars. Elliptical headlights are similar to the ones on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and integrated fog lamps are installed. LED turn signals wrap around below the bumper. The roofline is rounded at the C-pillars in what Kia calls "neoclassic" style. A power sunroof is available.
Nine-spoke alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires. Equipped with a fully independent suspension, the Amanti measures 196 inches long overall, rides a 110.2-inch wheelbase and stands 58.5 inches tall.
Interior Up to five passengers get ample space in the Amanti. Panels are trimmed with simulated wood, and the driver's seat includes eight-way power adjustment. A memory feature is included in the Leather Package.
Dual-zone climate control, heated mirrors and an eight-speaker cassette/CD stereo are standard. An in-dash six-CD changer comes with the optional nine-speaker Infinity audio system. A dashboard sill shades the instrument cluster from glare, and the lockable glove box contains a separate storage tray.
Under the Hood The Amanti's 3.5-liter V-6 develops 200 horsepower and 220 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed-automatic transmission incorporates a manual-shift mode.
Safety Eight airbags, including front airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain-type airbags, are standard. Active head restraints for the front seats move up and forward during a collision. All-disc antilock brakes are standard.
Driving Impressions Kia entered a surprising market niche with the Amanti, which rates highly when compared to the competition. Though it is short of perfection in performance and handling, this sedan rides with comfortable softness, boasts ample passenger space and includes an appealing selection of standard features.
The suspension is somewhat flaccid � suppressing the Amanti's road-holding confidence in curves � but it doesn't produce wooziness. You simply won't want to push it too hard through tight turns.
Kia's smooth, well-behaved automatic transmission shifts back and forth on upgrades � perhaps a few too many times. Don't expect massive response when passing or merging, but acceleration is wholly satisfactory for this league. The engine is quiet, and road noise is minimal. Front seat bottoms are a bit short and the seatbacks are a tad hard, but the driver gets great visibility.