First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
2007 Kia Amanti. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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Montreal, Quebec – You have to hand it to Kia. They waste no time responding to suggestions, and their mid-cycle updates can be more comprehensive than other manufacturer’s all-new models.

The 2007 Kia Amanti is a good example. With a starting price of $31,995, it’s a full-size, front-drive vehicle that includes features that are typically optional or unavailable on competitors’ models (side impact and side curtain airbags, power front seats, auto up/down on all four windows). At $36,995 when fitted with the “Luxury Package” (examples of which we drove at the vehicle’s Canadian introduction in Montreal), the Amanti goes beyond simply being well equipped, and into territory usually reserved for high-end marques.

This “second generation” Amanti is not an all-new version, however. It is, as they say in the industry, a “face-lift.” But there are two very significant improvements for the 2007 car. First, responding to criticism concerning the outgoing model’s soft, tippy ride, the new Amanti has a sophisticated double-wishbone front, and multi-link rear suspension. It alone transforms the driving experience.

Complementing the suspension, a jewel of an aluminum 3.8-litre V6 engine, which makes 264 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque, supplies the power. This is a surprising 32% increase in horsepower over the outgoing 3.5-litre engine, but it also delivers a 9.4% improvement in fuel economy in the city and 5.7% improvement on the highway.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
2007 Kia Amanti. Click image to enlarge

Actual numbers are 12.6 L/100km city, 8.2 L/100 km highway, with regular grade fuel recommended. The transmission is a gated five-speed automatic (Steptronic) that optimizes shift points by adapting to driving conditions.

Other facelift changes are a revised grille, trunk lid, rear tail lamps, rear bumper, panel moulding and dual exhaust. Interior changes include a new instrument panel and centre fascia, with revised switches. Overall length is increased by 20 millimetres (with no change to the wheelbase) and trunk capacity is up by 10 litres.

At $5,000, the Luxury Package offers a lot, and if buyers can manage it, they’d be advised to spend the extra. The package includes 17-inch alloy wheels (versus 16-inch on the base model), a Homelink system, power sunroof, HID headlamps, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats with memory setting for driver’s seat and outside mirrors, electronic stability control with traction control and brake assist, auto-dimming mirror, Infiniti audio system and LCD trip computer. All in all, it’s a very generous upgrade for the price, but without an available navigation system (yet).

Driving the new Amanti is a completely different experience when compared with the model introduced only three years ago. Gone are the floaty ride and adequate but somewhat noisy engine, now replaced with a taut but comfortable suspension and a veritable rocket under the hood.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
2007 Kia Amanti. Click image to enlarge

The interior benefits from aluminum (genuine) trim with the black upholstery, and dark woodgrain (a good choice) with the grey, and very tidy presentation throughout. Ideas borrowed from luxury brands can be found here and there (the BMW-style map pocket in the doors; the Mercedes-style power seat adjusters), but the Korean manufacturers are known for their ability to spot a good feature and copy it. Overall, the Amanti seems very well put together.

The cabin is notably spacious, with excellent legroom front and rear. The seats are supportive and comfortable, and the leather seems high quality and has a pleasant texture and feel. The ride is very good and the car is virtually silent at highway speeds. The trunk is cavernous.

All in all, the Kia Amanti is a lot of car for the money, but there are a few criticisms.

The gauge cluster is rather small, including the major gauges, and some of the digital displays are hard to read at a glance.

And while Amantis are well equipped with safety features (eight airbags, anti-lock brakes), not fitting electronic stability control (ESC) to models without the Luxury Package seems an odd decision. Stability control is a safety technology, not a luxury item, and given that Kia promotes safety as a distinguishing feature of the brand, you’d think ESC would surely be on all its flagship models.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
2007 Kia Amanti. Click image to enlarge

The Amanti’s exterior styling borrows heavily from current Mercedes-Benz models, especially at the front. There’s also a hint of Chrysler 300 – more so now that the trunk lid is higher – which makes the Amanti look squarer than the previous model, and more substantial. But overall, the exterior styling is overly formal and somewhat dated. In black, the Amanti looks almost diplomatic or funereal, such is its conservative, limousine-like profile.

Kia says that the Amanti is targeted to people 45-69 years old, and yes, this is an older demographic. But I think it’s not necessarily a demographic that has given up on fun, sportiness and flair. It will be interesting to see what Kia has in mind for the Amanti’s performance-oriented engine and impressive suspension when a fully revised version debuts in a couple of years.

First Drive: 2007 Kia Amanti kia first drives
Kia Canada President Jay Chung with the 2007 Kia Amanti. Click image to enlarge

And on that note, Kia recently announced they have hired former Audi/VW design chief, Peter Schreyer, to oversee the company’s domestic and international design functions. Expect this to further differentiate Kia from Hyundai in the coming years.

Competitors at the same price point as the Amanti include the Chrysler 300, Cadillac CTS and Ford Five Hundred, but Kia sees the Amanti as the type of vehicle that would keep company with the Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES330. While Kia may not be a luxury brand, they have produced a comprehensively equipped, full-size vehicle that drives very well and has many luxury features. With its long warranty and solid build quality, the Amanti is definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a large, comfortable, vehicle at this price point.


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About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).