Introduced as a new model in 2004, the Kia Amanti continues into 2005 with few changes. A six-CD player with nine speakers, heated rear seats and multi-stage front airbags are now standard equipment. The rain-sensitive wipers have been improved, and the bizarre fake carbon-fibre trim on the rear window panels has been toned down to black.

The Amanti is Kia’s luxury sedan; it shares its platform and powerplant with the Hyundai XG350, but its wheelbase is stretched 50 mm and its 3.5-litre engine makes six more horsepower and four lb-ft more torque.

The Amanti comes in a single trim line and is packed with features, including four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 16-inch alloy wheels, stability control, dual-zone climate control, power sunroof, heated mirrors, leather interior, speed-sensitive steering, power-adjustable driver and passenger seats, memory driver’s seat, woodgrain trim, wood-and-leather steering wheel, xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and secondary ventilation controls for rear-seat passengers.

That’s a lot of stuff for the price, but there’s a trade-off: performance and handling are nothing like the cars the Amanti is emulating. The 200 hp engine takes some time to get the heavy car moving, and uses a lot of fuel. The soft ride is matched with soft handling; the car wallows so much that manoeuvres at highway speeds can be downright unsettling.

The exterior styling is also a mishmash, stealing shamelessly from Mercedes, Jaguar and Buick, although the Lincoln-inspired interior is much better-looking than the outside, and the seats are comfortable.

The Amanti is champagne taste on a beer budget, and it shows. It’s easy on the wallet if you just want the ultra-luxury feel without the ultra-luxury price; there aren’t many cars in this price range with this many features. If handling and performance are more important than pretending you own a Mercedes, though, the Buick Allure, Volkswagen Passat or Chrysler 300 are good alternatives.

The Amanti is built in Hwasung, South Korea.

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