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Review by Paul Williams
Photos by Grant Yoxon
In my experience, luxury has always meant expensive. A luxury watch, a luxurious house, a luxury car – you’re going to pay, right?
Korean manufacturer Kia begs to differ. Its mid-sized Amanti packs a full complement of luxury amenities into a car costing $35,795. Consumers here seem to like the idea, as they’ve bought more than 1,200 Amantis since their introduction last year, exceeding Kia’s target by 20%.
The front-wheel drive Amanti uses a 200-horsepower, 3.5-litre V6 engine from the Hyundai XG-350 (Hyundai is Kia’s parent company) although the car itself is 100-millimetres longer than the XG-350, and adds 50-mm to the wheelbase. It’s packed on a few pounds, too, weighing in at a hefty 1,855 kg versus the Hyundai’s 1,656 kg.
While the price is similar to a fully equipped Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, the Amanti really is competing against a different type of car.
It’s got a cushier ride, for example, and the interior is liberally trimmed with wood – not real wood: “wood effect” is I think the popular term – and soft-look leather. Its seats are big and generously upholstered, and the car feels very roomy. It seats five in comfort, with lots of space in the rear.
The leather interior is nicely crafted and the plastics used for the dashboard and door panels are of a higher specification than you’d expect for a car with this price.
Like Camry and Accord, the Amanti’s styling is conservative, but it’s more traditional in appearance than those cars. Its look borrows freely from several other manufacturers (Chrysler’s grille; Jaguar’s sculpted fenders) but as more Amantis are seen on the road, they’ve become easy to identify nonetheless.
The driving experience is more “traditional,” too. At highway speeds, its like you’re in an American car from a couple of decades ago, serenely floating over dips and bumps as you pursue your destination.
Inside, it’s quiet. The Amanti is heavily insulated from external noises, which includes busy sounds from the not-so-smooth engine. These don’t intrude unpleasantly, but the muted sounds of an engine that’s not as refined as its Japanese competitors are plain to hear when accelerating. Otherwise, all the insulation makes for a pleasant interior environment.
However, if it’s a retro-ride you want, you could buy an older Buick or Oldsmobile and save thirty-grand. What does Kia offer that those cars can’t?
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A five-year, 100,000-kilometre bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty for a start, along with emergency roadside assistance for the same length of time. Three free oil changes and filters for every 12-months of ownership are also included in Kia’s “total coverage plan.”
And this is a sophisticated car, with standard electronic stability control (called ESP by Kia), traction control, anti-lock brakes and a five-speed automatic transmission. Side impact and side curtain airbags are also standard.
Visibility is excellent, enhanced at night with the standard high-intensity discharge lights; the heated, power adjustable and heated front seats are good to you on a long trip (and this year’s model has heated rear seats). The trunk has lots of room for luggage and contains a full-size spare tire with alloy wheel.
All four windows feature express-down operation. The rear-view mirror is auto-dimming and the windshield wipers are rain-sensing.
The dual-zone, automatic climate control is effective at heating and cooling, although it can struggle to keep the windows clear of condensation in rainy conditions. There’s a decent (Infinity with sub-woofer) sound system that like the rest of the controls on the Amanti’s dash is easy to operate, and new for 2005 is a standard six-disc CD changer).
The 16″ alloy wheels, sunroof, remote keyless entry, remote controls on the steering wheel and information centre (including outside temperature, trip computer) are all standard.
Kia quickly fixed the early production Amanti’s untidy multi-coloured instrument display, and replaced this with a classier, monotone look. The “Super Vision” electroluminescent instrument panel is easy to read, day and night.
While the Amanti is exceedingly comfortable as a straight-line cruiser, its cornering performance leaves something to be desired. Even 60-km/h on-ramps cause the Amanti to roll and its tires to complain. You will not mistake the Amanti for a sport sedan.
The light steering can result in some wandering on the highway, and a need to make more adjustments than would be required from some competitors’ models.
As far as options are concerned, there really aren’t any at all, which is another luxury-car trait emulated by Kia.
The lack of options is a strength and a weakness. It’s a strength if what you want is what Amanti offers. But it’s a weakness if you’d like 17″ or 18″ wheels instead of 16″, a navigation system instead of an information centre, or a selection of interior trims.
Nonetheless, for its price the Amanti is a surprisingly well-equipped sedan, offering buyers for this type of car way more standard equipment than they likely expect.
Big trunk, big interior, big-car ride, big list of luxury car features – everything big except the price.
|Price as tested||$36,790|
|Type||Four-door, five-passenger mid-size luxury sedan|
|Engine||3.5-litre V-6, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||200 @ 5,500 r.p.m.|
|Torque||220 lb.-ft. @ 3,500 r.p.m.|
|Transmission||Five-speed automatic Steptronic w/manual mode|
|Curb weight||1,855 kg (4090 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2,800 mm (110.2 in.)|
|Length||4,979 mm (196.0 in.)|
|Width||1850 mm (72.8 in.)|
|Height||1486 mm (58.5 in.)|
|Trunk capacity||440 litres (15.5 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 14.3 L/100 km (20 m.p.g.)|
|Hwy: 8.7 L/100 km (33 m.p.g.)|
|Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|