2004 Amanti New Car Test Drive
Car shoppers may still be surprised to see a South Korea-brand car with a $25,000 price tag. They remember, no doubt, the abysmal quality of the first imports from that country. Times have changed, however. The U.S. market has grown even more competitive, and every car maker wanting a piece of it has invested major sums of money in improving their products. Kia is no exception.
The Kia Amanti is an all-new nameplate. And with the 2004 Amanti, Kia has gone boldly where many might have thought such an upstart didn't belong. Those who harbored such thoughts had better wake up and smell the kimchi.
In fit and finish, in features both standard and optional and in just basic competency, the Amanti is the best yet from South Korea. The Kia Amanti is roomy and comfortable, comparable in interior room to the Toyota Avalon and big sedans from Buick and Ford. Kia admits it has some catching up to do in engine technology and metallurgy, but if the Amanti is any indication of what's to come, there's a new player in the mid-size, near-luxury slice of the U.S. new-car pie.
Kia sells one model of the Amanti. It comes with one engine, a 200-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6. And the sole transmission offered is a five-speed Sportmatic automatic.
But that one model comes with a decent complement of safety and comfort and convenience features. The hardware side lacks a few features increasingly commonplace in the class toward which Kia casts a covetous glance, but given the Amanti's price point, this isn't surprising. Nor, given the aggressively priced option packages, is it something buyers should feel compelled to deny themselves.
Everything that by rights ought to respond to a push of a button does, plus some. The front seats are power-adjusted, the driver's in eight ways (plus lumbar), the passenger's in four. Outside mirrors, too, are power, as are the windows, all four of which have one-touch up/down. Front seat occupants may dial up personalized temperature settings from the fully automatic climate control system. A durable-looking and sturdy-feeling fabric upholstery is standard.
Occupants enjoy state of the art automatic safety protection, with a total of eight configurations of supplemental airbag restraint systems, the dual frontal airbags being two-stage, deploying according to crash severity and seat occupancy. Antilock brakes are standard.
The Leather Package ($1805) buys leather seating surfaces and a two-memory capability for the driver's seat and outside mirrors, a dash-mounted trip computer monitor and a premium stereo with six-disc in-dash CD changer. The Convenience Package ($900) adds a sunroof, heated front seats, auto-dimming inside mirror and three-frequency, programmable remote opener.
The ESP Package ($550) adds a Continental Teves-developed electronic stability program, traction control and brake assist. Continental-Teves is a leader in this technology and we recommend ESP highly for its ability to help you avoid an accident.
The option packages are layered, as in, to get the Convenience Package, the Leather Package must also be ordered. And to get the ESP Package requires purchasing the Leather and Convenience Packages. Actual MSRP for the ESP, then, is $3255, still not a heavy premium for all it buys.