Kia's new Amanti is a bargain for the buck

The Korean automaker's flagship model sports elegant design touches, and barely reaches $30,000 when fully loaded.

Big sedans – other than Euro sport models – are spinach to auto reviewers, who need to confront a glob now and then to be reminded that the driver's-seat experience is only one factor for most buyers (people who don't, for example, try to skid on purpose).

Hyundai-subsidiary Kia has reworked its flagship, Amanti, for 2007. Changes inside and out make for a positive first impression, even if handling is a bit floaty when you boss it around. Hood and headlights get even more of a Mercedes look; taillights are elegant, vertical. Trunk space: a generous 16 cubic feet. Standard features (base: $25,000) include cruise control, side curtain airbags, and ABS. An electronic-stability package costs $500. Even with all premium options – we'd have skipped the chromed rims – our test model barely rolled up to $30,000.

The good stuff: Amanti's responsive new power plant is an all-aluminum 3.8-liter, 264-h.p. V6, providing a 32 percent power increase over its predecessor and shaving a couple hundred pounds off the car's weight. The not-so-good: Problems with cold-morning starting sent Amanti home early (hello, warranty?), so we couldn't get a real-world read on m.p.g., which was looking like low-20s. All in all, though, we'd try another serving.

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