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.