We wish Ambrose Bierce had lived long enough to include the word “minibus” in his
Devil’s Dictionary, a reference book for the disenchanted which defines “year” as “a period of 365 disappointments” and self-esteem as “a misjudgment”. We want to know how the Socrates of the Cynics would classify the mode of transportation that devotees will never stop hating, but just can’t get rid of.
Today, the minivan is loved for practicality – every single one on the market excels in its destination. Dealers say minivans have big margins and can’t keep them in stock even when these vehicles are sticker north of $ 40,000. A consolidated market of five automakers means strong sales for the segment leaders. Combined sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country lead through June of this year with 75,840 units. The Toyota Sienna is second with 71,381 sales, the Honda Odyssey has sold 62,636 and the Nissan Quest is barely a hit at 5,400. But the big three van brands aren’t the only game in town. Rival Kia Sedona is an incredibly compelling package, as 20,608 owners have discovered so far in 2015.
It’s not an old fashioned way of carrying kids, it’s a way of carrying kids and making a statement.
The Sedona aesthetic is a box that thinks outside the box. Viewed from three quarters, the profile is close to an urban windowed van; it is a beautiful package. It’s the same width as its predecessor but 2.4 inches lower, carrying Kia’s strongly horizontal frontal identity. We like the miter grille, and the intensity of the sheet metal up front counterbalances the chrome accents. But our SXL tester certainly does a lot of brilliant work – more than other MPVs.
On the side, the Sedona maintains muscular tones with a sturdy body that’s light on distracting details. But it’s hard to miss some of the similarities to the Odyssey – the way the greenhouse tapers towards the rear, the crease at the C-pillar, the sliding door track on the driver’s side almost all the way to the taillights. Still, you’d never go wrong because the Kia, fuller and straighter everywhere, is bolder than the stealthy Odyssey. It’s not an old fashioned way of carrying kids, it’s a way of carrying kids and making a statement.
Inside the cabin, this statement ends with an exclamation mark.
Ward’s Auto put the Sedona on its 2015 Top 10 Interiors list, a distinction that is justified because everything inside exudes quality. The two-tone nappa leather and plastics are fantastic, the graphics of the OLED dashboard gauge cluster are crisp, the fit and overall finish is exceptional.
SXL trim amenities support perceptions of authentic luxury.
The UVO infotainment screen is a snap to use. However, the third-generation system is also the most infuriating aspect of the Sedona. After successful Bluetooth pairing, UVO would try to download the phone’s contact list, and it failed every time. It would then alert the entire cabin of the failure with a ridiculously long announcement suggesting that we call Kia customer service. This announcement interrupted everything on the stereo. Lowering the volume reduces the volume of the ad, but lowers the main volume. This, especially after coming from the plug-and-play simplicity of Android Auto, was infuriating and led us to the owner’s manual to figure out how to shut it down. But that’s our only gripe about the entire Sedona package, and could be seen as a bug between UVO and a specific phone.
SXL trim amenities support perceptions of authentic luxury. The mirrors unfold and the door handles light up on approach, the tailgate automatically lifts when it detects the key nearby for three seconds, there is a panoramic glass roof, lane-keeping assist in optional, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, and cameras everywhere.
The second row captain’s chairs are just as comfortable as the front ones when standing and are truly first-class when lying down with the footrests extended. The three manual levers for their operation are the only frugal features of the cabin, but they prevent children from endlessly playing with the electronic controls. We had no issues accessing and dragging in the third row, and on a Home Depot run the backseat fell into the cargo floor with just a few clicks and tugs.
The high-level SXL trim cannot be obtained in an eight-seater configuration.
Compared to its renowned rivals, the Sedona deviates from minivan protocol by placing a center console between the seats instead of a passage. It has less cargo space than the Sienna, Town & Country and Odyssey in terms of space behind the second row. The Sedona has 78.4 cubic feet, the Sienna 87.1, the Town & Country 83.3, and the Odyssey 93.1. The Kia is also down about five cubic feet behind the third row compared to Japanese vans (but slightly larger than the Chrysler). In addition, the high-level SXL finish cannot be achieved in an eight-seater configuration.
The van’s 3.3-liter V6 puts out 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque in the Sedona, and it never feels underpowered. Kia tuned the six-speed automatic transmission to be eager to downshift – a nice nod in an otherwise heavy and unsporting van.
The suspension controls 4,720 pounds and delivers such a silky ride that it is on par with automakers much more prestigious than Kia. More door seals and additional sound insulation are part of the 2015 package, so the ride is also quiet. There’s no suspension chatter or mind-boggling flex – the chassis is made of 76% high and ultra high-strength steel, with extra reinforcement in places like the A-pillars. The thick steering wheel and feel sharpness also get good marks. That same week we got the Sedona, we got a European luxury crossover, and when given the choice to drive, we always took the Kia. Seriously.
The Sedona SXL easily wins the competitive price argument.
That said, the Sedona is thirsty, for reasons not covered by the spec sheet. It has 18 more horsepower and weighs 139 pounds more than the Odyssey, but gets 17 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway. That’s 2 city mpg and 6 highway mpg less than its Honda counterpart. The numbers are closer when comparing the Sienna, the Toyota that comes back 18 city, 25 highway. The Sedona’s fuel consumption could be attributed to the brick-shaped aerodynamics of the front right-hand side. What you pay at the pump pays off in style, with the Kia standing out and looking better than anything in the segment.
However, the Sedona SXL does well in the competitive price argument. Our test model, the highest finish available, starts at $ 40,595, including $ 895 for the destination. By adding just one option, the Technology Package, with features like intelligent cruise control and panoramic view monitor, brings the price before taxes to $ 43,295. The front-wheel drive Sienna Limited starts at $ 42,535, the Odyssey Touring at $ 42,910, both are a level below the more expensive trim, and they don’t come with features like xenon headlights, panoramic view or adaptive cruise control. The Town & Country Limited Platinum costs $ 41,290, but it also lacks some features of the high-end Kia.
As a bachelor with no kids, this author tends to agree more with the “never in my life” crowd than with those who maintain rock minivans. Kia reveals its position on the issue by not using the word “van” anywhere in its Sedona press materials – it chooses “multipurpose vehicle.” But after a week with the Sedona, we vote this minivan to totally rock.