Kia Sedona — A minivan with SUV ambitions

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Minivan sales peaked around the turn of the century and have been steadily retreating for more than a decade in the face of formidable competition from sport utility crossovers. Over the years, Ford and General Motors ceased building the people movers as Chrysler — and to a lesser extent — Honda and Toyota gained domination of the remainder of the market.

This has not deterred Kia from reinventing its minivan for the 2015 model year using what Kia calls a crossover-inspired theme — it tags its new Sedona a multipurpose vehicle or MPV — with muscular exterior styling accented by a prominent Kia-style grille, and a cockpit-like interior that features a crossover-like console between the front seats.

But it will take more than a crossover label to create some excitement around the Sedona, and what might really inspire excitement is how the new minivan is equipped starting with a 3.3-liter direct injection V6 engine — Sedona’s lone powerplant —that makes 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.

Backed up by published performance times of 7.4 seconds from 0-to-60 and a quarter-mile time of 15.8 seconds @ 91 mph the Sedona is quicker than both the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. The impressive performance allowed our test vehicle to handle hills as well as the long upward swells of area roads without working hard. The six-speed automatic shifted smoothly and decisively.

We couldn't help but think of the Sedona as "a car" because that’s how it drove. It proved nimble and maneuverable with a turning radius of an amazing 36.8 feet. Also important, the Sedona is commendably quiet at highway speeds. Our test Sedona, top SX-L trim, had the prerequisite stuff: satellite radio, navigation system, backup camera, dual power sliding doors, and tri-zone climate controls. Additionally it had drive-mode selection (normal, comfort or eco), a smart tailgate (just stand behind it for about five seconds with the key fob in pocket and it opens automatically) as well as front and rear park-assist.

The top-trim Sedona gets some cutting edge technology, all of which we find useful, including surround-view parking camera, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and a forward-collision warning system. Parents note: a rear entertainment system is optional on all trim levels for $995.

Being an all-new vehicle we expected somewhat better gas mileage. The V-6 in our top-of-the-line model has an EPA rating of 17 mpg in the city, 22 highway and 19 combined, which suffers in comparison to the aforementioned Honda and Toyota. however, lower trim levels with smaller wheels offer better mileage. The SX trim, which gets electric power steering, is rated at a more competitive 18/25/21.

The styling does take a new direction both inside and out. The interior styling is pleasing  and we really like the full center console between the front seats with its console-mounted shifter — just like those found in most cars and crossovers. It's more convenient to use than the dash-mounted shifters found in other full-size minivans. The downside is that the wide-open spaces between the front seats — a traditional minivan trait — is lost. But the Kia has scads of storage space up front including a bin that will swallow up a purse or small laptop.

The front seats are very comfortable, and in our top-line test model came with heated and cooled functions. Rear seating is configurable according to your needs with an eight-passenger layout available. What we really like are the available second-row lounge-style captain's chairs that come with leg rests.

The chairs have considerable room for moving fore and aft, but we found that to get the most stretch-out comfort the seat had to be moved to its farthest-back position, which puts it smack-dab up against the third-row seat. Some second row seats — depending on the trim line — are also heated. What’s more, some are adjustable side-to-side.

The third row seats fold flat into the floor to gain some extraordinary cargo capacity. The folding process, however, requires some muscle, certainly not has handy as some power-fold systems found on other vehicles. But with the rear seats folded flat into the floor, the back of the minivan opens up into a 74.4-cubic foot cargo area. Without the lounge chairs, the cargo area opens up for 142 cubic feet of storage. If your hauling needs are not significant, we recommend sacrificing a few cubic feet for the comfort of the individual second-row seats.

The base L trim starts at $26,995 including an $895 destination charge. The LX begins at $29,195, EX at $33,295, SX at $37,195, and the top trim SX-Limited at $40,595. Our test car with the aforementioned technology features carried a bottom line of 43,295.

Base price: 26,995; as driven, $43,295
Engine: 3.3-liter V-6
Horsepower: 276 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 248 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 120.5 inches
Length: 201.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,656 pounds
Turning circle: 36.8 feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 33.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 142 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.1 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 22 highway, 17 city, 19 combined
0-60: 7.9 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna

The Good
• Performance-oriented V-6
• Unique minivan dashboard layout
• Quiet and comfortable interior

The Bad
• Optional second-row lounge seats don't collapse forward

The Ugly
• Below average fuel economy for segment