Minivans enjoy a reputation as the vehicle of choice for mothers to bring their future soccer stars to practices, and for beleaguered fathers plagued by endless questions and sibling infighting to question their life choices; in essence, the modern family car. When I looked through the sliding doors of the 2015 Kia Sedona, in Limited trim, I found a vehicle more suited for the executive road warrior.
Instead of a cramped and stainproof bench seat surrounded by a carpet of plastic toys and discarded fast-food wrappers, two captain's chairs comprised the middle row, each with an integrated ottoman. That middle row also benefited from its own sunroof, climate control and a USB port. If this Sedona were meant for children, their names would likely be Muffy and Biff.
Kia gave its Sedona minivan a big update for the 2015 model year, advancing the styling, drivetrain, cabin electronics and driver-assist features, resulting in one of the most tech-forward minivans I've seen. At the same time, Kia falls behind competitors such as Honda and Toyota when it comes to rear-seat entertainment systems, lacking wide- and split-screens, and HDMI features in its optional system.
The Sedona's grille gets a very modern treatment, eschewing traditional bars for a kind of pin cushion look, similar to that of the Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Between Kia's tiger-nose tabs, a design element from its other cars, a surface of beads appears to float freely over the surface. It's a nice look, accented by headlight casings that follow the curve of the Sedona's front corners. A faux skidplate peeks out from the underneath the front of the car. Being a minivan, however, there isn't much to be done about the majority of the body, which remains a big box featuring lightly contoured sides.
In the US, the base model of the new Sedona, in L trim, goes for $26,100 and comes with the same direct-injection 3.3-liter V-6 engine as the Limited trim model I tested. My example went for a base price of $39,700, very well equipped, and optioned up to $43,295 with a package full of driver assist features.
You won't find the Sedona in the UK, as minivans are a little large for the narrow streets of quaint English towns. The closest equivalent, more of a crossover, would be the Carens, starting at £17,295. The Sedona doesn't appear on Australian dealer lots, either, but its down-under doppelganger is the Carnival, the same vehicle with the same gasoline engine and an additional diesel option, going for a base price of AU$45,756.
One very important consideration when browsing the Sedona lineup is that the bottom three trim levels, L, LX and EX, use a hydraulic power steering system, while the upper two, SX and Limited, use a more sophisticated electric power-steering system. I find it annoying that Kia would make this sort of distinction for such a fundamental component of the car, which really should be standard across the model line. The electric power steering buys linear power assist, a comfort program making the wheel easier to turn and likely better long-term reliability, as there are no hydraulic lines to keep pressurized.
Kia takes a jump ahead of the minivan competition by fitting the Sedona's 3.3-liter V-6 engine with direct injection, gaining efficiency and the ability to downsize the displacement from the typical 3.5-liter engine found in the segment. Output reaches 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, on par with the competition.
Fuel economy reaches a not very impressive high in the SX trim Sedona, at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The Limited trim Sedona I drove took a big fuel economy hit due to increased weight, coming in at 17 mpg city and only 22 mpg highway. I averaged 19.8 mpg during my week with the car, reflecting about 75 percent freeway time and 25 percent city driving.
In general with minivans, you are trading fuel economy for cargo and passenger capacity, but it is surprising that no automaker has come up with a hybrid minivan. The Toyota Sienna would seem a likely candidate.
In the Sedona, I found its V-6 more than ready to crank out the power. Just a little throttle tip-in and the minivan was ready to jump off the line. Power runs to the front wheels through a six speed automatic transmission, and Kia includes a mode button cycling the car through Eco, Standard and Comfort modes. I found very little difference driving in Eco or Standard mode, as I found in either I could set the front tires to an unholy screeching at a half-throttle start. Load the minivan with a thousand pounds of human meat and some cargo, however, and the engine would likely settle down with the increased weight.
The six-speed automatic offers a manual gear selection mode, taking the place of low-range settings. When I attempted a rolling full-throttle start, the transmission was slow to shift down, making for significant lag time before the Sedona accelerated.
The electric power steering gave the wheel a rock solid feel at highway speeds, and offered good heft at lower speeds. When I put the Sedona in Comfort mode, however, the wheel assumed a more relaxed character, making it light and easy to turn in all driving situations. Unsurprisingly, taking freeway cloverleafs at speed made for an uncomfortable lean in the minivan's body, although vehicle stability systems would have stepped in before it really got out of control.