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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.
The Sedona's ride quality felt good, firm and able to competently absorb shocks from bumpy asphalt.
Kia's Technology package adds adaptive cruise control and surround view cameras to the Sedona. Adaptive cruise control in the Sedona, designed to match the speed of slower traffic ahead, worked the gas and brake pedals like a taxi driver. If a slower car got out of my way, the thing accelerated hard up to my set speed. When its radar sensed slower traffic ahead, it braked harder than I would have liked. I set the system at its shortest following distance, which might have affected its behavior, but I also think Kia could refine its software a bit.
The surround view camera system was particularly useful, given the size of the Sedona. When parking I could choose a split-screen with a rear view and top-down view, helping me maneuver close in to the curb. When I was creeping forward, the system automatically switched up to a forward camera, making it easy to see where my front bumper was relative to a parked car ahead. This camera system leaves little excuse for parking lot scrapes.
A blind-spot monitor system and lane departure warning also came as part of the Sedona's Technology package.
Kia makes its navigation system standard at the SX and Limited trim levels, but on lesser trim level it isn't even available. However, LX and EX models get a touchscreen showing audio and phone functions. Meanwhile, Siri hands-free lets iPhone users access Siri voice commands by holding down the voice command button on the Sedona's steering wheel. That feature can work as a substitute for navigation.
I found that the Sedona's navigation system covered the basics well, and used live traffic data brought in through satellite radio to avoid traffic jams. While the maps showed in high resolution, with easy-to-read street names, they only display in top-down, 2D mode, and not perspective mode. The system impressed me when I used voice command and its onboard points-of-interest database. I asked it to find convention centers, and it came up with a list of the five nearest. It offered similar functionality for parks and other points-of-interest categories.
Enhancing points-of-interest searches, the Sedona also came with Google destination search and Yelp as part of Kia's UVO app integration system. Integrated with the navigation system, these apps are very convenient, but they require a data connection through a Wi-Fi hotspot to work. I used my iPhone's personal hotspot feature, and I could have brought a dedicated mobile Wi-Fi hotspot into the car. If your phone doesn't support a hotspot, you won't have access to these features.
UVO also covers a telematics system for the Sedona. Integrating with the UVO app on my iPhone, also available for Android, I could sync destinations between phone and car, easily note my parking location, get roadside assistance and see vehicle maintenance information.
For audio sources, I had Bluetooth streaming, USB ports, HD radio and satellite radio. There were two USB ports in front, including on hidden under the console cup-holders. A USB port in back wasn't hooked up to the audio system, only allowing device charging.
The 10 speaker Infinity audio system the comes with the Limited trim Sedona proved robust. The mid- and high-frequency reproduction was only average, but the bass made for a nice rumble through the car, such that I could feel it in the door-mounted armrests.
Kia offers a rear-seat entertainment system for the Sedona, which mounts on the rear of the console. However, this system is not as elaborate as those in the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Kia seems to be taking the very reasonable position that kids these days will have tablets or phones for their personal entertainment.
Even with its direct-injection engine, the 2015 Kia Sedona doesn't take huge strides ahead of the competition. Fuel economy remains a little weak, although typical for the segment, but I liked the ready power delivery from the engine. The easy driving character of the Sedona will be top-of-mind for most prospective buyers. I don't like that Kia builds fundamentally different steering systems into different trim levels.
The cabin electronics cover the basics, with reasonably good navigation and all the audio sources I would expect. As for enabling Google search and Yelp in the dashboard, Kia could make this process easier. Not everyone will easily figure out how to enable a hotspot on their phone, then log in with the car. I like how Toyota handles this type of feature with its Entune system better. The lack of a navigation option for anything but the top two trims is troubling, although iPhone users can make do with Siri hands-free.
The Sedona's driver assist features, especially the surround-view camera, add a lot of value to make driving easier for flustered parents. Of course in the Limited trim model I tested, I would rather take over the middle row and let the kids chauffeur me around.
|Model||2015 Kia Sedona|
|Powertrain||Direct-injection 3.3-liter V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||17 mpg city/22 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Internet-based radio, Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, HD Radio, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Infinity eight-speaker system|
|Driver assistance||Surround-view cameras, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitor|
|Price as tested||$43,295|