The new Sedona really has the look and stance of a crossover. But will that lure buyers who might otherwise be averse to driving a minivan?
Family members recently called seeking car advice. Relatively new parents with a toddler, this couple had the following requirements, in this order:
1. Excellent safety scores
2. High reliability ratings
3. Lots of room for cargo
4. High driving position for good forward visibility
Had the list ended there, I certainly would have recommended the 2015 Kia Sedona, in addition to the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. After all, this trio of kid haulers makes the most sense when it comes to buying a new vehicle for family duty. But then there was this final requirement:
5. Crossover SUV
Does this list look familiar? It might even match your own. With the redesigned 2015 Sedona, Kia appears to grasp the futility of trying to sell a traditional minivan to families. In fact, aside from the fact that it has sliding side doors and lacks an optional all-wheel-drive system, the Sedona might as well be a crossover SUV.
The Sedona really does up the game when it comes to presenting a minivan that is as handsome as it is useful in countless driving situations.
Fake skid plates signal Kia’s acknowledgement that the Sedona needs to be a different kind of minivan. So do the Sedona’s protruding nose, pinched rear side window glass, full center console separating the driver and the front passenger, and name conjuring imagery of Arizona’s rugged red-rock country. Except for the Sedona’s exposed sliding door tracks, it isn’t immediately clear to the layperson that this is a van instead of an SUV.
It sure helps that Kia knows how to craft appealing designs, and this minivan looks terrific. I’m even surprised to report that I like the simulated front and rear skid plates.
From behind the Sedona’s steering wheel, you literally cannot tell the difference between this minivan and a typical crossover SUV. Horizontally oriented controls and displays, as well as a wide center console with a shifter and traditional storage box, perfectly mimic the look and feel a crossover’s cabin. This combination of design cues makes the Sedona a direct seat-of-the-pants competitor to full-size SUVs such as a Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, or GMC Acadia.
If an accident proves unavoidable, Sedona owners can rest assured that they’re driving one of the safest vehicles on the road.
In SX Limited trim, the Sedona’s interior is also plush. Unfortunately, in some ways, the Sedona simply doesn’t look, feel, or sound all that substantial. For example, refinement is lacking when adjusting the second-row seats and folding the third-row seats. They feel balky, sticky, and rickety rather than compliant, smooth and robust. Traits like these fail to inspire confidence in the Sedona’s ability to withstand years of family use and abuse.
Front seat occupants are comfortable, and seat support is excellent on longer drives. Soft upper door panel trim combines with a soft and wide center console armrest to aid comfort levels. My wife was happy to find a front passenger’s seat height adjuster in our SX Limited test vehicle, but she also kept banging her head on the rakish windshield pillars when getting into the Sedona. Such is the price to be paid for a minivan that looks more like an SUV.
My test vehicle’s second-row captain’s chairs offered a wide range of adjustment. One feature I really liked is that they could be moved toward the center of the vehicle, placing children further away from the sliding doors where they are safer in a side-impact collision. Older children will enjoy how the captain’s chairs recline and deploy an ottoman-style footrest, making them perfect for viewing movies or playing games on the optional rear-seat entertainment system, or simply gazing at clouds or stars through the Sedona SX Limited’s rear moonroof.
The interior design and layout doesn't shout the fact that what you're driving happens to be a minivan.
Third-row seat comfort is dependent upon where the second-row seats are placed, but there is room aboard this vehicle for six large adults. Both rear rows of seats include manual side window shades, and versions without leather upholstery feature YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats.
Behind the Sedona’s third-row seat, owners can utilize 33.9 cu.-ft. of cargo space. Flip the third-row seat into the cargo well to expand capacity to 78.4 cu.-ft. If you need more room than that, the “Slide-N-Stow” second-row seats slide forward and flatten themselves vertically against the front seat backs, resulting in a maximum cargo volume measurement of 142 cu.-ft.
While this “Slide-N-Stow” design means the Sedona isn’t quite as commodious as key competitors, the benefit is that you never need to unlatch and lift heavy second-row seats out of the van in order to maximize the amount of room. Besides, not even a huge Chevy Suburban can match the Sedona’s cargo measurements, let alone any crossover SUV.
Kia has also done a great job of providing spots in which to stash your stuff. From triple-tier storage trays built into the front door panels and a dual glove box design to a grocery sack hook on the front seat back and second-row lower console storage shaped to hold video game cases, the Sedona is ready to accommodate and organize the detritus of daily living.
It is available with lots of useful safety and infotainment technology, too. For example, all versions except for the base Sedona L include Kia’s UVO (Your Voice) eServices system. Highlights include a Parking Minder that helps the driver find the van in a crowded lot, a Digital Jukebox where you can store your favorite songs, and 911 Connect service that helps to speed rescuers to the Sedona’s location following a collision.
Safest SUVs and minivans: IIHS Top Safety Pick+ winners
A reversing camera is standard for all but the Sedona L, and a blind-spot detection system is either available or standard for the EX, SX, and SX Limited trim levels. A surround-view camera, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning systems are reserved only for the most expensive version of the Sedona, the SX Limited.
If you can’t afford that model, don’t worry. You’re not missing out on much. In my experience, the forward collision warning system sometimes activates when there is no actual threat, yet sometimes fails to activate when I find myself in hard braking situations. I’d say it operates with accuracy about 25-percent of the time. The lane departure warning system works well, quickly prompting a driver to shut it off. Remaining safety features are quite useful, though the blind-spot detection system’s mirror-mounted warning lights really need to be bigger and brighter.
If an accident proves unavoidable, Sedona owners can rest assured that they’re driving one of the safest vehicles on the road. Curb weights range from 4,411 pounds to 4,720 pounds, and the Sedona earns perfect crash-test scores from both the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Few vehicles can boast such claims.
The Sedona is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 engine coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
That heft doesn’t negatively impact the Sedona’s dynamic performance. Obviously, you’re not going to take this minivan to a weekend track event, but if you find yourself on a winding mountain road you needn’t worry that this Kia can’t handle itself with dignity and grace. No matter the type of turn or corner, the Sedona’s handling proves predictable.
When the 6-speed automatic transmission is cooperating, energetic acceleration is another of this minivan’s pleasing driving characteristics. A 276-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 is standard, revving freely and sounding good doing it. Kia has, however, calibrated the 6-speed automatic transmission to return maximum fuel economy at all times.
Eco, Comfort, and Normal driving modes are available, the transmission essentially proving unresponsive to your right foot when placed in the first two modes. In Normal mode, the transmission is more willing to entertain a downshift for extra power, but it upshifts as soon as is possible, and in hilly terrain this produces an irritating degree of “hunt” on all but the steepest of inclines. As a result of the diligent transmission, my Sedona SX Limited returned 18.9 mpg, almost exactly matching the EPA’s 19-mpg rating for combined driving.
Outward visibility is excellent in every direction, enhanced by the SX Limited model’s available surround view camera system. So equipped, you should have no problems reversing, parking, or negotiating cramped conditions.
When it comes to the Sedona’s ride, I’m reminded of the K900 luxury sedan. Kia clearly wanted to smooth out the ride as much as possible, but sharper dips and bumps make the Sedona feel woozy, like it is a step behind what’s happening at the contact patches. I’d prefer sharper attenuation of ride motions to foster a greater sense of connectedness to the pavement and confidence in the driver.
The Sedona looks, feels, and works well enough to have some crossover SUV buyers crossing over.
Because with this redesign Kia is not only positioned to build the best minivan in the land, but the Sedona looks, feels, and works well enough to have some crossover SUV buyers crossing over. All Kia really needs to do in order to perfect the Sedona and dethrone the Odyssey and Sienna is to sweat a few more details.