My experience with the Sedona was rather limited – just an early morning drive from the airport during which I was more concerned with getting feeling back in my fingers than vehicle dynamics (it was -20 degrees with the wind chill). Still, I was pleasantly surprised when I got in the front seat and saw a modern, nicely turned dash staring back at me. It’s a definite step up from what’s in our Town & Country, which costs about $10,000 more, and it makes the whole minivan experience a bit less depressing. Just as with the Chrysler van, I was incredibly surprised by the Kia’s acceleration. Having spent more time behind the wheel of large SUVs, it’s something of a novelty to step on the gas of a big boat and feel it lurch forward with such energy.
I wasn’t as happy with the ride. Granted, I was driving on Michigan roads and the tires were probably frozen blocks, but the amount of vibrations transmitted through the steering wheel made me very hesitant to go more than 65 mph.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
There are no innovations in the Kia Sedona. It is simply a well-executed, cut-price version of the modern minivan, and as such, it hits most of the high points for mainstream minivan buyers. Like Chrysler did for years, Kia offers both short- and long-wheelbase models, and although our long-wheelbase, top-spec EX test vehicle has a base price of $27,290, a base-model, short-wheelbase Sedona starts at less than $22K. All Sedonas are equipped with the same powertrain: a 244-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic. By contrast, Chrysler and Dodge offer three V-6s in their respective minivans, and only the top-spec unit, a 4.0-liter V-6, offers as much power as the Hyundai-sourced V-6.
So, the Sedona offers what most people want in a minivan: front-wheel drive, convenient ingress and egress, a flip-up tray between the front seats, dual sliding side doors, and third-row seats that fold flat into a well in the floor, an innovation pioneered by Honda a decade ago. Power controls for the sliding doors and the rear hatch are standard on the EX, and the requisite flip-down DVD screen is available to keep the kids distracted. Leather, navigation, and heated front seats are all optional.
As for the V-6 powertrain, it’s more than adequate, and it mates pretty well with the automatic. In terms of overall refinement, I’d say it’s better than the Chrysler 4.0-liter V-6 but, not surprisingly, nowhere near as creamy as the V-6s in the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna.
Addendum: A week after I wrote the above, I drove the Kia Sedona again, to make a late-night run from Ann Arbor to the Detroit airport. The temperature had dropped to 27 or 28 degrees, but it was raining. Glare ice. Cars in ditches everywhere I looked on I-94. Tow trucks, police cars, ambulances. The Sedona held its own quite well. At times I was driving only 30 mph on the freeway, with the hazards on. The vehicle was very composed, and I didn’t feel at all vulnerable. I was glad to be in it in these conditions.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
A little wham-bam on uneven pavement, a bit shy on the acoustic dampening in the cabin, and about one level off on the quality of interior trim. But check the Sedona’s price. And boy, howdy, how about that engine? It jumps out with no hesitation when you put your boot into it at 70 mph. I like minivans but have come to “need” power sliding doors and a power liftgate, which was part of our Sedona’s option package. I also need a heated seat. I discovered that this one has a few too many settings, having rolled it to one short of max, which nearly baked my buns. Toasty!
Last point: The safety rating is spectacular: five stars for front and side collisions for both front and back seats. Rollover is close behind with four stars.
The Sedona may not be an Odyssey, but it has a lot to offer at a respectable price.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
Call me crazy, but I had a blast driving this bus home last night. I’m certainly not a minivan guy (although I did put A LOT of miles on my dad’s long-wheelbase Aerostar in high school), but something about the Sedona had me ready to call all my friends and offer to be the DD for a night of debauchery. Tons of room, great power, and an exterior that doesn’t attract any special attention works for me.
I suppose some people will complain about the cheap interior materials, but I think they are a blessing in a minivan. My experiences with small children leave me under the impression that kids are always sticky, dirty, or sneezing. Why spring for luxurious appointments if they will soon be covered in vomit, snot, or spilled soda? I’d say the interior materials are actually nicer than those in the current crop of Chrysler vans since the plastic is softer. You don’t need to worry about your kids getting a cut from a sharp edge.
I was most surprised by the power this V-6 puts out. There’s one straight stretch of smooth road on my commute and this monster easily hit triple digits. I thought I was going about 70 mph. That’s how smooth and powerful this engine is. Like Jean, I’m very impressed by the roll-on acceleration at highway speeds. And at low speeds this Kia seems to put the power down much better than our 4S Chrysler Town & Country.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
While it isn’t revolutionary, the Sedona manages to improve upon features offered by most of its competition. A convex rearview mirror to spy on the kids? Kia’s got it, but it’s design pivots, letting the driver survey the entire interior. Power pop-out quarter windows? Nothing new at all, but Kia manages to put switches for them in the third row – something I’ve never seen in a Chrysler minivan.
Likewise, I’m utterly floored by the powertrain in this van. I’ve just driven Chrysler’s 3.8-liter V-6/ six-speed automatic combination in a Dodge Grand Caravan SXT, and it’s nowhere as strong or as smooth as the 3.8-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic in the Sedona. I’m reluctant to call a minivan ‘fun,’ but the droves of power – even at highway speeds – is more than entertaining.
I’m all for simple interiors – especially in a van like this, but I’d like to see a bit more refinement inside, especially with Kia’s switchgear. Some buttons seem randomly arranged on the dashboard, while the power lock cylinders clank loudly throughout the van.
Those are small annoyances, I grant you, and considering Kia’s pricing (our LOADED tester was just over $32k), I’d be hard-pressed not to seriously shop one of these against a Grand Caravan if ever in the market.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I agree with my colleagues: the Sedona is highly desirable in its minivanness, and its price and powertrain help it stand out amongst its solid competition. In addition to its pep, the engine sounds powerful, with a nice, almost burbley exhaust note. Who’da thunk?
I wasn’t, however, impressed by the Sedona’s styling, which I found to be too far on the blah side. I drove the Kia in pretty cold weather, but that’s no excuse for the multitude of annoying creaks that came from the rear passenger compartment. (This example had about 12,000 miles on it, but if it were mine, it’d definitely be back at the dealer for a squeak/rattle prescription.) That rear compartment, though, easily converted to cargo mode for my cardboard recycling trip to Ikea. Minivans aren’t very sexy, but they sure are useful.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Base Price (with destination): $26,920
Price as tested: $32,220
Luxury Package – $2400
– Leather Seat Trim, Heated Front Seats, 2-Position Memory for Driver’s Seat, Outside Mirrors, and Power Adjustable Pedals; Automatic Tri-Zone Climate Control, Power Sunroof, Back-up Warning System, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, Engine Immobilizer
Premium Entertainment Package – $1700
– DVD Player with 8″ Monitor, Infinity Audio/MP3/CDC and Speakers, Infinity Surround Sound System
Power Package – $1000
– Power Sliding Doors, Power Lift Gate
-Cross Bars – $200
Fuel Economy: 16 / 23 / 18 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 3.8L V6 DOHC 24-valve
HP: 250 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 253 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5):
Frontal Crash Driver: 5
Frontal Crash Passenger: 5
Side Crash Front Seat: 5
Side Crash Rear Seat: 5
Transmission: 5-speed Automatic
Weight: 4387 lb (Standard), 4646 lb (Full Option)
– 6.5J x 17 Aluminum Wheels (size)
– P235/60R17 Tires