Sedona, Arizona - Everybody wants some," wailed David Lee Roth. Well, Kia Motors wants some, too. The Hyundai subsidiary is popping out new models with bunnylike urgency these days, and with the Sedona, Kia thrusts itself into the minivan market, a first for a Korean brand.
Kia has watched closely the gaffes of other import carmakers and learned well that Americans have no patience for deviant minivans. The Volkswagen Vanagon, the Toyota Previa, the Mazda MPV, the first Honda Odyssey--each was different in some major way from the benchmark Chrysler Corporation vans, and each eventually was deposed by a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, sliding-side-door replacement. Kia, wisely, has skipped this awkward first step, creating a vehicle that studiously follows the set formula.
The 3.5-liter DOHC V-6's 195 hp and 218 lb-ft of torque are comfortably mid-pack, and its five-speed automatic, its front strut/beam-axle rear suspension, and its disc/drum brakes (ABS is a $595 option) are totally unsurprising. On the road, the Sedona feels buttoned down if not quite nimble, comfortable though never coddling, willing but hardly playful. Goldilocks would love it.
The shape looks vaguely like every other minivan out there--utterly inoffensive but just as forgettable. The interior is handsome enough and uses good-quality materials. There are comfy seats for seven butts, holders for twelve cups, three power outlets, and two air conditioners (front and rear). Missing are such leading-edge minivan features as power sliding doors, a stowaway third seat, and a video entertainment system.
So how does such an extraordinarily ordinary newcomer expect to horn its way into a market that is driven largely by brand loyalty? By dint of its small price tag, of course. The base LX model starts at $19,590, including destination and delivery, making it the least expensive V-6-powered minivan. The EX starts at only $21,590; loaded, with leather and a power moonroof, it tops out at a very reasonable $24,100.
Whether Kia's aggressive pricing can overcome the Sedona's status as an unproven commodity remains to be seen, but it's a surprisingly solid first effort. In appearance and function, the Sedona is exactly where it needs to be: right smack in the middle of the road.