Palo Alto, California — Kia is upfront about the fact that its 2015 Sedona minivan enters a dying segment. Crossovers are the name of the game now yet the company still sees opportunity for growth with this new, more stylish 2015 Kia Sedona that hopes to bring this oft-forgotten van from second-rate to first-class.
As the Sedona is the last Kia model to complete designer Peter Schreyer’s transformation of the brand’s lineup, the 2015 model’s flashy look is the crux of this strategy. Kia calls it an MPV, meaning that it’s supposed to look more like a trendy crossover than a staid minivan. But being a major player in the minivan segment takes a lot more than good looks. After years of playing in the minivan little leagues, can the 2015 Kia Sedona measure up to big hitters such as the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Town & Country?
The Sedona’s luxurious interior certainly makes a good first impression, especially in the loaded SX Limited (SXL) model we tested in Northern California. Materials such as stitched Nappa leather and soft-touch plastics are convincingly luxurious, and the appealing horizontal dashboard layout is also surprisingly simple to use, with clearly marked buttons and a large, bright touchscreen for Kia’s intuitive UVO infotainment interface.
Most minivan action happens aft of the front seats, though, and the 2015 Kia Sedona offers a few different seating configurations that should cater to various needs. A traditional seven-passenger layout is standard and an eight-passenger version is available, but the Sedona’s big party piece is the optional set of second-row lounge seats that come standard on the SXL.
These reclining captain’s chairs with extendable footrests are designed to emulate first-class airplane seats and live up to their billing by providing enormous amounts of legroom and plush cushioning. They’ll no doubt please dignitaries in Kia’s home market of South Korea, who often choose minivans over luxury sedans for chauffeuring duty. Here, they’re more likely to seat bratty children spilling chocolate milk on the sumptuous Nappa leather.
Boeing 747 dynamics
When we tried out these seats on our drive of the 2015 Kia Sedona, the first-class experience was let down by the van’s lackluster ride quality. Even on Northern California’s relatively smooth freeways, we felt a fair amount of impact vibration and harshness while sitting in back, an unbefitting sensation for such luxurious chairs. Lesser models with smaller wheels than the SXL’s chrome 19-inchers might do better on this front, but then you’ll forgo the lounge seats.
Don’t think that the subpar ride quality is a compromise for nimble handling, though, because the Kia Sedona did not impress through the twisty sections of California’s Route 84, even for a minivan. Of course we don’t expect sports-sedan handling from this 4700-pound van, but competitors offer much more confidence-inspiring dynamics than the Kia’s limp steering and sloppy body control. Again, our test SXL model might be partially to blame because its extra equipment makes for a curb weight that’s about 200-300 pounds more than an LX or EX model, and some 100 pounds more than an equivalent Honda Odyssey Touring Elite or Chrysler Town & Country Limited.
That extra weight dampens the liveliness of the Sedona’s 3.3-liter V-6 engine too, which Kia has tuned for more midrange torque in this application. The powertrain is perfectly refined and smooth, but felt unresponsive and sluggish on hilly terrain due to the six-speed automatic’s reluctance to downshift. This tuning is likely aimed at improving fuel economy, but the Sedona’s numbers still lag behind the Odyssey’s 19/28 mpg city/highway even in the Kia’s most efficient SX trim, which has EPA ratings of 18/25 mpg city/highway. (The SXL drops down significantly to 17/22 mpg.)
More private jet than family shuttle
Much of the extra mass undoubtedly comes from the SXL’s luxury goodies including dual sunroofs that open in front and in back, adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled front seats, and those bulky first-class-style reclining captain’s chairs.
These kinds of features aren’t available on other minivans, but for all of this luxury, we couldn’t help but notice that even this fully loaded 2015 Kia Sedona SXL lacked family-friendly minivan essentials. Yes, there are 12 cupholders, but the Sedona doesn’t have as many storage cubbies and rear-seat power outlets as other vans, and expected features such as a conversation mirror and a rear entertainment system aren’t even offered as factory options. The Sedona’s interior feels more like a luxury sedan than a family hauler. It’s plush and premium, but seems ill equipped for the minivan market.
With the third-generation Sedona, Kia has focused too much on appearances and not enough on basic minivan tenets such as comfort, practicality, and family friendliness. Its luxury and style impress on the red carpet, but there’s not enough substance underneath to bring Kia’s MPV up from the B-list.
2015 Kia Sedona Specifications
- On Sale: Now
- Base Price: $26,795
- Price as Tested: $43,295 (SX Limited)
- Engine: 3.3-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6/276 hp @ 6000 rpm, 248 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
- Layout: 4-door, 7-8-passenger, front-engine, FWD minivan
- EPA Mileage: 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined (L, LX, EX); 18/25/21 mpg (SX); 17/22/19 mpg (SXL)
- L x W x H: 201.4 x 78.1 x 68.5 in
- Wheelbase: 120.5 in
- Weight: 4414-4720 lb