Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Kia Sedona

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

Minivans may not be the automotive rising star that crossovers are these days, but while recovering from a pre-holiday ankle break and subsequent surgery, I couldn’t help but appreciate why minivans are so darned effective at their task. Since walking any real distance without crutches was impossible, being able to throw them into the back without having to mess with messy hinged doors is a real convenience. And the wide-opening front doors and just-right seating height means less stress on the injured joint.

My realization came during a week with the 2015 Kia Sedona, the company’s third crack at a North American people-mover. But, like its other preconception-busting offerings, the Cadenza and K900 luxury sedans,

Kia has decided to abandon the price-leader position with its latest Sedona.

While Dodge will happily sell you a Grand Caravan for $19,895, Kia’s entry-level L trim starts around $28,000. Between L and the loaded SXL+ are five different levels of equipment, convenience and safety gear that bring the as-tested price to $47,960, including $1,665 delivery charges.

That’s a head-shaking figure for any vehicle, let alone a Kia minivan, but it puts forward a very solid case in its favour. Nothing radical on the outside: there’s a big bold grille flanked by full xenon headlights and LED driving lights, chrome 19-inch wheels with 235/55-sized Continental tires at all four corners and the optional metallic blue paint. Inside, though, is a whole other story.

The front seats are eight-way adjustable, wrapped in black and tan leather with neat orange detail stitching, and also happen to be heated and ventilated. They are some of the most comfortable around, at any price. The second-row captain’s chairs can be fully reclined and, like top-end Sienna models, also have extendable footrests too. Access to the third row can be either by sliding the middle chairs outwards towards the sliding doors to gain a precious few extra centimetres of space to walk between, or by sliding and tilting them forward against the front row.

The system isn’t perfect, though. The four levers needed to adjust those swanky seats are challenging for me to use, let alone my five-year-old daughter. And while the third row can stow flat into floor, the system isn’t the simplest around. Young kids in the very-very back might get bored too because the rear quarter-windows are really small and quite high thanks to the dramatically stepped beltline.

Neat touches include the rear climate control unit placed above the power-sliding side door, a two-panel glass moonroof, 120-volt and USB plugs, a cargo-area-mounted removable flashlight and manual side-window shades for the rear two rows. One thing noticeable in its absence would be an integrated video player of some sort, but – like several major airlines – Kia’s probably expecting most small passengers already have several screens of their own and simply providing places to recharge them would be better appreciated.

Back up front, Kia has taken a bold step towards, well, not taking a step in its Sedona. Unlike virtually every other minivan around, the Sedona uses an SUV/CUV-style centre console. The gearshift lever, armrest-covered console and more prevent easily accessing kids or passengers in the back without having to get out first. It’s a bold decision, and one that I didn’t find an issue with, although if I still had toy-flinging-age kids, I might disagree.

The eight-inch touchscreen is powered by Kia’s latest UVO software, and is largely easy to use and navigate. The eight-speaker Infinity audio system was more-than-able to deliver near-ear-splitting levels of clear music, even if it was 4Count’s California played on repeat for hours on end. My wife’s biggest complaint came from trying to use the tune knob – the one farthest right – and found it a painful and distracting stretch.

There were several things she did enjoy, including the automatic high-beam system, and Nissan-esque around-view monitor, especially when she discovered she could choose to display, say, the front camera alone when parking the Sedona in our garage.

All Sedonas use Kia’s corporate 3.3L V6 with direct injection, delivering 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, although the latter peaks at a high 5,200 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only choice, sending power to the front wheels. In SXL+ grade, the Sedona tips the scales at 2,141 kilograms, and according to Natural Resources Canada’s five-cycle testing, returns 14.2 L/100 km in the city and 10.5 on the highway. Over its week here with a bunch of mixed speeds and driving conditions, the Sedona averaged 12.7 L/100 km, despite the fresh engine that broke through its first 1,000 km mark in my hands.

I appreciated the radar-based active cruise control, which also combines a front-collision warning system and lane departure warning that are easy enough to set and alter speed as needed.

And the Sedona is a nice long-distance cruiser, with minimal road noise, despite the aggressive winter tires, and limited wind noise too. Unlike other Kia models, the Sedona doesn’t get the driver-selectable steering weight, but you can choose between Comfort, Eco and Normal mapping for the throttle and transmission, although there seemed little difference between the three.

Despite having the smallest displacement in its segment, only the Chrysler twins have more power, and only then its five extra ponies. The Sedona’s engine feels pretty strong, and is happy chirping the tires if you’re not used to its manners. Its brakes are equally good, both in how readily it stops and in modulation, although didn’t get an opportunity for emergency maneuvers.

The cruiser tag also applies to its well-sorted suspension, which is supple and absorbing without resorting to excessive lean. Even its two-tonne-plus weight wasn’t an issue, faithfully going where pointed with few complaints along the way. Although few would read the group test, it would be interesting to see where the Sedona fits next to its Grand Caravan R/T “Man Van” and Toyota Sienna SE competitors for track-ready status…

Feature for feature, the Honda Odyssey Touring and Toyota Sienna Limited are the top-trim Sedona’s obvious rivals, bringing lessons learned from their respective luxury-car divisions to play. They’re all darned close to $50,000, and will likely last for years without issues. And, like the struggles it’s currently having with convincing customers to shell out big bucks for those aforementioned K900 and Cadenza, I’m guessing we’ll see very few of Kia’s new minivan in that budget-stretching guise.

But, with the volume LX+ and SX and its more modest second row? I’d love to try one without all the flash, and with the pricing and strong warranty, I’d expect to see more than a few hitting the roads in the coming months.

For kid-hauling duty, my daughter loved being able to do plenty of things herself – like opening the sliding doors or stretching her feet out… things she has trouble doing so in a “normal” vehicle with swing-out doors. She professed love for “her press car” and was genuinely sad to see it go. When asked if she liked any others in the line that followed she says, “No, it doesn’t have sliding doors.” Sigh. Kia, you created a monster.

5 years/100,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance

Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan
Honda Odyssey
Nissan Quest
Toyota Sienna

Model Tested 2015 Kia Sedona SXL+
Base Price $45,995
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,665
Price as Tested $47,960
Optional Equipment
Midnight Sapphire metallic paint ($200)