First Drive: 2015 Kia Sedona SXLPosted on September 29th, 2014
Style makes it different
By Nina Russin
There’s no doubt that minivans are one of the most practical car choices for growing families. The reason car companies don’t sell more of them is the stigma attached, primarily because of styling. Kia is addressing this issue in its third-generation Sedona with a sexy exterior penned by the very talented Peter Schreyer that should make car shoppers take a second look.
Schreyer adapted the wide, sweeping shoulders and aggressive grille of a crossover, making the Sedona look sportier and more purposeful. Inside, a driver-centric interior features a center console-mounted gearshift lever and high tech instrument panel that includes the most recent iteration of Kia’s UVO infotainment system, co-developed with Microsoft.
On the flip side, product planners remembered to focus on versatility, with new seating configurations that include a Slide-N-Stow function for second-row seating and third-row seats that fold into the floor. Buyers of the upscale SXL grade can opt for first class lounge seating: think Barcaloungers in the second row, only much more stylish.
Five grade strategy
Despite entering the luxury market with its K900 sedan, Kia’s core mission continues to be value. Pricing for the base L model of the new Sedona is the same as for the outgoing model: $25,900. There are four other grades: LX, EX, SX and SXL. Product specialists expect the EX with a $28,100 MSRP to be the volume leader.
The SX priced from $36,100 appeals to buyers wanting better gas mileage. Electric power steering adds a mile-per-gallon on the highway: 25 mpg. The EPA combined fuel economy rating is 21 mpg.
The upscale SXL priced from $39,700 gets a unique front fascia and grille and 19-inch chrome wheels. Lounge seating in the second row with two-tone Nappa leather upholstery is standard.
Test drive in Southern California
I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the new Sedona at a media event in Dana Point, California this past week. Our route included some time on surface streets in that town before heading south and east towards Escondido.
With its 3.3-liter direct injection engine and six-speed automatic transmission, Kia’s newest minivan should give competitors such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna a run for the money.
Despite its hefty 4500-pound curb weight, the car feels quite nimble. The engine’s 248 foot-pounds of peak torque give the car a solid boost off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into highway traffic.
Engineers utilized high strength steel in 76 percent of the body, resulting in better torsional rigidity for solid steering feedback. The electric power steering on the SXL is nicely tuned to the car, lacking the numbness that some of the car’s direct competitors suffer from. A 36.8-foot turning circle makes it easy to perform the occasional U-turn on wider suburban roads.
Despite its high shoulders, visibility around the perimeter is quite reasonable. I was able to adjust the power driver’s seat for a clear forward view and had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the freeway. Standard blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when other vehicles pass through the driver’s blind spots, making it easier to weave through dense traffic.
A $2,700 technology package adds bi-xenon headlamps for better nighttime visibility, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and an around-view monitor. The around-view monitor projects a 360-degree image of the car’s exterior to help the driver avoid unseen obstacles. It’s a great safety feature for parents of small children who might be playing in the driveway.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Sedona in firm, linear fashion.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup with coil springs in back. The Sedona can tow up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum standard.
Unlike the Toyota Sienna, the Kia Sedona is not available with all-wheel drive. Buyers who live in climates with severe winters should seriously consider a set of winter tires to improve the car’s traction on wet roads. Ground clearance is 6.7-inches: enough to clear a modest amount of snow.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior by adding sound deadening material in the engine bay as well as around the wheel housings. Three rows of passengers should have no problems conversing on the highway.
Although it’s hard to resist the comfort of Nappa leather lounge seating on a long road trip, I like the YES essentials stain-resistant fabric available on lower Sedona grades better for families and buyers with active lifestyles.
The Slide-N-Stow feature is also not available in cars equipped with the lounge seats. It enables owners to slide the second-row seats apart to create a wider path to the third row or slide them together so kids are easier to monitor using a convex mirror up front.
A dual glove box on all models includes a chilled area for stashing drinks. There are plenty of other storage bins around the car, including a deep one in the center console. Cupholders in the center console are plenty big for large water bottles.
Keyless entry and start on the test car saves owners from fumbling for the key fob. A new smart power liftgate automatically opens when it senses the key fob in the driver’s pocket for three minutes: no arms or kicking under the rear bumper required.
The newest generation of Kia’s UVO infotainment system includes an app store that enables owners to download from iTunes or Google Play, including Pandora, iHeart radio, Google search and Yelp. Sirius travel link provides real-time weather traffic, sports and stocks information.
The Kia Sedona comes with dual front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, active front headrests, traction control, stability control and tire pressure monitoring.
Kia’s ten-year, 100,000-mile warranty includes five years of 24-hour roadside assistance: up to 60,000 miles.
The all-new Sedona rolls into Kia dealerships in October
Like: A stylish yet versatile minivan with solid performance and good power. The Sedona doesn’t look like a minivan and it doesn’t handle like one either.
Dislike: All-wheel drive is not available.
Model: Sedona SXL
Base price: $39,700
As tested: $43,295
Horsepower: 276 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 248 lbs.-ft. @ 5200 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 17/22 mpg city/highway
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