Once a staple of the industry, minivans are a niche market nowadays. Redesigned for 2015, the Kia Sedona grew in size to serve as a more appealing alternative to the top four sellers: Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Toyota Sienna.
As a result, the current Sedona is considerably more competitive than its predecessors in terms of refinement, functionality, and space, while displaying a tasteful profile. Measured in specific cubic feet, Odyssey is more spacious; but both the Odyssey and the Sedona feature roomy, comfortable front seats.
New features for 2016 include a rearview camera as standard equipment. Tricot cloth seat material replaces knit on 2016 Kia Sedona L and 2016 Sedona LX models, while the 2016 Sedona EX gains heated front seats. Eight-passenger seating is available for the 2016 Sedona SX when equipped with the Technology package, and chrome-accent side sills are available for 2016 Sedona SXL.
Although the most sought-after features are standard only in top trim levels, even the base Sedona L is amply equipped.
Sedona lacks stow-away seats, but its Slide-N-Stow system shrinks that middle row into a tight upright space, flipping the bottom cushions upward. Third-row seats are smaller than in some minivans, but they’re split 60/40 and fold flat into the floor. The top model gets airline-style lounge chairs with retracting legrests and winged headrests, aimed at enhanced comfort.
Sedona uses the same 3.3-liter V6 engine as the Kia Cadenza sedan and Sorento crossover SUV, both of which weigh far less than a minivan. Generating 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, the V6 mates with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Passengers can expect a smooth ride, but gas mileage ranks only average: no more than 18/25 mpg City/Highway, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s at least partly due to the fact that Sedona remains something of a heavyweight, topping 4,400 pounds even in base trim.
Sedona has earned good crash-test ratings from the federal government, but its particular group of safety technologies falls short. Only the more costly models can be fitted with such features as surround-view cameras, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. Cornering brake control is standard.
The Kia Sedona is more about function, less about taking risks with styling. Still, the minivan looks quite good, imparting a hint of class that suggests it’s capable of performing more than humdrum daily duties.
Only a glance is needed to affirm that you’re looking at a minivan, though, despite Kia’s claim that Sedona is actually a multi-purpose vehicle. Sitting between swept-back headlights, a more upright version of Kia’s familiar grille fits neatly into the front end. Some of Sedona’s heft is obscured by an upsweep in the shoulder line. An available smart tailgate opens when the keyfob is detected.
Kia advises that the Sedona is built with abundant high-strength steel, and layers of sound-deadening materials keep the cabin blissfully quiet. Overall, Sedona has a feeling of substance that’s lacking in Chrysler’s popular minivans.
The third row is small, fit only for youngsters, whereas an Odyssey or Sienna third row can accept adults, at least of shorter stature. Headroom is restricted, and entry space is narrow.
All infotainment functions relate to the driver’s smartphone. Sedona is the first Kia model to offer Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert, and Driving Scope, to keep track of teen drivers.
On the road, Sedona meets the usual minivan performance standards. Power is delivered smoothly, if at a moderate level, though it’s wholly adequate if lightly loaded.
Our impression was that the Sedona feels much like one of Chrysler’s minivans. Even with available 19-inch wheels, ride quality scores as excellent, though it can get bouncy over certain bumps.
Handling is essentially ordinary, but solid and secure. Virtually no wander is evident during Interstate driving, where the engine emits a pleasing sound. If pushed hard through a corner, the tires squeal, signaling a regression to minivan behavior.
Sedona’s weight keeps fuel economy down. Base models are estimated at 18/24 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. The SX is rated at 18/25 mpg, but with its electric power steering, the SXL drops to 17/22 mpg.
Considering practical merits, the Kia Sedona matches the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, and it’s bigger than a Nissan Quest or Mazda 5. Flexibility falls short of the familiar Chrysler/Dodge minivans, with their handy stow-away second-row seats. Asked to choose, we’d lean toward the midgrade Sedona EX as best value, though many buyers will be satisfied with a sensible, less-costly model.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.