Regular readers will know I’ve got a thing about minivans. And no, I’m not talking about the usual ego-driven “I won’t be caught dead in anything so homespun” attitude that’s caused American families to deviate from this most practical of motive appliances to far less utile car-based pseudo-SUVs in droves, but rather a true appreciation for monobox mobility with side-slider access. That the alt-mainstream brand Kia goes about the Sedona’s pragmatic duty with such a keen sense of urbane style is merely a bonus that I exploited during a recent weeklong test.
It helps that Kia gave me a luxury-lined SXL model, which is outfitted as nicely as most anything in the class. OK, it’s not as tarted up as a full load Chrysler Pacifica, but its as-tested $42,900 window sticker doesn’t shock the senses as much as the $50,345 2017 Pacifica Limited I put through its paces recently. To be fair, the Pacifica is probably worth the extra coin if you’re so inclined, but then again this Sedona SXL is worth every penny and more.
Unlike the all-new Pacifica, Kia’s minivan enters the 2017 model year with no new additions. Fortunately last year’s model didn’t suffer from any lack of options, this year’s available trims still including L, LX, EX, SX, and the just noted SXL model.
It’s an attractive van no matter the money spent, the Sedona’s long nose, bold yet elegantly simple grille, sporty fascia, low overall profile, and wide, solid stance making it look more like one of those aforementioned seven-passenger crossover SUVs than anything remotely van-like. Of course, my personal favorite two features, its side-sliders, give away its inherent practicality, but that’s about it.
All of its trim lines feature nice chromed exterior detailing, auto on/off projector headlamps, body-colored side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a rear rooftop spoiler, and splashguards at each wheel, while features like a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, powered front and second-row windows, display audio with satellite radio, a backup camera, Bluetooth, illuminated vanity mirrors, a conversation mirror, seating for seven, “Slide-n-Stow” second-row seats, and all the expected passive and active safety features come standard for just $26,900 plus freight and fees. This makes it $2,095 more affordable than the least expensive Japanese minivan and only $905 pricier than the long-in-tooth Dodge Grand Caravan, at least when comparing pre-discount MSRPs.
Additional features that get pulled up from lesser trims to make my SXL more enjoyable include fog lamps, LED light bar taillights, a windshield wiper de-icer, roof rails, power-folding heatable side mirrors, welcome lighting, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, dual powered sliding doors, a smart hands-free powered liftgate, obstacle-detecting windows, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Drive Mode Select with Comfort, Eco and Normal modes, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support and memory, an eight-way powered front passenger seat, a passenger seat chauffeur switch, three-way heatable front seats, heatable second-row captain’s chairs, leather upholstery, tri-zone auto climate control with a Clean Air ionizer and auto defog, a nicer 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with very accurate navigation plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, XM Traffic, superb sounding Infinity eight-speaker audio with an external amp and sub, HD radio, a dedicated USB charge port, a 110-volt household-style power inverter in the center console, retractable second- and third-row sunshades, rear parking sensors, a portable cargo-area flashlight, Vehicle stability management (VSM), blindspot monitoring, and more.
The SXL adds HID headlights with auto-leveling, adaptive cornering and auto high beams that worked well, LED positioning lights, projection fog lamps, a solar control and sound-absorbing windshield, plus chromed door handles to the outside, as well as stainless steel door scuff plates on the way inside, and an enhanced LCD/TFT Supervision primary instrument cluster, a heatable steering wheel, adaptive cruise control that made highway driving more relaxing, a particularly useful 360-degree-surround parking camera, heat-relieving three-way ventilated front seats, a second 110-volt household-style power inverter in the cargo area, plus helpful front parking sensors, lane departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking that I fortunately didn’t experience in a panic situation. This last feature helps it achieve IIHS Top Safety Pick status, by the way, something all of its Japanese competitors can’t claim and only the Pacifica exceeds.
Lastly, a $1,000 SXL Prestige Package added impressively supple perforated Nappa leather upholstery, more comfortable second-row luxury captain’s chairs that slide back and forth as well as side-to-side, with kick-out extendable leg rests no less, a premium roofliner, and an open and airy dual-panel panoramic sunroof.
I’m a bit of a sucker for refinement hence I like my minivans nicely finished, and to this end the top-line Sedona boasts plenty of soft touch synthetics in key areas, such as the entire dash top, much of the instrument panel, and the door uppers front to back, whereas the door inserts were covered in nicely padded stitched leatherette for a luxury look and feel. This level of premium-level pampering can’t be found in any of the Sedona’s Japanese competitors no matter how much you spend, with only the aforementioned Pacifica providing a similarly upscale environment.
It all comes together nicely too, with good attention to detail, especially the switchgear’s various buttons and knobs that are made from quality materials, are well damped, and fit together tightly, the three clusters of controls on the center stack especially impressive. The intuitively designed top row provides quick access to infotainment functions, in case you’d rather have an analog button to find your way around the touchscreen, one of which leads directly to the navigation interface that performed well, as noted earlier, but didn’t offer predictive city or street names when entering addresses, which was therefore a painstakingly slow letter-by-letter process.
While the Sedona excels in passenger comfort, my tester was a bit behind the pack regarding interior versatility. Like most vans in the segment, the third row of seats folds flat into the floor, but the second-row seats in my top-line version couldn’t easily be removed or folded flat. For this reason I personally wouldn’t opt for the SXL Prestige Package, as much as I like most of its added features. On all trims below, Kia includes its aforementioned Slide-n-Stow second-row seats that smartly squeeze up against the front seatbacks when maximizing cargo space, so consider this when optioning out your Sedona. Personally, I’d rather Kia left the second-row seat upgrade as a standalone option, so I could get the other Prestige features without the less useful seats. “Upgrading” to the Prestige Package also means that second-row passengers lose their heatable cushions, which is clearly not worth it for ski/snowboard-bound families or those living in colder climates.
Also of note, despite a squared-off almost blocky rear design the Sedona isn’t quite as spacious as most rivals, with total interior space less than the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and Chrysler Pacifica, although I’m not talking by much. In case you want to compare numbers, total Sedona interior volume measures 165.8 cubic feet, while cargo space behind the last row is 33.9 cubic feet, aft of the second row is 78.4 cubic feet, and with the second row removed is 142.0 cubic feet.
Where the Sedona truly performs is on the road, thanks to a standard 276 horsepower direct-injected 3.3-liter V6 with 248 lb-ft of torque, this mated to a well-proven six-speed automatic with Sportmatic sequential shift mode. The SXL improves on the base 17-inch rims and SX model’s 18s by adding chrome-finished 19-inch alloys for a nicer look and better road holding, which helped it exceed expectations when the usual crisscrossing latticework of suburban streets opened up to the less predictable nature of two-lane backroads bordering delta rivers that surround my island home. I’m not going to go so far as to say the Sedona is the sports car of minivans, such a concept just plain silly, but it held its own when pushed hard, while its manual mode gearbox provided a modicum of driving pleasure, all things considered. Truly, I enjoyed the Sedona most when kept at a moderate pace, where its excellent ride and easy maneuverability combined for a comfortable, relaxing drive.
The Sedona should be relatively trouble-free as well, or at least the Kia brand is doing well lately. It managed to beat the entire industry in J.D. Power’s 2017 Initial Quality Study, and pulled off a top-five result in the same third-party analytical firm’s 2017 Vehicle Dependability Study when put up against mainstream volume brands (11 overall), which should give first-time Kia buyers some additional comfort. Then again, the Sedona is not individually recommended amongst minivans, Chrysler and Dodge tops in the first study, and Toyota, Chrysler and Dodge top-three in the latter.
Fuel economy is not its forte either, its best EPA rating being 18 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 combined (heavier trims like SXL only achieve 17 city, 22 highway and 19 combined). This leaves it behind the Sienna, Odyssey and Pacifica’s identical 22 mpg city/highway ratings. Only the Grand Caravan does worse with a combined rating of 20 mpg. I suppose I’m splitting hairs because none of these vans vary all that much from best to worst, but suffice to say the Sedona holds no bragging rights at the pump.
I’d hate to leave this review on a slightly sour note, especially after a week well spent in such an impressive family hauler. From a practical perspective, the few dollars you might save each month when filling up are more than accommodated for during initial purchase, the Sedona costing thousands less than all but the Grand Caravan no matter the trim chosen. And while it comes up a tad short on space and usability as tested, it’s more utile than most competitors in lesser trims when Slide-n-Stow seating is factored in, whereas its good looks, nicely finished cabin, strong performance, and better than average safety rating mean that it’s a lot more than just a value option. The Sedona’s excellent value sweetens the pot, of course, which should be reason enough to put it high on your list of minivan candidates.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press