First Tests

2015 Kia Sedona SXL First Test

Whatever You Do, Don't Call It a Minivan

Whatever You Do, Don't Call It a Minivan

Here’s a tip: Never refer to Kia‘s all-new 2015 Sedona as a minivan in front of Kia marketing folk. As was quickly and frequently pointed out to me at the vehicle’s launch in Palo Alto, California, the Sedona isn’t a minivan; it’s a Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or an MPV. Kia’s reasoning? Well, the new Sedona isn’t all that mini (they’re right; it’s massive), and it combines the practicality and utility of the old Sedona minivan with the sportiness and look of the Sorento CUV. Whatever Kia calls it is irrelevant because in a class that’s shrunk from more than 13 to just 5 models in the past 15 years, the new Sedona is a breath of fresh air.

The most striking thing about the new Sedona is how handsome it looks inside and out. Sensitive to the public’s perception of minivans, the Peter Schreyer-penned Sedona is probably the most attractive minivan on the market, with a big, bold CUV-ish nose and sporty design lines paired with an upscale interior on top SXL models.

Kia may have designed the Sedona to appeal to CUV buyers, but those expecting the Sedona to drive like anything but a minivan are in for a bit of a disappointment. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing — the Sedona rides comfortably, handles well for its size, and gets moving quick enough for most buyers thanks to Kia’s familiar 3.3-liter V-6, which was tuned to make more midrange power in the minivan.

The Sedona’s direct-injected V-6 is mated to a six-speed automatic and produces 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. That’s good for an Odyssey and Grand Caravan-tying 7.9-second 0-60 mph run and a 16.1-second quarter mile with an 89.2 mph trap speed. In the important 60-0 mph stop test, the Sedona managed to rein in its hefty 4,764 pounds in just 122 feet. That excess mass should hurt Kia when it comes to our figure-eight test, but surprisingly the Sedona wears its weight well, lapping the figure eight in 28.0 seconds at a 0.70 g average, making it the second-quickest full-size minivan around the figure eight, with the Toyota Sienna just edging it out with its 27.9 second at 0.63 g performance.

The one performance figure where the Sedona gives up much to its rivals is fuel economy. Because of different equipment levels and power steering mechanisms, the Sedona’s fuel economy numbers are all over the map. Base 2015 Sedona L, LX, and volume EX models come with hydraulic power steering, giving them an EPA rating of 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The Sedona SX and Sedona SXL, like our tester, get electric power steering racks but not the same fuel economy numbers. The SX gets the best EPA numbers of the lineup with an 18/25/21 mpg rating, while the Sedona SXL gets a rather poor 17/22/19 mpg, thanks to the added weight of its dual sunroofs and other luxury touches. In our Real MPG testing, the Sedona SXL achieved 17.3/23.8/19.7 R-MPG, which is slightly better than its EPA rating.

But performance isn’t the name of the game for minivans — interior amenities are, and the Kia Sedona SXL delivers there in spades. With some 45 percent of minivans purchased by empty nesters, the Sedona SXL aims to win over aging baby boomers with a truly luxurious cabin and features more frequently seen in luxury sedans than in minivans — excuse me, MPVs. Take its second row “First Class” captain’s chairs. Inspired by the first class cabins designers frequented on flights across the Pacific to Seoul, the SXL sports first-class-inspired second row seats. These seats slide fore and aft and side to side, recline, and feature both an airline-inspired pillow headrest and a fold-out footrest. They may not be S-Class-comfortable, but they’re pretty damn great — babes and baby boomers alike will love these seats. Although the second row is great, the third isn’t. While rivals feature uncomfortable but usable seats in the third row, sitting in the Sedona’s third row feels like squeezing in back of a coupe, with the SXL’s second sunroof eating up most of the headroom in back.

Speaking of seats, where the Sedona shows Kia’s relative inexperience compared to the likes of Chrysler and others is in their folding mechanisms. With much effort, the third row folds to make a flat load floor. With even more effort, the second row captain’s chairs “Slide-N-Stow” up against the front seats, like a high school senior clinging to his prom date. Those lounge seats are also maddeningly complex to use — not to mention incredibly cumbersome. Complicated seats aside, the Kia Sedona’s interior is a genuinely nice place to be. The CUV-ish interior design looks and more importantly feels upscale with high-quality Nappa leather, a neat two-tone color scheme, and a driver-oriented dashboard, complete with Kia’s killer Uvo infotainment system.

Price-wise, Kia covers the gamut from cheap family transportation to luxo-hauler. The 2015 Sedona starts at a reasonable $26,795 with each trim level spaced out from the next one by $2,000-$4,000. Our top-of-the-line Sedona SXL tester started at $40,595 and came equipped with the only available option on the SXL, the technology package, which for $2,700 includes xenon headlights, lane departure and forward collision warnings, surround view cameras, and radar cruise control. With the tech package, the as-tested price for our Sedona was $43,295, which is comparable to a loaded Chrysler Town & Country or Honda Odyssey.

Though the Sedona might not be the game changer Kia hopes it’ll be, the Sedona is a refreshing breath of fresh air in a stale segment. With the new Sedona, Kia shows car buyers the benefits of the Pixar approach, developing a product that’s just as appealing to adults as it is to children. With a wide lineup spread and plenty of features for parents, empty nesters, and children, buyers will likely find much to get excited about with the new Sedona — just as long as they don’t call it a minivan.

2015 Kia Sedona SXL
BASE PRICE $40,595
PRICE AS TESTED $43,295
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door van
ENGINE 3.3L/276-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4764 lb (56/44%)
WHEELBASE 120.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 201.4 x 78.1 x 68.5 in
0-60 MPH 7.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.1 sec @ 89.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.78 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.0 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 17/22/19 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 198/153 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.02 lb/mile