Saturday, February 28, 2015

SPY PICS: New Kia Sportage Here This Year

Kia's redesigned mid-size crossover will be preceded by a new Sorento seven-seater as Kia builds SUV momentum in 2015

Kia's next-generation Sportage is set to arrive in Australia late this year, bringing with it expected across-the-board upgrades in technology, safety, the potential of some slick new engines and a brand-new design.

Last year the Sportage was Kia's second-best selling model in the Australian market after the Cerato small car, and in the first month of 2015 it is the top-selling model, highlighting how crucial the SUV model is for the brand.

The fourth-generation model is expected to build on the popularity of the current model, priced between $25,990 and $41,590, by delivering an contemporary new look courtesy of Kia design chief Peter Schreyer and could make a surprise appearance at a major motor show in the next six months.

Following its global premiere, it will be launched in Australia late in 2015 -- if Kia Motors Australia CEO Damien Meredith gets his way.

"We're hoping to get the all-new Sportage in the last quarter of this year," he said.

"It's all-new, not a facelift," he clarified, stating that there would be no changes to the current Sportage until the new 2016 model arrives.

Meredith wouldn't be drawn on how the Mk4 Sportage's design will evolve, but previous spy shots and these fresh ones shot near the Arctic Circle (where Hyundai's new Tucson was spotted alongside), show it won't depart radically from the distinctive design motif that helped shape the Kia brand when it was first revealed in at the 2010 Geneva motor show.

"I haven't seen it yet but we've got the utmost confidence in our designers, engineers and R&D team and they haven't let us down in the last cycles of all vehicles.

"We're confident this will be a special SUV," he stated.

The current Sportage is offered with a pair of four-cylinder 2.0-litre engines – a 122kW/205Nm petrol and a 135kW/392Nm diesel – matched to front- and all-wheel drive systems.

European sources suggest that at least in some markets the new Sportage will bring improved 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engines and an upgraded 1.6 petrol, plus an all-new 1.2-litre turbo-petrol engine and even Hyundai-Kia's 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four. At least the T-GDi engines will be matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Another feather in Kia's SUV cap for 2015 will the arrival of a brand-new Sorento here in June-July.

The Korean brand's big new seven-seat SUV will provide it with a more sophisticated product to take on sales leaders such as the Toyota Prado and Kluger, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Holden Captiva 7 and Ford Territory.

We reviewed the new vehicle during its international launch in the Spain last month and rated it highly following improvements in interior quality, practicality and overall refinement.

"We're getting an all-new Sorento half way through this year," Meredith confirmed to

"It'll get some of the tech about to debut on the new Carnival," he observed, perhaps referring to radar-based adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection and lane-departure warning systems.

"What it brings to us is a good competitor in that large SUV segment, a big segment. We believe we'll get more volume out of it. It'll be a real competitor"

Kia will also launch its new Optima in November, headlined by a new turbocharged performance hero car.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Kia's Compact SUV Firms

Small SUV from Korean car-maker will arrive "sooner rather than later"
The sub-$25,000 compact SUV segment is generating a huge amount of interest among car-makers – and buyers – but one brand that's conspicuous by its absence from the genre is Kia.

That situation is looking increasingly likely to change with more talk of an all-new city-crossover on the horizon.

Although there's still no firm timeline on when Kia will wade into the segment, which is dominated by vehicles such as the Holden Trax and Mitsubishi ASX in Australia, Kia Motors Australia CEO Damien Meredith told he expects his company's absence in the segment to be filled soon.

"I'm pretty sure there's a fair bit happening at Namyang in regards to that [compact SUV] for all markets."

He mentioned 'all markets' because Kia already sells a compact SUV, the KX3 (pictured), in China, while sister company Hyundai has the ix25 also available exclusively in China.

It has previously been stated that both Kia and Hyundai models are China-only vehicles, but Meredith implies that the KX3 and ix25 will be leveraged for mature markets such as Europe, the US and Australia.

"The group has two compact SUVs in regards to China. Whilst China is, let's call it, a segmented market, I think [those vehicles] will eventuate in other markets. So to answer your question I think, yes, it's sooner rather than later."

Kia's (and Hyundai's) German-born chief of design, Peter Schreyer, told at the 2014 New York motor show that the company needs a compact SUV, and one possibility is a production version of the Niro concept from 2013.

The influential Kia executive later expounded on his desire to produce a 'lifestyle' B-segment crossover akin to the Nissan Juke when interviewed at October's Paris motor show. But until we see a near-production concept it remains to be seen which design direction the new model will take – pragmatic or poseur.

Meredith said "I get the feeling that [KX3] will disseminate globally". But he also noted that a Cerato-sized SUV from Kia might impinge on one of its best-sellers, the larger Sportage medium SUV.

The latter starts at just $25,990 -- very close to some compact SUVs – but an all-new Sportage arriving here late in 2015 could head upmarket to accommodate a model like the KX3.

"There's been a bit of success with the competitors' [compact SUVs] so we have got to look at it seriously. But there's a lot of transactional pricing occurring where those base small SUVs are coming down in price to compete in the compact SUV market, that $25K, 26K bracket.

"We can get the volume and growth we require from Sportage at the moment but, having said that, I'd love one [compact SUV].

Kia, Hyundai and Toyota will be the most notable mainstream brand not represented in the growing compact crossover sector by the end of 2015 – a year in which it will have been joined by Renault (Captur), Honda (HR-V), Mazda (CX-3), Jeep (Renegade), Suzuki (Vitara), Fiat (500X) and Ssangyong (Tivoli).

"You always want to be in a segment that’s going to be successful," enthused Meredith.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Auto Body Shop Speaks Out About Insurance Scheme

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — 500 garages from 36 states have signed a lawsuit against top insurance companies.

Cloot’s in Westfield is one of those auto body shop’s that’s speaking out.

“Aftermarket…Aftermarket…Used…,” said Gary Cloutier from Cloot’s Auto Body.

Gary says this has been an issue for years. Auto insurers pushing cheap and dangerous repairs on shops.

“We’re being forced to use inferior parts which in turn is causing inferior repairs. Putting our customers vehicles in poor condition,” said Cloutier.

The aftermarket parts can pose serious safety issues. He showed us pictures of parts that auto insurers told him to put on. They don’t fit.

“When you take 10, 15, 18 parts collectively. Basically, the whole front of the vehicle. You try to put all that together. Now, you got the front of the nose on the vehicle that nothing matches off right,” said Cloutier.

He says insurance companies are making him use similar components rather than the actual one.

“Now you’re taking the potential of that airbag system, not triggering at the right moment. So, if it goes a hundredth of a second sooner than it should have. That’s the difference of a person getting injured or killed…or not.”

“Most if not all have preferred repair programs in place with local reputable auto body shops to protect the consumer from these types of practices. The insurance companies based here in ma can’t risk their reputations on delivering inferior repair parts to consumers,” said Stephen M. Brochu from AAA Pioneer Valley.

Calls out to other insurance companies in the area weren’t immediately returned.

Gary hopes the lawsuit will make sure insurance companies won’t have as much control over the repair process as they do now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kia Rio S Premium New Car Review

Cheap petrol prices may have shifted buyers attention away from small cars in recent months, but it hasn't halted a raft of new models arriving in the city car segment lately, led by the all-new Mazda2.

To keep pace with the competition, Kia has recently freshened its Rio family with updated styling – both inside and out – and a revised range of models.

What do you get?

The Rio slots right into the thick of the small car action with the entry-level three-door S starting at $15,990 plus on-road costs, and tops out at the moment with the Si at $21,490 plus on-roads. Higher grade Sport and SLi versions will be added later this year

In the middle is the new S premium we're testing here, which is only available in the five-door body style and costs $17,690 (plus on-roads) with a five-speed manual. The four-speed automatic version in our test vehicle adds another $2000.

All of the updated Rio models gain a new front and rear bumper design and a fresh grille, while the cabin features an upgraded centre console and audio system with higher-quality metal-look finishes throughout.

In basic trim, the Rio comes standard with cloth interior trim, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, six airbags and a full-sized spare wheel.

For the additional $1500, the S Premium brings extra goodies such as 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, electric folding wing mirrors, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter and a six-speaker sound system. But it misses out on features such as a reverse camera, sat nav and parking sensors that are available in rival models that cost less.

None can match Kia's ownership credentials, however, with the Rio covered by a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a capped price servicing scheme over the same period with 12 month / 15,000km intervals.

What's inside?

Even though the Rio misses out on some high-tech toys, the cabin presents itself with a degree of quality that's up there with the best in the class.

While the overall design is simple, the updated cockpit looks classy with its new centre console finished in piano black and highlighted by well-finished metal surrounds. Similarly, the audio system is pretty basic but its functions are easy to use, the Bluetooth connection is quick and intuitive and the new toggle switches for the air conditioning controls add a sense of youthful flair without being over-styled.

The rest of the cabin is more geared towards function rather than form, with plenty of storage holes in the centre console, twin 12V chargers as well as AUX and USB inputs and decent-sized door bins.

The front seats are comfortable, the instruments are clear and easy to read and there's good vision all around. In the back, there's adequate space for adults to travel without too much impediment, but they do miss out on rear air vents which is par for the course in this class. And while the 288L boot isn't the biggest in the class, it can easily cope with weekly family duties.

Under the bonnet

While the S Premium's 1.4-litre four cylinder produces numbers that match its rivals – generating 79kW of power and 135Nm of torque – it isn't as spritely as the slightly-larger engines in the Mazda2 and Honda Jazz.

That's largely because it only has a four-speed automatic – rather than six ratios in the Mazda or a seamless CVT in the Jazz – which makes it feel lethargic around town and needs to be worked hard to accelerate away from the lights, where it becomes a bit raucous at high revs. It also doesn't help at highway speeds, where the gearbox constantly hunts between third and top gear on inclines.

Nor does it aid its fuel consumption. While Kia claims the Rio S Premium has an average economy rating of 5.9L/100km – which is on par with most city car rivals but well behind the Mazda2's claimed 4.9L figure – we recorded 8.6L/100km during our mix of city and freeway driving.

On the road

As it does in its overall presentation, the Rio has a driving character that is greater than the sum of its parts.

There is nothing tricky about its mechanical set-up, but Kia Australia's investment in tuning its products to suit Australian tastes and conditions has resulted in a well-sorted small car that, while not setting any particular dynamic benchmarks, has no obvious shortcomings.

The electric power steering is well-weighted and has a more natural feel than some of competitors with good on-centre feel and decent response.

The suspension, too, offers a good balance between everyday comfort and predictable front-drive handling, and it is reasonably quiet at highway speeds with good isolation from wind and road noise.


The Rio isn't the freshest, most efficient or zippiest city car in its segment, and nor is it the cheapest and best equipped, but it stacks up well with the class leaders in terms of overall refinement and driving abilities.

On the strength of its comprehensive ownership credentials, it's the pragmatic choice for small car shoppers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ride & Drive: 2015 Kia Soul EV

Kia just keeps delivering hit after hit.

The fastest growing car company in the world recently rolled out its first electric vehicle, the 2015 Kia Soul EV, and in the process, has delivered one of the best electric-only vehicles on the market.

OK, before sending an email, I agree Tesla has the best EV on the market. The base Tesla S has twice the range and more performance. The base Tesla S also has an MSRP that begins at a price point more than double that of the fully loaded Kia Soul EV, which by the way is sold and supported by Kia dealerships nationwide. (You can only purchase a Tesla from its factory in California).

That said, for EV’s priced below $40,000, the five-passenger, front-wheel drive Kia Soul EV leads the segment in range (109 miles on a full charge), Miles Per Gallon Equivalency (92 highway/120 city/105 combined), as well as interior room (18.8 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat).

Based on Kia’s popular urban crossover, the Soul EV has a top speed of 90 mph and includes two types of charging ports allowing owners multiple options for recharging.

You can plug it into a regular 110-volt outlet in the garage (like I did during my one-week evaluation) and recharge the battery overnight. It also has a fast charging port that allows for an 80 percent charge in 33 minutes.
Being based in Texas, when EVs come up in conversation, I’m frequently being asked, “Why in the world would I want an electric vehicle when you can only go so far without having to stop and plug it in?”

EVs aren’t for everyone. But for consumers who do all or most of their driving in urban centers — and rarely need to travel more than 100 miles in a day — EVs make a lot of sense.

They produce zero emissions and you don’t have to worry about fluctuating gas prices. All you have to do is plug it in at home, the office or urban recharging stations. While you are still paying for electricity, the MPGe still produces a substantial savings over what you would pay in fuel for a gasoline-powered vehicle.

The downside is you won’t be able to take it on a long road trip.

But as a commuter vehicle for daily driving, I found the 2015 Kia Soul EV not only practical, but an ideal vehicle.

With a base price starting at $33,700, the Soul EV is available in two very nicely equipped trim levels — Base and +.

Standard features include navigation with an eight-inch screen, HVAC, UVO EV-Kia’s award-winning telematics and infotainment system for in-vehicle connectivity, rear backup camera, six-speaker audio system with Sirius Satellite Radio, power windows/mirrors/door locks.

Additionally, the 109-horsepower electric motor delivers 210 lbs.-ft. of instantaneous torque, delivering excellent performance. And, the ride is extremely quiet.

While EVs aren’t for everyone, for those in the market for an electric vehicle, the Soul EV is a must for the test-drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.



2015 Kia Soul EV

5-seat electric 5-door vehicle

Front-wheel drive

Trim packages:

Base, +




AC syncronous permanent magnet electric motor (109 horsepower/210 lbs.-ft. torque). 90 kW lithium ion plymer battery.

EPA: 92 MPGe city, 120 MPGe highway

CHARGING: 120V (24 hours full charge), 240V (4-5 hours full charge), or 480V (80 percent charge in 33 minutes).

BRAKES: Regenerative brakes with kinetic energy recovery.

LENGTH: 163 inches

WHEELBASE: 102.1 inches

WIDTH: 70.9 inches

HEIGHT: 63 inches

WEIGHT: 3,289 pounds

TRACK: 62/62.4 (front/rear)

TIRES: 16-inch

CARGO: 18.8/49.5 cubic feet (behind second/first row).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2016 Kia Optima Previewed By Sportspace Concept

Kia’s current Optima was all-new for the 2011 model year so we’re about due for a replacement. That replacement will be introduced later this year as a 2016 model, but we’ll get our first look at the car at next month’s 2015 Geneva Motor Show in the form of this thinly-veiled concept version, dubbed the Sportspace.

The Sportspace concept hints at only evolutionary styling for the new Optima, which will be the nameplate’s fourth generation. The car will once again be closely linked with the Sonata from sister brand Hyundai, meaning we’re likely to see the new Optima pick up most of the upgrades offered on the latest version of the Sonata—including hybrid and new plug-in hybrid powertrains based around a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

Regular models will still be on offer and should stick with the current Optima’s naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter engine as well as its turbocharged 2.0-liter mill. A six-speed automatic transmission is expected across the range. Kia is also thought to be working on a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain for the new Optima but this is expected to be sold in Europe only.

Another option for the Optima we’re likely to miss out on here in the U.S. is a new wagon bodystyle, which the Sportspace directly previews. Kia says the concept has been created "as a spacious and versatile accessory to an active lifestyle, as a purposeful, energetic design study for the style-conscious, and as a sanctuary from the stresses of the modern world."

Inside, the Sportspace only features seating for four, with the center seat in the rear taken up by a center column that runs the length of the cabin. While this feature is unlikely to make it to production, some elements from the Sportspace that we’re likely to see on the new Optima include its touchscreen display, panoramic sunroof and leather trim.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

First Drive: Kia Sorento Delivers in Style

Kia is sometimes the forgotten Korean, the junior sibling to Hyundai. Its growth has been steady if not stellar, particularly in light of the remarkable growth of its sister brand.

Yet in many ways the Kia range offers sharper, less conservative, styling. Models such as the Optima are arguably better looking than the i40, with which they share the vast majority of parts. The same can be said of the crossover Sportage when pitted against the iX35, while Hyundai has nothing to match the funky looks and character of the Kia Soul.

Perhaps they don’t match the strength of the Hyundai range when it comes to advertising clout and therefore consumer recall, but Kia is a brand on the rise. The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office shows it was the seventh most popular brand on the Irish market, ahead of Opel, Renault and Peugeot.

The Sorento has come a long way in the last two decade or so. When it first arrived here it was the only Kia anyone really knew, a cheap workhorse SUV with rudimentary engineering. The boxy body sat upon a ladder platform that shared the same fundamental engineering as the average New York taxi from the 1980s.

This latest Sorento is a world apart and comes with a much-needed lure to family buyers: an optional seven-seat format.

The entry-price for the EX version is €38,995 and for your money you get a sturdy, modern-looking SUV with credible off-road potential thanks to all-wheel drive as standard. It’s not a rival to the Land Rover Defender but its “on demand” format means that up to 50 per cent of the power is transferred to the rear wheels when grip is compromised and there is also a lock mode.

It all adds up to a car that’s a lot more sophisticated and better dressed than past versions yet retaining some of those workhorse features that buyers actually valued.

The all-wheel drive system also pays off when you are marking your way along wet and greasy back roads, something people seem to forget when they think of four-wheel drive and associate it with muddy fields or boulder-covered mountains.

For your money you also get a good standard of equipment. The interior plastics are not exactly premium but they are on a par with most rivals, particularly the rather poor plastics Ford is now using inside.

And there are little features such as ventilation fan controls for the middle and rear-most passengers, touches you’d normally only find in the premium end of the market.

Kia reckons most of its Irish buyers will opt for the seven-seat Platinum version at €43,995, which adds leather seats (heated up front), a panoramic sunroof, electric-powered driver’s seat with six-way adjustment, rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, reversing camera and HID (high intensity headlamps).

Power comes from an improved version of the 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel that is common in the Korean range. It’s matched to a six-speed manual gearbox and while an automatic option is available, the punitive impact of its higher emissions on it motor tax is likely to limit its Irish appeal.

The 2.2-litre is a strong performer, if not quite at the sporty end of the market. The ride is also quite soft and the car tends to wallow slightly in corners if you push it too hard.

Kia has faced an uphill task in reinventing its image. Where once it was the discount workhorse, it has successfully managed to add style, fuel-efficient engines and a tempting seven-year warranty programmed to lure buyers to the brand.

It delivered on its styling through the hiring of acclaimed designer Peter Schreyer and in December it hired Albert Biermann, chief engineer for BMW’s M performance cars, to develop performance cars and improve ride and handling on both its Kia and Hyundai brands.

Don’t be surprised if its cars’ current weakness – uncommunicative handling – quickly becomes a strength for the Koreans. Admittedly, the new Sorento is slightly more expensive than its Santa Fe equivalent, and given the strength of the Santa Fe model brand in Ireland – arguably as strong as Hyundai itself – it will struggle to make an impact here. It’s also up against another newcomer that’s likely to prove a hit amongst Irish buyers – the Land Rover Discovery Sport.

However, with its smart new look, its warranty offer and a good equipment package on offer – along with all-wheel-drive as standard – the Sorento is worth a look for family buyers in that market for something a little more rugged than your typical people carrier.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: 2015 Kia Sedona SX-L

For hauling lots of people or cargo – or a road trip-ready mix of the two – no type of vehicle is as inherently well-designed as a minivan. The minivan is a packaging marvel, a function-over-form bus that leaves high-riding long-nosed SUVs and crossovers in the dust. There's abundant space in three rows of seats, and abundant space behind them.
The 2015 Kia Sedona is redesigned and transformed from a budget alternative to a luxury leader in the minivan segment.

Anyway, that's what's inherent to the minivan, what's found in each of the vans that have survived the onslaught of less versatile but more stylish, luxurious crossovers. Just Chrysler, Dodge (selling the same car as Chrysler with slightly different styling), Honda, Kia, Nissan, and Toyota are selling conventional minivans these days, along with much smaller models from Ford and Mazda.

And the segment's malaise is at least in part the fault of the current crop of vans. They remain outstanding for functionality, but failed to chase after crossovers' appeal. Nothing intrinsic to a minivan says it can't have a luxurious cabin and sophisticated driving dynamics like a growing number of similarly priced crossovers. Today's vans just weren't doing that.

Enter the redesigned 2015 Kia Sedona. Abandoning previous generations' focus on low prices, the new model successfully attacks the competition's complacent inattention to luxury while striving – with nearly as much success – to match the class leaders for traditional virtues of versatility, comfort, and value.

The new Sedona has the best front seats in its class. It has the best interior quality. It has the most advanced and best-sorted in-dash infotainment system. It feels the most solid and confident on the road. And in the eyes of many, it's the looker of its class, both inside and out. It has a number of features that various leading competitors lack. In short, from the driver's seat, the Sedona is the best minivan on the market.

Of course, minivans exist for more than the driver. Such considerations provide a few reasons that some competitors are still in the game.

First of all, the Honda Odyssey still reigns supreme for eight-passenger comfort. The Sedona offers great accommodations for four adults, adequate third-row seating for two, and two small center-rear positions. The Honda is comparatively cushy and spacious throughout. The Honda also has a little more cargo room and requires less muscle for seat adjustments, and offers a class-exclusive built-in vacuum cleaner.

The Toyota Sienna also beats out the Sedona for maximum interior volume while also keeping the ride quality a little more smooth and quiet, and while offering class-exclusive all-wheel-drive. Recent updates for 2015 cleaned up last year's curious dashboard styling and ergonomics.

And the Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country twins, the best-selling minivans on the market, excel for the flexibility of their Stow 'N Go interiors – the middle-row seats fold into the floor – and steadily increasing discounts. (Importantly, Chrysler is due to unveil a fully redesigned minivan for the 2016 model year that will likely up the luxury ante and dial back the discounts.)

All three, plus the generally uncompetitive Nissan Quest, also beat at least some Sedona versions for fuel economy. Most Sedonas are rated by the EPA for 20 miles per gallon in mixed driving, compared to 21 mpg from the Sienna and 22 mpg for the Odyssey and Quest. (The Chryslers get 20 mpg; the tested Sedona SX-L model is rated for 19 mpg.)

But compared to the Sedona and the best crossovers, the other leading vans have the feel of utilitarian buses from the front seat. Even luxury amenities don't make them feel like luxury cars. It's the Kia that pulls that off, and at prices generally below Honda's and Toyota's at that. It also matches the Odyssey as a safety leader, edging out the Sienna and crushing – literally – the Chryslers and Nissan in a demanding Insurance Institute for Highway Safety small-offset crash test.

If you loved the old Sedona for undercutting the competition by as much as five figures after rebates, the new 2015 model may not be to your tastes. Certainly not the fully-optioned $43,295 model tested for this review. But there weren't enough of you buying Sedonas even at fire-sale prices before. Accordingly, Kia can't feel too guilty about abandoning the van's budget roots.

Give this van a long look for all your passenger-hauling needs, all the way up from its $26,100 base price up to beyond $40,000. The Sedona has the goods to compete in all those price segments.

To look at

Generally, styling is not the most important factor to a minivan buyer. Then again, there are a lot fewer minivan buyers than there used to be.

The front end of the new 2015 Sedona adopts a bold stance, with a large wide vertical grille between the large headlights. Clean, straight lines lend it a handsome, aggressive look compared to more rounded competitors. Head-on, it looks like the front fascia of a midsize sedan raised up higher. This front-end styling has a shot at turning the heads of some buyers who'd otherwise not consider a minivan.

The rest of the Sedona is pretty much minivan norm, though. The exception is that the windowline abruptly jogs up at the end of the rear door. (Contrast that to the Honda Odyssey's, which actually jumps down there, giving the third-row passengers a little more window instead of less.) But at least from the outside, the Sedona otherwise has few styling flourishes visible from the rear – it doesn't call attention to itself, except by avoiding the word “overwrought” that some critics readily apply to the Odyssey.

Inside is where the Sedona makes perhaps its strongest impression. If you haven't noticed, Kia has built a lot of upscale interiors lately, and this van's follows their example. The 2015 Sedona is laid out like a modern premium sedan rather than like a van, with a fixed center console and horizontally instead of vertically oriented controls. The shifter is on the console rather than up on the instrument panel, dashboard, or steering column. Two-tone leather seats are available.

It's not just the looks that are upscale. Kia also went all-out with the materials and assembly quality, continuing the coddling ambiance. Competitors are serviceable; the Sedona breaks new ground. Of course, plenty of buyers of $40,000-plus crossovers are used to this sort of treatment, but it's new to minivan buyers.

Toyota once similarly shocked the minivan market, when it put a Lexus-grade cabin in the 2004 Sienna. The current Sienna's interior, though, did not continue to pursue the premium trends in style or materials quality – pleasant, yes, but it won't be confused for a Lexus. The Nissan Quest, meanwhile, has a fancy-looking dashboard, but other key aspects of the cabin fall short, and its five-year-old design has begun to get a little dated. The Chrysler vans have scattered upscale touches but are mostly basic and dated as well; this perhaps explains why the Town & Country's photo gallery on the Chrysler website includes a close-up of the headlight switch but no images of the dashboard. And the Odyssey, despite some welcome 2014-model updates, still has mostly basic-feeling trim and some dated displays.

The Sedona's dashboard isn't just upscale – it's user-friendly as well. The instrument panel on the Sedona SX and SX-L features Kia's excellent Uvo touchscreen infotainment system plus a well-organized set of buttons and knobs. One annoyance, though, is that there's no dedicated display for the climate information, so you can't tell at a glance what you've already set the system to do.

The Sedona L, LX, and EX models have only a small touchscreen that looks out of place in the big and luxurious instrument panel. The former two models, without automatic climate control, do avoid the aforementioned issue of needing a display screen.

To be in

As noted, the 2015 Sedona has great front seats that are well-shaped, supportive, and comfortable. Drivers of the tested SX-L model (also called, in various places, the SXL, Limited, or SX Limited) benefit further from rich Nappa leather trim, heated and cooled front seating, and a heated steering wheel.

Other vans have more basic seating, with seats that you sit on while you drive your van-bus but that don't really strive to coddle. The Odyssey's are the best of the rest – big and cushy – but they don't hold the driver in place like a good car seat, and even $45,000 doesn't buy very plush-feeling leather.

The second row is a mixed bag in the Sedona. The SX-L has “first-class lounge seats” with a pop-up footrest, but it's not the easiest to make use of them. The middle row seats must be slid closer together and far back, two processes requiring an unexpected amount of force. The footrests are also reluctant to go back down, and the feature removes other Sedona's far handier seat-folding system for cargo space and third-row access.

In its normal position, the Sedona's second row has a comfortable cushion but merely adequate legroom. Sliding the fore-aft adjustable seat back very far makes it collide unceremoniously with trim behind the door. You can also slide the seats a little closer together, which gives access to the full fore-aft range.

The EX and SX models offer eight-passenger seating (unlike the Chryslers or Nissan), and although this reviewer hasn't sampled the seat, it appears more full-sized than in the Sienna (though less so than in the Odyssey).

The third row is adequately spacious unless the middle seats are very far back, but the cushion is lower and less cushy than the Odyssey's. The low seat and high window threaten kids' enjoyment of the third row. Both the second and third rows do benefit from retractable window shades. There's also an available second-row sunroof, and second-row passengers get their own USB port and even three-prong power outlet in some high-end models.

In most Sedonas, a simple handle lets the middle-row seat collapse itself forward against the front seatbacks for improved cargo space and third-row access. This feature – along with heated rear seats – was apparently incompatible with the lounge seating, however, which is a good reason to pass on the SX-L despite its other nice features. Hopefully Kia chooses to make the seat an option rather than standard on any version of the van; it's a neat trick but forces too many important compromises to necessarily count as an upgrade.

As in most recent vans, the Sedona's third row seat flips backward to disappear into a deep cargo well behind it. The Kia's operation isn't as smooth as the brilliantly executed Odyssey's – the Sedona seat does fold in a single motion, but it requires two hands to push it down. Once down, it's not quite level with the cargo floor, and exposed hooks also could make it harder to slide heavy items along the van's floor. The middle-row seats, on models where they do spring forward, operate very nicely and does leave a flat cargo floor. They can't be removed to eke out a few remaining cubic feet, though.

The Sedona's cargo volume trails the Odyssey's and Sienna's by up to 10 percent, but that's still tons of space and far more than a crossover or SUV. A Chevrolet Suburban, fully two feet longer than this Kia, still has just 121 cubic feet of total cargo space compared to the Sedona's 142, thanks to its high cargo floor (which also makes it more of a pain to load in that cargo).

To drive

The driving dynamics of the Sedona aren't quite as outstanding as its interior luxury. The Sedona's ride quality could stand to be a little less bumpy at times, the Sienna is quicker and quieter, and the Odyssey and the Chryslers are a little more agile.

That said, the whole is quite a bit greater than the sum of its parts. The Sedona stands out for a smooth, solid-feeling overall operation, a level of confident poise that furthers its premium ambiance. It feels very natural to drive the Sedona, easy and comfortable. It never feels ponderous or clumsy, and even if it doesn't lead for cabin isolation, it's still a thoroughly pleasant family car.

One exception is the tuning of the accelerator. You have to dig deep to get normal acceleration, an overcorrection from the touchy throttle on the previous Sedona. This combines with a smooth but loud roar from the engine that makes you feel like an irresponsible hooligan even when you're barely keeping up with traffic. The outstanding Hyundai Santa Fe crossover, using the same engine, does a much better job at responding smoothly to a normal amount of throttle pressure.

The Sedona's 3.3-liter V6 is one of the performance leaders on paper, with 276 horsepower. The tested SX-L in particular is rather heavy, though, which mutes acceleration somewhat. As noted earlier, this also takes its toll on fuel efficiency. The SX-L is rated for 17 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway, for a total of 19 mpg in mixed driving – the worst in the class.

However, other Sedona models do better. Base models – the L, LX, and EX – are less weighed down with heavy goodies – which gives them a 20-mpg average. And the SX weighs less than the SX-L but has a more fuel-efficient electric steering rack, giving it a competitive 21-mpg EPA rating.

The tested Sedona SX-L slightly beat its EPA rating during a weeklong test, achieving 20.2 mpg in mixed driving. A pair of tested Odysseys (a 2011 and a 2014) also slightly beat out their 22-mpg EPA ratings.

To buy

The Sedona is a competitive value at any feature grade. The base L, $26,100, will be off most buyers' shopping lists for lacking power sliding doors, and it's also missing a useful rearview camera and it seats only seven. Standard features do include 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, rear air conditioning, and 12 cup holders.

The next level up, the LX, starts at $28,300, adds a power driver's seat, the backup camera, automatic headlights, and power-folding outside mirrors. Those features alone hardly justify the $2,000 price increase, so if you don't need them, stick to the L. However, if you want power sliding doors, you need to upgrade your LX further with the $1,800 convenience package. That cost also adds heated front seats, an eighth seat (located at the center of the middle row), a cooled glovebox, and window shades for the second and third rows.

This van, at $30,995 including the destination charge, could turn out to be the line's best seller. It's roughly comparable to a $33,155 Odyssey EX, $32,215 Sienna LE, and a $28,390 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT.

The $32,300 EX model adds leather seats, a power liftgate, a proximity key, automatic climate control, 18-inch wheels, fog lights, and various minor features. It also includes the features from the LX convenience package except for the heated seats. The $1,750 premium plus package on the EX has heated seats for the first and second rows of seats, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, a power passenger seat, and a fancier instrument cluster display, coming to $34,945.

The SX model, starting at $36,300 ($37,195 with destination), adds the features from the EX premium package plus a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen, an Infinity sound system, the 110-volt three-prong power outlet, ventilated front seats, and a memory function for the power driver's seat. Given those extras, it's overall a better deal than the EX if you already want heated leather seats, especially given that gas mileage also improves on the SX.

Roughly comparable models would be a $38,655 Odyssey EX-L, a $37,450 Town & Country Touring L, and a $37,155 Sienna XLE. estimates that you can haggle about $2,300 off the sticker price of the Sedona SX compared to $3,500 off a comparably equipped Odyssey, and $4,500 off a Sienna or Town & Country. That will likely equalize as the Kia's newness wears off. (Expect the amount of the discount to depend on the total sticker price of the car, with cheaper models staying closer to MSRP and dealers being more flexible with pricier trims.)

The tested SX-L has a number of exclusive features that could win some families to load their van to the gills if price isn't a top consideration. It's the only Sedona with a sunroof (though it does include two), front parking assist sensors, the lounge-style second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel. It also adds 19-inch wheels, upgraded Nappa leather seat trim, and some upgraded cabin trim.

The tested car also includes the $2,700 technology package: xenon headlights, a lane-departure warning system, radar-based cruise control, a forward-collision alert, and a “surround view” camera system that renders the van from the air in relation to surrounding obstacles. That brought the total price to $43,295.

Note that even if you want some of these SX-L features, you're still stuck with the less convenient lounge seats whether you want them or not – a pity.


Kia may no longer have the title of best-value minivan in terms of simple pricing, but that may not be the best way to judge the new 2015 Sedona. Rather, it's a van that delivers a luxury experience without demanding a price premium for it. If that's at all a priority to you, be sure to shop the Sedona.

And even if it's not, with so few minivans on the market, you'd do well to add the Sedona to your shopping list. It's a safe, roomy, comfortable vehicle that deserves the same top-tier consideration as the established competition.