Kia has built a great looking minivan in the ★★ 2015 Kia Sedona SX Limited, but when it comes minivans, beauty is more than skin deep. Performance counts, not looks.
That's right: Minivans are performance vehicles. "Car guys" may obsess over 0-60 mph times and torque curves, but you haven't seen a painstaking product evaluation until you've seen a mother dissect a new minivan's features and operation.
No vehicle owner has higher performance expectations than a minivan mom.
Automakers underestimate that at their peril.
A pretty design is nice, but seats that slide, flip and fold to accommodate kids and gear are the key to a happily-ever-after-ending for minivan and mom.
The new 2015 Sedona adopts Kia's dashing design theme and signature "tiger nose" grille for a very handsome exterior. Prices start at $26,100 for a base model. All Sedonas come with front-wheel drive, a 276-hp 3.3L V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. There's a ladder of models priced all the way up to the SX Limited, which loads on features and starts at $39,700.
I tested a Sedona SX Limited with adaptive cruise control; Infinity audio; two big power sunroofs; leather upholstery; blind spot, cross traffic, front collision and lane departure alerts; front and rear parking assist and more. It stickered at $42,400.
Shockingly for such a costly minivan, my Sedona did not have a rear-seat entertainment system for videos and computer games. Such a system is only available as a dealer-installed option. That suggests its sophistication and performance and won't equal other minivans' factory-installed video, DVD and game-playing systems.
Sedona prices are comparable to top models of the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna, but some of the Kia's features suggest nobody in Kia product development really understands how American families use minivans.
In addition to the lack of rear-seat entertainment, the seats are extremely difficult to adjust and reconfigure. Many parents, and nearly all small children will be unable to fold the third-row seats into the floor for extra storage. Moving the second row seats fore and aft is also hard. That's in part because the seats' poorly fitted footrests scrape the floor when you try to adjust the seats.
Bottom line, common tasks that should be easy to accomplish one-handed, carrying an infant or shopping bag in the other are much harder to do in the Sedona than in any other minivan.
The fit and finish of the second row seats' arm rests were poor. One felt like it might fall off at any minute, and none were level when extended.
The Sedona SX Limited offers some features not common on minivans. Its radar-based adaptive cruise control is smooth and seamless, as good as any I've tested. The front collision and lane departure alerts are effective and unobtrusive.
The Sedona SX Limited also has two big power sunroofs, both of which can be opened to let sunlight and fresh air pour in. They're very appealing, but I suspect most parents would trade them for a video player of Xbox 50 miles into a trip with a vanload of tweens.
The Sedona SX Limited has so many features, in fact, that its fuel economy is worse than the rest of the Sedona family, and worse than all the minivans it competes with.
The EPA rated the SX Limited at 17 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway and 19 combined.
Kia would be well advised to form a focus group of minivan driving mothers and listen to them before it tries to build its next minivan.
Behind the Wheel
Kia Sedona SX Limited
Front-wheel-drive seven-passenger minivan
Price as tested: $44,400 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: ★★ (Out of four stars)
Reasons to buy: Looks, interior room, features
Shortcomings: Fuel economy; difficult to move and fold seats; no factory installed video player
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