Sunday, April 12, 2015

Yes, The Kia Sedona Is a Van, But That’s a Good Thing

Automotive writers are often asked what vehicle to buy. Considering the bounty of choices versus needs, wants, budgets and brand loyalties, it’s akin to querying your barista on whom to marry.

That understood, here’s counsel from a reviewer who has driven more than 500 cars over the last 10 years: No vehicle makes life easier for families than a minivan. While Americans have abandoned them for crossovers, my advice is sincere. Minivans are nimbler than large sport utility vehicles, low floors make for easy loading, and children can’t ding other cars with sliding doors.

Kia labels the new Sedona a multipurpose vehicle. Let’s be clear, though: It’s a van, and let’s drop “mini” since the Sedona and its competitors, the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Town & Country, are big rigs. Children are unaware that their future college dorm rooms may be smaller than the vehicles in which they ride to soccer practice.

Kia’s design team has created a deceptively elegant people hauler. It’s as fashion-forward as it gets in this segment. An upward kink in the lower glass beltline is in chic contrast to the Odyssey’s jolt of a lightning bolt. The Sedona’s cabin quality has gone from worst to first. Plastic lumber trim looks real, leather on the SX Limited is as smooth as the baby bottoms it will haul. It’s fancy enough that parents might designate Sedona a child-free zone.

The Sedona carries up to eight; the top-shelf SX Limited hauls seven with reclining midrow thrones inspired by first-class airline seats. They should be for weary parents. Two caveats: The seats aren’t heated and don’t fold flat against the front seats to create a large cargo space, features that lower-trim models provide. Seats are not removable in the Sedona, nor is the large center console. It’s easy to climb into the third row, but the stylish, tapered roofline means those over 5 feet 9 inches may find their hair restyled against their will.

The Sedona’s 3.3-liter V6 engine delivers 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The gearbox is a six-speed, and the Sedona is pulled by the front tires. Drag-racing the soccer coach sets a bad example; know that 0-60 happens in about 7.5 seconds.

Don’t believe for a second that any van is remotely sporty, but driving dynamics do not get much better in this segment than in the Sedona. Kia keeps improving steering feel, though a little more communication would be nice. It’s comfortable and quiet, no shouting to get a child’s attention.

The SX Limited’s fuel economy is E.P.A. rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway; I saw 18. Lower-trim models improve on that by a few m.p.g.s. Sedona is an I.I.H.S. top safety pick. Fully loaded at $43,295, the SX Limited offers warnings for forward collision, rear cross-path and lane departure, along with radar-assisted cruise control. The “bird’s-eye” camera system that displays the entire perimeter is a welcome feature in a large vehicle.

A last bit of advice? At $26,995, the base Sedona has the same powertrain, room and design as the Limited. Crossovers may be the fashion statement families prefer these days, but arriving relaxed and happy never goes out of style.

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