2015 Kia Sedona SXL Limited Review
by Randy Stern
I know what you’re thinking. Why? Why do they exist? When families were told about how awesome SUVs were, they abandoned those soccer mom specials for something both mom and dad would drive.
Little did they know they would also be derided for driving SUVs and their car-based crossovers, too!
Lest we forget about the minivan, dear families! There are six models left on sale in the USA. Some may try to include other such products, like the Ford Transit Connect Wagon, the Mazda5 and the Fiat 500L. Well…not exactly. A real minivan has three rows of seats for 7-8 occupants, well over 150 cubic feet of interior volume, tricks for hiding and sliding the rear two rows of seats, capable V6 engines and a whole host of features designed to entertain anyone aside from the driver.
For 31 years, the minivan roamed school parking lots, playgrounds, picnic areas, National Forests and hockey arenas with some evolution of the breed. That is, until this one showed up on my doorstep – the 2015 Kia Sedona.
Its debut at last year’s New York International Auto Show stunned practically everyone. Just when I thought that minivan design could not go any further, the team at Kia came up with a shape that grafted a crossover-like front end to a modern van body. This is not a new concept, as it worked back in 1975 for Ford, when the Econoline received an extended, boxy nose for its full-sized van. This changed the van business in North America forever.
The advantage of the extended nose on the Sedona will benefit mechanics. Open up the hood and there is full access to the engine – including the rear set of cylinders and spark plugs. You do not see that in any other minivan – do you?
This is a major evolution of the minivan. After two generations of making “me, too” minivans, Kia may have set a new benchmark for the breed.
The Tiger grille gets a bronzed look for the Limited model to go along with its brown paint. Chrome accents and alloy wheels bring out the sparkle to this top of the line Sedona. There is a lot of glass area in this minivan, also a huge benefit to eliminate blind spots, though there are enough active safety features monitoring those areas, along with a 360-degree camera. In all, this is currently the best looking minivan in the market – sporting the best field of vision around!
Where the Sedona distinguishes itself from all other minivans is right inside the front doors. For years, minivans always had a van layout – gear selector on the dashboard, controls high up and a very upright feeling not unlike a larger cargo van. Kia decided to envelop the driver with a familiar and true car-like cockpit, replete with center console and the gear level located right on it closer to the driver. The dashboard has a mix of the Optima and the Cadenza from its straight-forward instrument binnacle to its center tack-mounted large touch screen. Switches and controls have been upgraded to at least the Optima and a very familiar to Kia owners. In all, this is one upgraded that was needed to keep families interested in the minivan.
On the Limited model, there is another key upgrade that would elevate the breed. All one needs to do is to stow the third row into its large compartment at the tailgate, push each second row captain’s chair back, recline and pop out the foot rests. What you did was turn a seven-seat minivan into a four-seat luxury conveyance that feels like a private jet. It is the ultimate Uber/Lyft machine! What is missing is a little console with a cooler, a bottle of Moet and two champagne flutes – neither are available from Kia, mind you.
If you choose to transport seven people in total, the Sedona is a rather comfortable place for them. The second row does adjust back and forth, along with the distance between the two. Rear seat passengers would have to tumble either second row seat for access to the third. Even adults would enjoy a comfortable existence inside the Sedona SX Limited. Lower models get the innovative Slide-N-Stow second row seats, which would fold up the second row against the first row for better third row access or to allow for larger cargo to load, especially when the third row is completely stowed.
Infinity supplies the sound for the UVO-driven surround sound infotainment system. Though there are six speakers, including subwoofer, to emit great sound throughout this cabin, it certainly fills it well. Add UVO eServices, quick Bluetooth connectivity and plenty of audio options, and everyone will be thoroughly entertained.
Under the hood is the 3.3liter V6 with 276 horsepower on tap. A six-speed automatic sends that power down to the front wheels. This combination is not bad, though there was some hesitation when having to do some quick acceleration on highway ramps and passing maneuvers. Otherwise, it offers smooth power at speed and smoother shifts form the transmission. Consider that this driveline needs to pull 4,720 pounds of minivan around – that is a lot of weight to tax!
Minivans are expected to have smooth rides that would not offend anyone in the back. The Sedona has perhaps one of the best suspension setups in the business, resulting in an absorbent ride that keeps things from dipping, dropping and going wayward. It is extremely smooth on every surface. Cornering showed a bit of roll and lean, though under control. Still, there is a lot of stability in play in the Sedona to keep everyone happy on board.
Though the steering wheel is big, the reaction from that wheel is very good. The electric system tracks very well and can do pretty tight maneuvers, despite its size. Brakes are also very good with nice modulation. Expect good stops in normal and panic situations.
Minivan owners would be grateful for good fuel economy from their vehicles. The Sedona captured an average of 20.2MPG. According to the sticker – this is above the expected average fuel economy for the Sedona.
The Sedona lineup starts from $26,100 for a family-budget friendly L model. This tester is the top of the SX Limited model with a sticker price that fits the high content on board. How much? How about $43,295? It is on the high side, but look what you get in the Limited compared to its top end rivals?
Why This Ride?
– The 2015 Kia Sedona SXL Limited is the best minivan out right now. The crossover-like front end and driver’s cockpit are advances that will re-engage families back to the minivan. In the Limited, perhaps the second row lounge seats will entice livery, Uber and Lyft drivers to use this van for its customers.
– So what if it does not have all seats fold into the floor or have an option for an on-board vacuum? The Sedona has a lot more going for it than that. It is highly practical in its own right, drives extremely well from any seat in the house and offers plenty of power up front to get around town and beyond. What more could you ask from a minivan?
– More importantly, this is the first advance in minivans in quite some time. Kia is making a statement with the Sedona that the minivan is not a dinosaur…or a fossil. It is still a great conveyance for growing families and their lives. And, to reiterate the point, Kia has the best one in the market right now.