Buying Used: 2015-2020 Kia Sedona
Typical Used Prices: 2015 - $15,500; 2019 - $25,000
The running joke in our house is that until cryogenic freezing is available over the counter, a minivan is the best way to take the kids on long road trips.
That front-drive minivans are more spacious and practical than SUVs is beyond debate. Devoid of all-wheel-drive hardware, minivans use trick platforms that swallow seats into deep wells, leaving a huge cabin that rivals some downtown condo units. Minivans work because the farther apart you can seat the kids in three rows, the quieter the trek will be (sans medication).
Canadians still have a soft spot for minivans. We’ve been assembling the segment-defining Chrysler minivans in Ontario since their inception in 1983. Sadly, production of the blocky Dodge Grand Caravan will conclude this month, but the newer Pacifica will carry on.
Minivans made up just 3.2 per cent of Canadian vehicle sales in 2019. Ford and General Motors retired their minivans years ago, as did Nissan with its oddball Quest. The Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey continue to evolve and find buyers.
After years of watching the others eat its lunch in the segment, Kia reconstituted its Sedona minivan for 2015. It returned sleeker, shinier and way cooler than its predecessor, so much so that it might be the best-looking family hauler with sliding doors.
Engineered to impress, the Sedona no longer has to rely on low, low monthly payments. Kia specified lots of high-strength steel for its all-new platform, which, along with structural adhesives and large-diameter welds, boosted torsional stiffness 36 per cent higher than any competing van. Those changes, along with plenty of sound-deadening material, makes the Sedona one of the quietest vans around.
The new Sedona was cast a couple of centimetres shorter overall, riding on a wheelbase stretched by almost 4 cm. The rigid platform combined with the multi-link rear suspension yields better ride and handling characteristics. Surprisingly, engineers retained a hydraulic power-steering system rather than adopt more efficient electric steering assist.
More space between the axles ought to provide more passenger space, and there is more legroom for middle-row occupants, but the third row and cargo area appear a little pinched. The split-folding third-row bench and the well it collapses into are smaller than those of the Odyssey and Sienna. Most models provide a three-place middle row of seats, although SX models offer a pair of reclining captain’s chairs with extendable leg rests.
The instrument panel is crisply done, but Kia likes positioning buttons in uniform rows, which doesn’t always seem intuitive. The climate controls can baffle, at least initially. Serial van buyers might be surprised by the fixed console between the front seats. Traditionally that space was left unobstructed in minivans, giving moms easy passage to the rear seats to mete out justice with severe prejudice. Newer vans offer flexible consoles and trays that could be removed as needed. At least the Sedona’s unit can cool drinks.
Powertrain and updates
The lone powertrain is an all-aluminum 3.3-L direct-injected V6, good for 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, working through a conventional six-speed automatic transmission – the same combo shared with Kia’s Sorento sport-ute.
In U.S. government crash testing the Sedona earned the top five-star rating for its overall crash protection, with five stars for total front-impact safety and five stars for side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Sedona its highest rating of “Good” in its collision testing.
While the Sedona largely looked unchanged throughout its third-generation production run, it benefited from a number of minor equipment upgrades to keep it competitive. The 2016 models got a rearview camera standard, while 2017 introduced Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with more standard features trickling down to less expensive trims.
A mid-cycle refresh for 2019 included updated front and rear styling that barely registered with passersby. Notably, the minivan swapped out its aging six-speed automatic for an eight-speed unit. New options included a wireless smartphone charging pad, Harman/Kardon audio, rear-seat entertainment system, electronic parking brake and a driver-attention monitor.
Driving the Sedona
Kia’s minivan performs well in traffic and on the open road, the smallish V6 pulling strongly in most situations, though passing on a two-lane highway may get a little hairy if the van is fully loaded. Zero to 97 km/h comes up in 7.4 seconds, which about par for the course in terms of the segment leaders.
Thanks to its rigid platform the Sedona drives confidently, the suspension benefitting from the granite-like foundation. There’s no denying the van feels big and weighty, evidenced by the distant thrum of the 19-inch tires pounding down the expansion joints of a bridge span. The four-wheel disc brakes scrub off excess speed effortlessly and better than most vans.
Where the Sedona disappoints most, according to owners, is its fondness of fuel. Drivers typically report around 14.5 L/100 km (20 mpg) in the city and 11 L/100 km (26 mpg) on the highway. In our own extended road test, which took us to Florida a few years ago, we averaged 10.2 L/100 km (28 mpg) at supra-legal speeds. The 2019 and newer Sedona should be slightly more frugal thanks to the eight-speed autobox.
Owners talk reliability
No question SUVs dominate the sales charts these days, making the venerable breadbox-with-sliding-doors an anachronistic choice for families who want oodles of passenger and cargo space. Yet there’s nothing to apologize for. Sedona buyers get a refined V6 engine and a nicely appointed cabin that cossets seven or eight passengers travelling over long distances.
You’d expect a vehicle with a five-year factory warranty to be reliable, and Kia largely delivers. There’s no devastating problem that has marred Sedona ownership for buyers, although there’s been a spate of minor electrical issues worth noting.
Most common are reported glitches with the lighting system, which can intermittently shut off when using the turn signals. The fault sometimes appears when the headlights are set to Auto mode. Others blame a sensitive alternator or poor battery that requires early replacement.
Similarly, the power-assisted sliding doors can sometimes fail to latch securely, allowing the doors to reportedly roll open while underway. The doors will latch when operated manually. A few owners have had to replace the motors powering the doors – a big expense post-warranty.
Because the 3.3-L V6 employs direct injection, Kia specifies frequent intake manifold cleaning to keep the engine performing its best. One owner forewarns buyers that if they skip regular cleaning, the engine’s heads may require an expensive repair. Others note that the heavyweight minivan grinds down its standard Hankook tires rapidly.
All in all, the Sedona is an attractive, value-laden and worthy competitor in the shrinking, but still relevant, minivan market. While less than thrifty, its smooth V6 engine and transmission are durable companions over the long haul, and its robust construction and good safety ratings inspire confidence. Respect the van, man.
2015-2020 Kia Sedona
BODY STYLE: Seven- or eight-passenger minivan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, six or eight-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 3.3-litre V6 (276 hp, 248 lb-ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 12.7/9.9/11.3L/100 km city/highway/combined
CARGO VOLUME: 960 litres (33.9 cu ft) behind third row
TOW RATING: 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg)
PRICE: $15,500 (2015); $25,000 (2019)