THE PROS & CONS
- WHAT’S HOT: 5-year/100,000 km warranty on almost everything
- WHAT’S NOT: No DVD system is available
I have confessions to make. I’m not a parent, and I seldom ferry anyone other than my Designated Passenger. If I have a lot of stuff to haul, I usually throw it into my pickup truck. But at the same time, I still know that if you have to move a lot of people and their cargo, nothing is better for the job than a minivan.
I take a driving trip each year where I break character by driving two passengers, luggage, and several boxes of car parts for 10 hours each way, and over the years, I’ve taken all sorts of vehicles. Even crossovers and SUVs can’t beat a minivan for ease of getting everyone in and out, and packing all the goods inside.
My ride this time was Kia’s Sedona, which went through a complete redesign for 2015 with a new chassis, engine and styling, and which is unchanged for 2016. The makeover replaced the Sedona’s previous 3.5L with a new 3.3L that, while smaller, is more powerful.
It’s tough to comparison shop minivans because many of them are advertised with hefty rebates or incentives, such as Dodge’s $21,000-ish Grand Caravan. When you compare the MSRPs, however, Kia’s starting price of $27,695 is the lowest of all, coming in $300 under the Dodge’s factory price.
RELATED: 2015 Toyota Sienna Review
It’s a good-looking van, inside and out, especially with my tester’s top-level, seven-passenger, SXL-Plus trim line, which includes leather upholstery, dual sunroof panels, and second-row captain’s chairs with swing-out leg rests that turn them into loungers. The dash and front-centre console look more like that of a crossover than a minivan, but much depends on your personal preference. A full-length front console like this gives you more room to stash small items within immediate reach, but the shorter consoles on Toyota’s Sienna or Honda’s Odyssey give you space on the floor in front to drop your purse or pack so it’s close at hand.
The Sedona’s third-row seats can be dropped down to make a flat cargo floor behind the second row. The captain’s chairs slide forward and fold in half, while the second-row seats in an eight-passenger vehicle can be tumbled forward to provide more cargo room, and the small centre seat in that configuration can be taken out entirely. Only Dodge’s Grand Caravan and Chrysler’s Town & Country have second-row seats that fold completely into the floor.
The Sedona comes with a lot of features for the price, even in its base L trim level. Although its MSRP is less than that of the Grand Caravan, it has several standard items the Dodge doesn’t, including power second-row windows, privacy glass, satellite radio, illuminated visor mirrors, rear-seat climate controls and driver’s auto-up window.
At the other end of the scale, my top line $46,195 tester included automatic high-beam headlights, cooled front seats, navigation, heated steering wheel, 360-degree parking camera, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, front-collision warning, and adaptive cruise control that keeps a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front, although many other automakers have overcome the jerky operation that this one exhibits.
The Sedona’s engine works effortlessly at hauling a full house, and it had no trouble tackling very steep hills, even with three adult passengers and least 150 kilograms of cargo (old car parts are heavy!). Its published fuel economy is among the highest in the segment, although I thought my combined driving score of 10.4 L/100 km when the van was heavily loaded was very good. And while its ride is soft and very comfortable, the suspension feels a bit flabby and has some body roll when going around corners. Its competitors feel far more composed, especially those from Toyota and Honda, which have much quicker and more precise steering response.
Even so, with matching test scores, the Sedona and the Honda Odyssey are the highest-rated minivans in crash tests conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Over at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Sedona and Odyssey’s identical scores earned them “Top Safety Pick” awards for 2016 (Toyota’s Sienna got it for 2015 but with a slightly lower score and, as of press time, hadn’t been rated for 2016).
Of all the vehicle segments, minivans are probably the most likely to be shopped for on price and practicality above all else. The Sedona could benefit from a little more steering sophistication, but considering what you get for what you pay, it definitely needs to be test-driven when you’re looking at these unsexy but ultimately very sensible alternatives to SUVs and crossovers.
TABLET FACT BOX:
BASE PRICE/TESTED: $27,695/$46,195
ENGINE: 3.3-L V6
FUEL CONSUMPTION: City 14.2 L/100 km, hwy. 10.5 L/100 km, as-tested 10.4 L/100 km (Tested SXL trim)
Dodge Grand Caravan — Base price $27,995 — Factory rebates bring this van’s base price even lower
Toyota Sienna — Base price $31,040 — The only minivan available with all-wheel drive