- What’s Good: If you’re avoiding minivans because you think they can’t be stylish, this one might change your mind.
- What’s Bad: Beloved minivan extras like easy-fold second-row seats and an on-board vacuum are unavailable.
I’ve written several times now that my best friend’s partner is a gem of a human being. Here’s the story that will end any further debate on the issue.
A June getaway weekend at a cottage on Lake Huron has become an annual tradition for our families. This year, since one of the kids couldn’t make it, driving up in single vehicle became a viable option for the first time. ‘What a great excuse to test a large vehicle,’ I thought to myself, and I promptly secured a Kia Sedona minivan to put through its paces.
Bestie finds out, and she ends up being not at all pleased. I can feel her anxiety seeping through her messages. It might not be what I have in mind, she says. Her partner is six-foot-four and will probably have to sit shotgun, so she’ll end up in the back. There will be none of the sing-alongs and merriment that we typically enjoy. It will be a bust of a road trip.
Well, hail the conquering hero: partner walks out the door on the morning we’re setting out to help load up the luggage, takes one look at the Sedona’s interior, and declares that he’ll be quite happy to sit in the third row, thank you very much.
We express concern. He balks. There’s a USB charging port and a cup holder, and if the kids move their second-row seats up a little bit then he’ll have more leg room than he gets when he flies coach. He’s got everything he needs.
Is the hero here the partner or the Sedona? I’m not entirely sure. But three hours go by with nary a complaint, and much gabbing and loud singing ensue at the front of the cabin. A good time is had by all.
Offering plenty of space and looking good while doing it – all while doing so at a much more reasonable price than similarly equipped SUVs – is the Sedona’s strong suit. Although it does require compromise on some highly desirable features relative to other minivans, its value proposition remains a strong one.
Less Power, Good Driveability
Regardless of the trim level, the Kia Sedona has a single powertrain available, a 3.3-litre naturally aspirated V6 that makes 276 hp at 6,000 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. A look at the top trims of competitive minivans shows these numbers to be on the lower end of average: the Toyota Sienna’s 3.6-litre V6 makes 296 hp and 263 lb-ft (and the Sienna is the only minivan in Canada that offers all-wheel drive; the Sedona is front-wheel drive only); the Chrysler Pacifica’s 3.6-litre V6 produces 287 hp and 262 lb-ft, and a plug-in hybrid version is offered as well; and the Honda Odyssey 3.5-litre V6 is good for 280 hp and 262 lb-ft.
That said, I wouldn’t say this difference comes across as a massive disadvantage out on the road. The Sedona does feel like it takes a bit of work to get going from a stop, but once it’s humming along and sitting closer to its ideal rev range, it feels up to most tasks, a situation helped by the well-suited eight-speed automatic transmission.
NRCan’s fuel economy ratings for the Sedona are slightly higher than the segment average as well, coming in at 12.7 L/100 km in the city, 9.9 on the highway, and 11.5 combined. My week with it, in which I drove roughly 75 percent highway to 25 percent city roads – including that haul to Lake Huron during which it was pretty solidly packed – wrapped up with an average of 10.5 L/100 km.
Whether fully loaded or running empty, the Sedona’s handling is nicely flat and predictable, just as a minivan ought to be. One niggling criticism is that it does tend to move vertically along with the bumps in the road, but once it comes back down it settles nicely. Within the bounds of reasonability for this body style, the Sedona performs well.
Hey Good Lookin’
Minivans are out of fashion, right? That’s why people often either shun them or begrudgingly buy them once they’ve come to terms with the fact that they’re just too practical to pass up. But if you’re going to choose a minivan, the Sedona’s clean lines and powerful grille make it one of the more attractive and palatable options. And that aesthetic continues into the interior as well, employing layered upholstery and stitching that comes across as a quality product.
As far as spaciousness goes, on the plus side, there’s plenty of leg room to go around, along with cup holders and charging ports, which makes the lack of a rear-seat entertainment system a non-issue. The seats move around easily, including to collapse the third row for extra space and to move the second-row seats forward for third-row access, the latter taking only the push of a button. The only catch is that, unlike Dodge and Chrysler minivans, accessing the entire 4,022 litres of space behind the front row requires unloading and storing the second-row seats. On the other hand, the standard eight-seat configuration has a nice feature: when not occupied, the middle seat in the second row drops down to create an armrest with cup holders for the two outside seats. In a way, this is a more accessible set up than captain’s chairs, which often leave little passengers making long reaches to the floor for supplies.
Short on Features
Often, Kia tends to be ahead of the game at packing a ridiculous number of features into a very well-priced product. Unfortunately, that’s not currently the case with the Sedona.
Yes, this SX Tech model comes with a 7-inch infotainment screen, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard from the base model, which is a big plus. I don’t especially like the screen’s button layout, which puts the controls on the right side of the screen out of reach for my short arms, but Android Auto solves a lot of those issues.
Heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless entry, and a cooling glove box are all standard. There’s also a wireless phone charger that’s standard from the LX trim, which is interesting since a phone needs to be plugged in to run one of these apps and would therefore charge anyway. The standard 17-inch wheels grow to 18-inches at the SX trim level.
The most desirable safety features come at a higher price. At the SX trim, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert become equipped, and at the SX Tech level you also receive lane departure warning, driver attention warning, automatic high beams, forward collision avoidance, and active cruise control with stop and go. SX Tech is also the point at which leather upholstery and dynamic low-beam headlights are added.
So, what’s missing? On top of the aforementioned all-wheel drive, dropping second-row seats, and rear-seat entertainment system, there’s also no available on-board vacuum, ventilated seats, or heated outboard seats on the second row. Many of these features are easier to find on large SUVs than on minivans, which may push people who enjoy these creature comforts in that direction.
SUVs may be in fashion, but there are precious few of them that let you get eight people around comfortably for less than the Kia Sedona’s top-out price. The draw of certain key features that competitors offer may make the Sedona a van that’s less quick to come to mind, but it offers great value to those who need to move a crowd around in a nice-looking vehicle that can be bought within a budget.
2020 Kia Sedona SX Tech
BODY STYLE: Minivan
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
ENGINE: 3.3-litre V6; 276 hp at 6,000 rpm, 248 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY (L/100km): 12.7 city/9.9 hwy/11.5 combined
PRICE: $43,590 as tested, including freight and PDI