Kia prefers you not call the 2015 Sedona a minivan. But as the saying goes, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . .
Note to Kia: the term minivan is not a dirty word, but relates to a specific conveyance that maximizes interior volume, yet does so in a reasonably efficient manner. However, the Korea-based automaker insists that the Sedona is a "multi-purpose vehicle" that possesses "CUV-like styling" (CUV stands for Crossover Utility Vehicle, which is one using a passenger-car platform).
Really, Kia? Most folks prefer plain speaking to obfuscation any day and the minivan handle will ultimately prevail. There's absolutely no shame in that.
There's also no shame in Kia's mission to become more competitive in a segment that encompasses the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest and Chrysler's Town & County and Dodge Grand Caravan. The most recent Sedona was also part of the pack, but hasn't been considered a major player.
That should change fairly quickly once the new Sedona arrives this fall. The style and proportions are right on the money, starting with the familial Kia grille that dominates the nose, and ends with an attractive liftgate with integrated spoiler. The overall straightforward design is devoid of superfluous curves and angles and instead manages to make boxiness look good. Comparing the Sedona's key measurements to those of its competitors confirms that there's really little variance within the group.
The interior is as clean and uncluttered as the exterior and abounds in handy touches. For example, the floor console is carry-on luggage-sized and there are two decent-sized glove boxes, including a cooled lower compartment for keeping your beverages chilled.
For passengers, there's room for up to eight with the standard second-row bench, or seven with the optional lounge chairs (with retractable leg rests) that can be positioned facing the front or the rear. Either mid-row arrangement slides fore and aft over a wide range and both the 60:40 split bench or chairs stow against the front seats to maximize cargo space. Additionally, either or both sides of the 50:50 split third-row can be folded flat into the floor.
Propelling the Sedona's all-new and stiffer platform is a 3.3-liter V6 that produces 276 peak horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. That compares with the previous 3.5-liter V6 that was worth 269 horsepower and 246 pound feet of torque. As used in the Kia Sorento tall wagon and the Cadenza full-size sedan, the 3.3 is more of a fuel miser and should outperform the 3.5, although actual mpg stats aren't available at this time. As before, a six-speed automatic transmission performs the shifting chores.
Kia is still in the process of confirming content for each of the three expected trim levels, but it appears that base SX model at an estimated $28,000 will come with 17-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, backup camera and a basic audio system.
The EX adds 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats (heated in front), dual-zone air conditioning, power-sliding side doors, and touch-screen controls for the entertainment, communications and climate controls.
The SXL trim level, which is new for 2015, provides full-on luxury with premium Nappa perforated leather seat coverings that are equivalent in quality to those found on Kia's limo-like K900 sedan. There's also tri-zone climate control, a dual-panel sunroof, push-button start, 19-inch wheels and a power-opening tailgate that automatically opens when it "senses" the key fob is in close proximity for more than three seconds.
Additional safety items such as forward collision warning, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert are also available.
It's likely that minivan (there's the dreaded word again) interest and purchases have seen their best days, which is unfortunate since they provide more family-focused practicality and comfort than most traditional sport utes and so-called crossovers. Like the minivan name itself, the well turned-out Sedona should be embraced for its overall goodness and Kia shouldn't shy away from that.
What you should know: 2015 Kia Sedona
Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive minivan
Engines (hp): 3.3-liter DOHC V6 (276)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Market position: Kia is one of only a half-dozen or so automakers that are manufacturing traditional minivans for the North American market. Despite the dominance of "crossovers," minivans remain more practical and useful.
Points: On style points alone, this minivan is a winner; Standard V6 powerplant promises to be relatively frugal; Roomy, versatile interior will easily swallow plenty of stuff; New top-of-the-line model should take top honors for minivan luxury; Kia proves that there's still plenty of life and innovation to be mined in the minivan category.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG: (city/hwy) 18/25 (est.); Base price (incl. destination): $28,000 (est.)
Dodge Grand Caravan
Base price: $21,900
The least expensive way to obtain a new minivan. V6 engine is impressive.
Base price: $29,900
Refreshed-for-2014 people-mover combines style and performance.
Base price: $28,000
Still the only minivan on the market with available all-wheel-drive.