Sedona: The Electric Slide (-ing doors)
October 17, 2006
A couple of editors have complained that the electric hatch and sliding doors on our long-term Kia Sedona don't work unless they use the key fob buttons. A tug on the handle, inside or out, was not sufficient to get the sliders to, well, slide under power. Indeed last night when I walked out into the garage, I was greeted by the same annoyance. But there is an explanation.
A "PWR" switch is located located on the overhead console. It controls how the sliding doors and hatch work.
This position, because it is flush with the surroundings looks normal, right? You would expect everything to operate properly, meaning that the power doors and hatch would work to their full potential, happily opening and closing if any of the handles is gently tugged or the key fob buttons used. But on our Sedona, you'd be wrong. With the button in this position, the power door function is partly shut off, and only the key fob and buttons on the overhead console can be used to power open or close any doors.
Our Sedona's button must be depressed, as shown here, to engage the power doors and make them work for those who do not possess the key fob or are standing outside tugging on the handle. This is where the button on our Sedona needs to be for normal operation.
There isn't anything broken here, and no dealer visits are needed. There is nothing wrong with the doors on our Sedona. The Kia's power door and hatch system are pretty comprehensive, and the "PWR" switch is a handy way to keep the wee ones from playing around with them.
Still, I think the logic is wrong on two counts, and needs a rethink.
(1) The normal position should be flush. I think everyone agrees that having all of the power features active is the preferred normal case. Yes, pushed-in is "on" usually, but people also like things to line up and sit flush. Side windows, which are similarly driver-defeatable, many times have a button that is flush when in the normal position, and sticks UP, exposing a red line around the edges of the protruding bit, to indicate the windows are off. That sort of logic would work better here. If the doors didn't work as expected, a protruding button would be self-explanatory.
(2) This switch, a safety feature, shouldn't be anywhere a passenger can reach. If a passenger (ex: one of the kids) messes with this switch, the driver might not think to look here and might head to the dealer instead. This isn't as big an issue if something like item (1) were present.
I know what some of you are thinking. In a perfect world, everyone would read their owner's manual and commit it to memory. But coming from the automaker vehicle development side of the business as I have, I can say with confidence that a large percentage of people don't. Automakers know this and usually design accordingly. As a result, the design of features like this should be judged partially by whether or not someone has to drag out the manual, as I did, to figure it out. Intuitive control design is good design.
I think Kia, and Hyundai with it's similar Entourage, would be well-advised to revamp the design here, if for no other reason than to avoid having customers come in to have their doors fixed when nothing is wrong, and to avoid a demerit on customer satisfaction surveys. It wouldn't surprise me if something was in the pipeline already.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,060 miles