With only five offerings in the minivan segment, no redesign is overlooked. So the arrival of the all-new 2015 Kia Sedona was eagerly anticipated. Accordingly, the 2015 Sedona arrives with new styling, safety features, more power and redesigned seating. It's still a value leader, but now it also offers some features that even its top rivals can't match.
What Is It?
The 2015 Kia Sedona is a seven- or eight-passenger minivan. Fully redesigned for 2015, it rides on a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase, while overall length and width remain within an inch of the outgoing model. Cargo space increases only slightly to 142 cubic feet, which puts it within 8 cubic feet of the segment-leading Toyota Sienna.
What Trim Levels Does It Come In?
Five trim levels of the 2015 Sedona are available: L, LX, EX, SX and SX Limited. We drove the top-trim Sedona SX Limited equipped with the Technology package, which cost $43,295. L trim base models start at $26,795.
All trim levels are powered by a downsized V6 that replaces the Sedona's previous 3.5-liter engine. It's a direct-injected 3.3-liter engine rated at 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque: increases of 7 hp and 2 lb-ft over the old engine. A shiftable six-speed automatic driving the front wheels is the only available transmission.
How Does It Drive?
Minivans are typically unremarkable from behind the wheel, and the Sedona is no exception. Its controls offer enough information to prudently guide the van, but nothing more. Steering, in SX and SX Limited models, is electrically assisted and offers moderate weight and feel. It's fine for the domestic duties this vehicle serves. There are three drive modes: Normal, Comfort and Eco. Comfort reduces steering effort, though not significantly, and Eco reduces throttle and transmission response in an effort to improve efficiency.
At the test track, the Sedona's slow reflexes and reluctance to change direction relegate it to the bottom of the heap in terms of handling prowess for minivans. That might sound like a harsh criticism, but it's only noticeable during emergency maneuvers, say in an accident-avoidance situation. It's not something that most minivan drivers will notice around town.
The Sedona's ride quality feels very similar to the Toyota Sienna in XLE trim. You'll be aware you're guiding a big, heavy vehicle, but body motions are relatively well controlled. We could easily spend five hours behind the wheel on smooth, straight roads. If you're not in a hurry, the Sedona treats you well.
Power is adequate for reaching freeway speeds with relative ease, and engine noise is minimal even at full throttle. During instrumented test runs, the 2015 Sedona accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, which is just slightly quicker than the 2014 Toyota Sienna we tested last year. Manual control over the transmission is available by toggling the shift lever to the left from the Drive gate, although most minivan drivers will keep it in automatic all of the time.
Unique among minivans, the Sedona uses a console-mounted shifter. Alongside the shifter are buttons controlling the drive mode and other secondary controls. The feel is more SUV than minivan, which was the goal. It'll be a worthwhile departure for those who refuse to embrace the minivan experience, but it does compromise the utility of open floor space. Both the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Town and Country offer a removable center console.
How Configurable Is Its Interior?
Minivans present a rare opportunity to bring unique storage, seating and packaging solutions to an audience that values such convenience above all else. Not producing those solutions here is sinful. To that end, Kia offers two second-row seating configurations in an effort to duplicate the best from its primary competition.
Either two or three passengers are accommodated in the bench row option, which provides a three-way split-folding design. All three seats slide fore and aft individually. Optionally (standard on EX trim), a removable center seat can be added to create a 40/20/40-split second row. The outer seats are not removable in this configuration.
Popular with all rear seat passengers are the two second-row recliners that are available on SX Limited models. Though similar to the Toyota Sienna's recliners, these seats are better executed and offer more reclined legroom for adults and gangly teenagers, and about 3.5 inches of lateral movement each, a feature sure to please moms trying to reach a child from the front row. The seats slide forward and collapse into a small space, allowing easier third-row access than the bench seats.
What About Overall Space and Utility?
At 142 cubic feet, the Sedona's total cargo volume is smaller than all its primary competitors, but not by a significant amount. Only the Toyota Sienna, with 150 cubic feet, offers any real advantage. The usability of minivan interiors is more dependent on the flexibility of the seats than on the volume numbers anyway. All current minivans can easily swallow furniture for local moves, when not loaded with passengers.
Kia's decision to not offer removable seats is based on consumer feedback. However, there's no denying the fact that ultimate cargo volume (the ability to carry a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood, for example) is easier in a van with no seats. Even so, Kia points out that its SX-L trim, with its recliners collapsed fully forward, can accomplish the task if the wood is loaded in at an angle. Honda's Odyssey, with its seats removed — provided you have a place to store them — will accommodate the same cargo flat on the floor and still leave room on top for more cargo.
Its third-row seats, like those of most competitors, fold and tumble into the floor. Both practice and strength are required to operate the folding mechanism, but most parents will be able to accomplish it, whether at home or in the Toys 'R Us parking lot. Once folded into the floor, the seats don't lie completely flush, however.
There's plenty of function here, but very little that's truly ground-breaking. Kia's revisions to existing ideas are good ones, and there's little left to covet in other minivans.
How Safe Is It?
All the expected safety features are standard: antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. Lane departure warning, forward collision warning, blind-spot detection with cross-traffic alert and active cruise control are optional. A rearview camera is standard on LX and higher trims.
After testing by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Sedona received a five-star rating. In similar testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Sedona received a "Good" rating in all categories, which earned it a "Top Safety Pick" designation.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
Fuel economy ratings are trim-level dependent in the Sedona. SX and SX-L trim levels benefit from electric power steering, which saves fuel. The sweet spot in the lineup is the SX model, which offers 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway). Lower trims are rated at 20 mpg combined and 18 city/24 highway. The SX-L, despite the benefits of electric power steering, drags the efficiency down below base trim levels with 19-inch wheels and more equipment. It earns 19 mpg combined (17 city/22 highway).
During our testing, the Sedona SX-L turned in an overall number of 18.4 mpg. On our standard evaluation loop, we managed 22.0 mpg. The Honda Odyssey, which is the standard for efficiency in the class, earns 22 mpg combined and 19 city/28 highway.
How Nice Is Its Interior?
As of this writing we've only experienced the top-trim SX Limited model, which offers stitched leather in volumes out of proportion with the more modest and domestic needs of most minivan users. Even so, it's nice stuff. Leather seats are standard starting at the EX trim level, while the SX Limited comes with upgraded Napa leather.
Infotainment and HVAC controls are arranged horizontally and are intuitive to use. Three-zone automatic climate control is standard in EX and higher trims, while lower trims provide conventional fan speed and temperature controls for front and rear passengers. Keyless entry and start are standard on EX and higher trims.
Two 2.1-amp USB plugs, adequate for powering an iPad, are present in the first and second rows on EX trims and higher. Three 12-volt outlets and two 110-volt AC plugs are also available.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
With a desirable combination of efficiency, quality and configurable seating, the Honda Odyssey is a must-see competitor. Toyota's Sienna is also another strong contender and it's the only minivan sold in the U.S. that offers optional all-wheel drive. It, too, offers multiple second-row seat configurations. The Chrysler Town and Country's Stow 'n Go seating provides the most flexible interior in any minivan.
Why Should You Consider This Minivan
Value remains the Sedona's biggest selling point. A fully optioned Sedona SX Limited costs at least $1,000 less than similarly equipped competitors and offers some features (like active cruise control) that are not available on some of its competitors. If you're after a minivan with ample features for marginally less than most of the competition, the Sedona is your van. Its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty only adds to the value equation.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car
The inability to create an empty van with a relatively flat load floor hurts the Sedona's utility value, so if you use your minivan as a weekend work truck it might not serve your needs. Fuel economy, too, isn't as high as some competitors that are already deep in their model cycle. If you prioritize open space and ultimate efficiency, there are better choices.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.