Pros: Great value for the money; lots of standard and optional features; roomy interior; great warranty; strong engine
Cons: Average fuel economy; poor results in roof strength crash testing; low resale value
There was a time when a minivan cost about the same as a nice family sedan or one of the few remaining station wagons. That's not the case anymore, especially for the most popular models from Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Dodge does offer a Grand Caravan model starting below $25,000, but it is stripped to the bare basics. But there is one minivan out there that is still reasonably priced, comes nicely equipped and even offers a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty at no extra charge: the 2012 Kia Sedona.
Starting at $24,900 for the LX and topping out near $34,000 for a fully loaded EX, the Sedona is one of the best minivan values out there. In horsepower, safety and fuel economy, the Sedona is competitive with the best minivans, although its resale value falls far short of the Honda and Toyota minivans and even the Dodge Grand Caravan. Still, in terms of comfort, equipment, capability and reliability, the Sedona's value to your family may be more of an incentive than what you'll get in trade six years down the road.
Comfort & Utility
Compare the 2012 Kia Sedona's list of standard features with its closest competitor, and you'll instantly see why we consider this minivan a value leader. The roomy interior can easily accommodate seven passengers, and the flush-folding third row seats can be tucked away conveniently to create a wide and deep cargo hold. First- and second-row captain's chair seating ensures maximum comfort for each passenger, although three sitting across the third row might feel a bit cramped. Removing the second-row seats requires a place to store them, but it opens up a massive 141.5 cubic feet of cargo space. The Sedona also has more front-seat head, hip and leg room than the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna or Grand Caravan.
In addition to the easily configured interior, the Sedona offers such helpful standard features as power-operated windows in the sliding side doors, a rear backup detection system, manual rear vent windows, front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, cruise control and a CD stereo with six speakers and Sirius satellite radio capability. The EX adds power-operated front seats, heated side mirrors and power operation of the sliding side doors, rear liftgate and rear vent windows. The EX can also be equipped with a Luxury package that adds leather seating, heated front seats, tri-zone automatic temperature control, a power sunroof and power-adjustable pedals.
As one might expect, the bulk of the Sedona's technology offerings are based around safety and entertainment equipment. If the standard rear parking sensors with their audible beeping aren't enough to guide you, a rear camera with rear-view-mirror display is available on the LX and standard on the EX. The Luxury package adds memory functions for the seat, mirrors, and power adjustable pedals, while the EX's Navigation package includes navigation with an Infinity sound system and eight speakers. To keep the kids happy, the EX can have a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that includes two wireless headsets, a wireless remote and a 10-speaker Infinity 7.1 surround-sound setup for movie-theater-like sound. There is a similar, less expensive system for the LX but without the Infinity surround sound.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The standard engine and transmission for the Sedona LX and EX is a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 271 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings for the Sedona are 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
With more horsepower and nearly the same torque as the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest, only the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country have more power. As a result, even a fully loaded Sedona has no trouble accelerating briskly, and the six-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission does an excellent job of finding and holding the right gear in just about every driving situation we encountered, be it steep mountain passes, stop-and-go traffic or long, serene highway miles. The Sportmatic can also be shifted manually, for those times when you want more power or need to use engine braking to slow the vehicle.
The 2012 Kia Sedona puts safety front and center, with front and side airbag coverage for the front passengers and side curtain airbags covering all three rows. In the event you encounter a slippery patch in the road, the standard traction control will control the rate at which the front wheel spins, helping the Sedona regain traction. The Sedona is also equipped with electronic stability control, which can help the vehicle recover from the sudden loss of control that might happen when skidding or driving into a sharp turn too fast.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Sedona earned the top rating of "good" in the frontal offset and side impact tests but received the lowest rating of "poor" in rollover roof strength testing.
There are no surprises when driving the Sedona, which is to say that it rides and drives like most other minivans. The handling is not sporty, but it's not soft, either. There is moderate lean in hard cornering, but, for the most part, steering feel is very precise and the van is easy to maneuver and control. Turning around, however, can be a chore since the Sedona's 39.6-foot turning circle is among the widest of any minivan. We found the interior acceptably quiet at highway speeds, although there seemed to be a bit more tire and engine noise than in the Odyssey and the Grand Caravan.
Other Cars to Consider
Toyota Sienna - The Sienna has interior materials that are a step above the Sedona's plastics, and the Toyota's resale value is far superior. The Sienna can also be ordered with AWD. But the Sedona costs less and offers a far better powertrain and basic warranty.
Dodge Grand Caravan - You can get into a Grand Caravan for around $21,000, but it won't have nearly as many features as the Sedona. And although the Dodge may have a more powerful engine and slightly better resale value, its five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty can't match the Sedona's 10-year/100,000-mile plan.
Honda Odyssey - The Odyssey is the undisputed minivan resale leader; it's also more stylish and has an overall nicer interior, including a sliding center section for the second-row seat and a wide dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The Odyssey can also seat eight. But the Odyssey has a higher starting price at $28,000, and it has less front-seat headroom and legroom and less horsepower than the Sedona.
Since we know big families usually have tight budgets, we think the Sedona LX with the Power package (power sliding side doors, 17-inch wheels and rear-view camera) is the best deal. With destination charges, the price comes to around $28,000, but you can certainly move down from that number since the invoice price is closer to $26,000. If you're a really good negotiator, you can save enough to toss in the $900 DVD entertainment package and still come out well under $30,000.