The 2015 Kia Sedona minivan is like a big-budget sequel to a movie that nobody saw. Well, maybe that’s a bit unfair to the old Sedona, which was a perfectly functional, value-priced alternative to the usual suspects from Chrysler, Honda and Toyota, but it certainly wasn’t memorable, and that’s what Kia wants to change with the completely redesigned second-generation Sedona. We ventured to the national launch event in sunny Palo Alto, California, to see if this sequel is truly better than the original.
A Faint Whiff of Crossover
The Kia brass were keen to point out the crossoverlike characteristics of the Sedona, and that makes sense, since minivan sales have been hammered in recent years as three-row crossovers have elbowed into the market. Oftentimes, folks choose crossovers because they just look cooler, and another factor is their carlike cockpits, which are seen as preferable to a minivan’s utilitarian layout. That’s why Kia gave the Sedona muscular exterior styling that’s indeed crossoverlike from the front and rear, although there’s no hiding the telltale sliding doors on the sides. Inside, the desired carlike effect is achieved by relocating the gear selector from its usual dashboard location to the console between the front seats, creating a more intimate control relationship that every driver will notice.
Versatile Interior, Generous Features
If you want to make it in the minivan game these days, you have to feature some nifty seat tricks, and the 2015 Sedona delivers with fold-flat third-row seats and second-row Slide-n-Stow seats that slide forward and fold upright behind the front seatbacks. The idea is to provide maximum cargo capacity without having to lift those heavy seats out of the vehicle, a common requirement in other minivans. The mechanism works pretty smoothly, and although the seats look a bit strange pressed up against the front row, like kids peeking over the front occupants’ shoulders, they open up a competitive 142 cu ft. of space. If you need much more than that, a full-size van is the only solution.
The Sedona is offered in 8- and 7-passenger configurations. The former is the sensible choice, but the latter intrigues with its second-row lounge-seating option, which provides two sliding and reclining individual seats with airplane-style winged headrests and retractable leg rests. With the leg rests extended, your 6-foot-1-inch author was unable to stretch out his legs fully due to insufficient rearward seat travel, but his 5-foot-7-inch driving partner could cross his legs at the ankles and kick back in style. You can even specify second-row seat heaters if you want the full limousine effect.
All Sedonas share roughly the same dashboard design, and it’s a selling point, boasting upscale materials and controls that are shared with premium products such as Kia’s Cadenza and K900 sedans. It’s an unexpectedly luxurious environment, and the generous features confirm this impression, including standard YES Essentials stain-resistant fabric upholstery or optional Nappa leather, a refrigerated glove box, a surround-view parking camera and a hands-free power lift gate that’s also height-adjustable for low garage ceilings. Safety features — always a top priority for minivan buyers — are likewise impressive, among them electronic driver aids such as a forward-collision warning system, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2015 Sedona is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 rated at a healthy 276 horsepower. Paired with a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission, this V6 has no trouble getting the substantial Sedona up to speed, and it’s pretty refined, too. Fuel economy is a bit of a sore spot, however, at 18 miles per gallon in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combined for the L, LX and EX trim levels. The Honda Odyssey, for reference, gets up to 28 mpg hwy. The fancy Sedona SX improves a tick to 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy and 21 mpg combined thanks to its electric steering assist (the lesser trims have older-tech hydraulic assist), but the SX-L drops to 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy and 19 mpg combined despite sharing the SX’s electric steering — a strange discrepancy that Kia couldn’t fully explain. Fuel economy aside, though, the Sedona is fully competitive in the powertrain department, and a couple mpg here or there shouldn’t be a deal breaker for most.
Given Kia’s tendency to push the envelope with its new products, we were honestly expecting something a bit more radical, but the 2015 Kia Sedona is undoubtedly a strong contender, and its vastly improved style and features make it a serious player where its predecessor wasn’t. Throw in Kia’s value pricing and superior warranty coverage, and you have a must-see sequel for minivan shoppers.