Minivans aren’t meant to be cool. They’re cuboid shapes that allow for the utmost functionality and versatility when it comes to moving masses (people or things) from point A to point B in relative ease. That being said, they’ve developed quite the stigma for the ‘soccer mom’ vehicle to the point where most of the recent commercials now exclusively show the husband driving the vehicle. There somehow is a surprisingly large fanbase amongst our office who love our minivans, and I for one was very happy to be bestowed the 2018 Kia Sedona SX-L for two weeks.
The aptly named Snow White Pearl color that the tester came in was in for a cruel twist by Mother Nature with the onset of one of the larger snowfalls of the year. The bright, smooth, pearl white paint job quickly became coated with a thick layer of sand, salt and grime that Ontario roads transform into during the winter. Yet, the Sedona took everything winter threw at it with nary a complaint.
Equipped with a thick and beefy, heated steering wheel and similarly heated and ventilated premium leather seats, the pilot’s chair is a rather comfortable place to be. Ingress and egress is helped by the fact that the floor is quite low, which means you don’t have to awkwardly climb in as much as you have to simply slide onto it. Visibility is very good with the boxy shape of the vehicle offering a lot of reference points to gauge the ends of each corner. Blind spot checks can be difficult especially for shorter drivers as the C pillar is rather thick but thankfully the side view mirrors are very large and coupled with the Blind Spot Detection System (BSD), the Sedona makes up for this deficit.
To further aid in the maneuvering of this big girl, Kia has equipped the Sedona with a host of front and rear park assist sensors, and at least four cameras (one on each side) to provide what they call Around View Monitor (AVM) system, providing a 360-degree field of view. This makes parking this fairly large minivan quite easy, especially with the fact that the steering ratios make for almost midsize car like reactions and calms any fears of feeling big. However, to nitpick: the side view cameras are located underneath the side view mirrors and quickly pick up dirt and grime kicked up from snowfalls.
What was really helpful through snowy two weeks were the swiveling headlights or what Kia refers to as the “Dynamic Bending Light” (DBL). On turning the vehicle, the headlights swivel at a rate higher than your steering input which lights up ahead of where you’re going as opposed to directly ahead. This is a true godsend for when the on-ramps are completely covered in snow, it’s nighttime and the only markers are the reflective posts on the edge of the ramp.
This minivan’s 3.3 liter V6 gasoline direct injected Lambda engine can hustle itself around respectfully thanks to the 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. of torque, which occurs at a mid-range 5,200RPM. This doesn’t mean you have to floor it to get the Sedona moving with a load, as it quite happily lights up the front tires should you want to impress the kids, er, occupants. But instead, the power band is quite broad and builds up quite linearly. The six-speed transmission pairs up cozily with this powerplant and the result is a smooth hustler that can slip in and out of highway traffic whilst fully loaded quite easily. It’s worth noting now that the Pacifica (reviewed here), Sienna and Odyssey all offer more gears; up to 10 in the Honda.
With a city and highway fuel economy rating of 12.9 and 9.5L/100km, I managed to wrangle a 12.1L/100km combined average. This is primarily due to the fact that most of my commuting is done heavily within the city, it was two of the coldest weeks of winter we’ve had so far and the Sedona was on winter tires. What is somewhat disappointing is that in the thick of city driving, the average climbed as high as 15L/100km. That being said, my disappointment lies primarily in that it drove like a smaller vehicle and I forgot about the size of this van until it came down to the fuel economy. This can be a good thing for those who dislike large vehicles but need the space.
The fact that all of my passengers almost had a fight-to-the-death as to who got to sit in the middle row equipped with what Kia calls “First Class Lounge seating” shows you just how good these seats were. Equipped with sublime leather cushioning, kick outs on the bottoms, full recline, well padded armrests, heating and lateral slide functions (should you require space from your co-passenger), these seats are the pièce de résistance of this minivan. These seats are that good.
In double edged sword fashion, this comes at the cost of the third bench row which sits right over the rear axle. Thanks to this and the fact that they fold inwards onto the floor providing a lovely flat surface, it means they are sitting on solid hinges that transmit every single bump you hit on the road. That and the fact that the padding is borderline there, means someone is going to be grumpy for losing out the battle for the middle. Adding to this, the rear hatch space is fairly short but the floor bottom itself is very deep. Theoretically, one can have a 4’10 person stand in this space and not hit the ceiling. That being said, if you don’t like piling your luggage you can always drop the rear seats for the aforementioned flat storage space.
On the topic of bumps, the Sedona almost has a double personality when it’s on the road. While the front end suspension seems to soak up bumps and cracks fairly well, rear passengers have complained about hops and bounces over the exact same imperfections. Unscientifically speaking, it could very well be a mixture of unrefined rear suspension setup with some chassis flex (thanks to long nature of the vehicle). This is a definite area of improvement for an otherwise well put together vehicle. Though road noise was somewhat high given the level of refinement of the interior materials and equipment, it was likely due to the winter tires.
At a MSRP of $46,995, this fully loaded seven seat Kia Sedona SX-L is strategically priced to throw a monkey wrench into your decision making process against its Japanese and domestic rivals. Price wise, it lines up dollar to dollar against the Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus at $46,995 but the domestic has slightly less fancy features. From the land of the rising sun, Toyota throws down its Sienna FWD Limited at $50,690 which edges it on features as does the $50,290 Honda Odyssey Touring (reviewed here). Ultimately, Kia is playing into the upscale market days and the fact that it is no longer a default choice strictly on pricing truly shows how long they’ve come since their early days – this is a great time to be shopping for a dad-mobile.