Silvio Calabi: Kia’s Sedona SXL offers a moving experience
My kids are long grown and gone, so now instead of family road trips minivans have me moving furniture. Normally that’s right next to cleaning the gutters on the “tomorrow” list, but an enclosed vehicle with big doors, easy step-in and cubic yards of room makes all the difference. We’re cleaning out a big old house, and I’ve lost count of the bookcases, chairs, carpets, beds and boxes that we’ve relocated, sometimes by a couple hundred miles. Which brings up the second part of what makes moving so easy in this particular not-so-mini van, the Kia Sedona SLX: It’s properly sorted out as a road machine too.
At first the Sedona looks more compact than the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey and Dodge Grand Caravan. But that’s just its blunt snout and pleasing proportions; these vans all fall within an inch or so of each other in almost every dimension. In the Kia, though, there is no sense that something long is following you down the road. The Sedona drives more like a sedan than a school bus—it’s responsive and reasonably agile, with consistent, no-surprises steering and braking, no apparent nose-heaviness, and little tire or wind noise. The V-6 sends a healthy 276 horsepower to the front wheels through a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. There’s no “sport” shift program (it’s a van, after all), but the driver can select gears manually. This is useful with heavy loads, including the Sedona’s maximum tow rating of 3,500 pounds. Our $44,690 SLX offered three selectable driving modes—Comfort, Eco and normal—but I was hard pressed to feel any change between them.
For something that’s nearly 17 feet long and more than six feet wide and almost that tall, the Sedona—at least this top-end model—is easy to maneuver, too. Its upgraded camera system can provide six different split-screen views: dead astern plus 360 degrees overhead, astern with a closeup of the right side of the vehicle, astern with a closeup of the left side; and then the same three views looking forward. With this kind of eyeballs-on, precision parking, granite curbs pose no threats to the Sedona’s fancy wheels. I was grateful also for the portholes in the A-pillars, which are massive enough to screen UPS trucks.
This Sedona’s cabin is as attractive and plush as its namesake in Arizona, and the instruments and touchscreen messages are brilliantly legible. (Although the information verges on overkill. I don’t need to be alerted that the wiper interval changed; I just did it.) The blind-spot monitors in the mirrors are sensitive to speed and direction, and the rear cross-traffic and front-collision sensors are also highly tuned. Among many other comfort and safety features, including lane-departure alerts and braking assistance, our SLX had a heated steering wheel, two glove compartments and two power sunroofs, three heating and cooling zones, three heating and cooling settings for the front seats, four window shades, seven seats, eight speakers and 12 cupholders. It also had three electric doors—one on each side and the hands-free liftgate.
Let’s get back to moving furniture: The third-row seats stow away into a deep well, the two middle chairs can be lifted out and the center console folds forward, leaving an enormous space with a flat floor. Furthermore, opening and closing the side doors and liftgate repeatedly with the keyfob transmitter didn’t drain the battery. (I once left the tailgate open on a fancy SUV; a few hours later, thanks to the interior lights, the battery was dead.) I have just one complaint: 22 highway miles per gallon is no longer enough. Yes, gas is cheap now, but it’s a matter of milligrams of carbon spewed into the air. I’m certain that Kia is working on this.
Minivans especially are carefully cross-shopped. On paper, the Sedona and the three others mentioned above are very similar but, surprisingly, among the top trim levels, the SLX has the highest starting price. Dig deeper, though, and we find that when it comes to equipment-for-dollar the SLX retains that Korean edge in value. And if 40 grand for an SLX is too much, the base Sedona L has the lowest starting price among these minivans: $27,295.
Hauls the freight
Faultless road manners
Brilliant camera system
Comfort, quality & value
Mediocre fuel efficiency
SLX wants rain-sensing wipers and a head-up display
Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at email@example.com.