Test Drive: 2017 Kia Sedona SX+

It seems that every time I have a Kia for a week, a theme develops.

Last December, my family and I turned a Sorento into a Rudolph that spread holiday cheer far and wide.

This time around, picking up the 2017 Kia Sedona kicked off a non-stop week of enjoying local sports. We went from a Tuesday night Blue Jays game to having a fabulous time checking out my very first Toronto FC match that Friday night – the latter being a team for which Kia Canada is a long-time supporter, as it happens – and closed out the week by piling the three of us and four friends of ours into the Sedona’s seven seats for our annual spring road trip to take in some AAA ball and some wings in Buffalo. And in between all of this, we squeezed in following both the Raptors and the Maple Leafs in the playoffs.

Talking about copious amounts of competition is fitting when framing it around the Kia Sedona. As recently as a couple of years ago there was serious doubt that the minivan segment was going to be around for much longer at all, and now we can compare it against such diverse offerings as the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica (and its industry-first hybrid variant), the overhauled Honda Odyssey set to launch shortly, and the Toyota Sienna as Canada’s only all-wheel-drive option.

The Sedona won’t be hit with any too-many-men penalties – it earns its place in this line-up handily. But is it good enough to be one of the top three stars? Read on.

Looks

To my eye, the Kia Sedona is one of the better-looking minivans around, especially with the chrome highlight across the top of the side windows that’s included with SX+ and SXL trims. Although Kia doesn’t tuck its door track under the rear window as Chrysler, Toyota, and now Honda have achieved, the Sedona’s clean lines, tiger-nose grille, and wrap-around rear windows come together in a pleasant package. (And if you get it in black like this tester, the door track isn’t even all that obvious.)

The 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels in the SX+ trim are a big improvement over the base 17-inch steelies. If you go all the way up to the top SXL trim you’ll get 19-inch chrome, but the ones on this trim strike a nice balance.

Powertrain and Drivability

On paper, the Sedona’s engine doesn’t stand out as being all that special: it carries Kia’s 3.3L naturally aspirated and direct-injected V6, and the engine’s displacement and its output of 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque are a little lower than the segment average.

In practice, though, I was never left wanting by the Sedona in terms of drive feel. Its power is plenty for comfortable highway cruising and passing, throttle response is good, and the six-speed automatic transmission shuffles discreetly through the gears without intervention.

The Sedona also finishes middling in fuel economy compared to the rest of the segment with an official rating of 11.4 L/100 km for the SX+ – which places it better than the all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna and the aging Dodge Grand Caravan but nothing else.

What stands out for me is how much the Kia engine enjoys highway driving. I was running an average for the week of 13.2 L/100 km before setting off on our adventure to Buffalo, and even though the van was fully loaded with seven passengers and their gear, by the end of our three-hour run down the Queen Elizabeth Way the average had dropped to 10.1 L/100 km. Granted, this was working off of only six days’ worth of driving data that was mostly city driving, but it’s still more dramatic than usual in my experience. This is no doubt aided by its comfortable cruising tuning: it purrs along happily at 1,700 rpm at 100 km/h and 2,000 at 120.

In terms of maneuvering, the Sedona is closer to a Sienna than a Pacifica in how it feels to get around – that is, it feels just about as big as it is. But I never had any stress with parking it, even in questionably tight spaces, and I didn’t feel that it needed me to make any compromises to my downtown driving routines. The steering is surprisingly taut and responsive, more so than I expected, and all those stability systems Kia has loaded it up with along with its low centre of gravity make it nice and steady even in tight turns. (It’s important to note that one of these, the vehicle stability management system, is not standard on all trims; it only becomes available at SX+.)

Interior

In this SX+ trim, there are ups and downs.

On the positive side, the quality of the fitting and materials is very nice, even before you consider the price point. And once you do, the list of features you’ll take away has some key entries: heated front and second-row seats with a driver’s seat memory function, a heated steering wheel, second-row slide-and-stow captain’s chairs (they don’t fold fully into the floor, but they push upright and forward to make more space in the rear), and fully stowing third-row seats. My passengers loved the huge second-row windows and the integrated second- and third-row sunshades.

On the negative side, though I found the seating position and the seat cushion on the driver’s side are comfortable and supportive, the shape of the seat back is a bit curved for my taste and causes me to slouch on longer drives, which gets painful after a while. (I sit relatively upright; if you don’t, you might fare better.) Though there’s three-zone climate control, the only panel in the rear of the cabin is beside the right seat in the second row – depending on your family’s dynamic, you can decide for yourself whether that might lead to “I’m turning this van around” moments.

There’s also no sunroof available, at all, until you get to the very top SXL trim, which is a shame as the cabin feels dark in spite of the large windows and light upholstery. And though there is a cooled glove box at the front and a handy little detachable work light in the very back, kid-friendly features such as a built-in vacuum or a rearward entertainment system are completely absent.

Connectivity

Generally, I like how Kia’s infotainment system works. The one equipped in the SX+ trim is the 7-inch system; a 5-inch system is standard, and an 8-inch system with navigation comes with the SXL trim. But every trim except the base comes with Android Auto compatibility, so the lack of navigation in the mid-level trims may not matter much. (There’s no CarPlay integration, though. Sorry, Apple users.)

In the Sedona, though, I find the buttons on the far side of the screen to be so far of a reach that they require a significant lift and lean out of the driver’s seat. I got so annoyed with it that I actually took the time to program my favourite stations into the presets (of which, to be fair, there are many), something I rarely bother to do. Once I did, though, I was much happier: I could then change stations with a toggle right on the steering wheel, and on satellite radio every preset would record each song so that I could skip backward on my favourites and rock out from the beginning. Unless you’re a serial station-flipper with short arms like I am, you’ll likely enjoy this system plenty.

Safety

A rear-view camera is standard, and the SX+ trim comes with rear parking sensors and blind-spot detection. For top features like a 360-degree camera, front parking sensors, lane-departure warning, active cruise control, and autonomous emergency braking, you’ll need to look to the SXL trim, and even then some of them come at an extra cost.

Verdict

Though buyers are often lured to other brands by swanky features like built-in vacuums, rear entertainment systems, and all-wheel drive, the Kia Sedona offers pleasant driving dynamics, fuel-efficient and comfortable people-moving, and a solid list of popular features, all at a very reasonable price.

2017 Kia Sedona SX+
Engine displacement: 3.3L
Engine cylinders: 6
Peak horsepower: 276 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak torque: 248 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Fuel economy: 12.9/9.5/11.4 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo space: 960 L / 2,220 L third row down / 4,022 L second row down
Pricing: 2017 Kia Sedona SX+
Base Price: $36,695
A/C Tax: $100
Destination Fee: $1,740
Price as Tested: $38,535
Optional Equipment: None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.3
8 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
10 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
8 Features
9 Value