Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Kia Sedona

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

My children will grow up knowing the value of a dollar. They will appreciate hard work. They will understand the long-lost art of pleasure deferral. They will be able to withstand both mild discomfort and moderate boredom from time to time. They will not be coddled, swaddled, mollified, and catered to.

In other words, there is no way in Hell I'm going to let them ride around in this thing.

Welcome to the new top-of-the-line Kia Sedona, a vehicle that places second-row occupants above all else. Flip-up footrests like a Mercedes-Maybach? Good grief: in my day, we had to work twenty-five hours a day down at the mill and then come home to our paper bag in the middle of t'road and our mum and our Dad would stab us to death and then dance around on our graves singing, “Glory, hallelujah.” Try telling that to young people today. They won't believe you.

Favourite Vans from our formative years: Top Picks: TMNT Party Wagon and Best Movie and TV vans

But then again, fewer and fewer parents are buying minivans these days anyway. Minivans aren't ‘cool.’ They aren't ‘with it.’ They aren't ‘hip.’ If minivans could use ‘air quotes’ improperly, they would.

It's a shrinking market, so you have to wonder why Kia is even bothering sending out this sliding-door yacht to founder against the sales-figure rocks of the Dodge Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna. (There's no Nissan Quest rock. More of a pebble.)

When Sedona shoppers slide into those soft seats and look at their lavish surroundings, filled with piano-black trim and buttery leather, they'll know they've come to the right resort.

But the fancy-pants Sedona top-trim isn't really for broodlings anyway, it's for empty nesters. Parents are short on three things: time, money, and sanity. You know who's got plenty of the first two, and loves to spoil the heck out of the backseaters? You know who just loves to holiday in the actual town of Sedona, AZ? Grandparents!

Do boomer grandparents love chrome wheels and rich Merlot paint? You bet they do. Will they note LED-accented touches like the neighbour's Audi Q7? Naturally. Are they big fans of a shiny corporate grille that looks like a giant bottle opener? Well... possibly. Hard to say.

But when Sedona shoppers slide into those soft seats and look at their lavish surroundings, filled with piano-black trim and buttery leather, they'll know they've come to the right resort. As a parent of two young children, I look around at things like I'm seeing Pompeii circa late 78 AD, just before the ash-cloud came. It's so pretty, and so doomed.

But let's suppose that eighty percent of the time, only the front seats are occupied. Well that's lovely then: both thrones are heated and ventilated, cushy as all get out, and most of the touchy bits are nice. Compared to the austerity of the Odyssey's cabin and the sheer functionality of the Sienna, the Sedona isn't particularly van-like. It's a big ol' cruiser with easy ingress and egress. 

Yes, there's folding third-row seats, but these seem almost an afterthought. The second row takes up a great deal of room, and headroom for the third-row isn't great. Deploy only in an emergency, and note that the folding procedure isn't as seamless or well-thought-out as in rivals.

But oh, those fancy-pants second-row chairs. Basically, you're looking at a pair of twin La-Z-Boys inside a living room with sliding doors. You've got your own opening moonroof, you've got sliding functionality to really kick back and make space. All the controls have adult-only heaviness, but if you had a pair of pampered teens, you might consider this a suitable option. Personally, if they're that fussy I'd send 'em to a Siberian salt mine for the summer, but perhaps that's not what the current parenting manuals are suggesting.

As a device for ferrying around young kids, it's pearls before piglets. As a way to wow your Tuesday golf foursome, who cares what the cool factor is? Crank up a little something from ol' Blue Eyes, and do it your way: space enough for everyone's clubs and carriages; power doors and gates, all controlled from an overhead binnacle; and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system that puts you right in the front row.

“I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and every highway...”

To drive, the Sedona is about as interesting as flan. Power comes from the ubiquitous 3.3L V6 making 276 hp at 6,000 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. Note the relatively high torque peak – this fully loaded vehicle weighs as much as your average Holland America cruise liner, and acceleration is about what you’d expect. The six-speed automatic transmission is perfectly cromulent.

But never mind all that. The Sedona is quiet, serene, gliding. It feels heavy, yes, but not too ponderous; there is, instead, merely a feeling that taking the slow roll is preferable. It is not a vehicle for hustling, ideal for people who do not like to be hustled.

Add in some exclusive features that no one else is yet offering in the minivan segment, and you've got a heck of a road-trip machine. Radar-guided cruise control will likely show up for the next-gen Odyssey, given its availability in the new Pilot, but for now the Sedona stands alone. On a flat interstate, making tracks across America for the golf courses and air-conditioned shopping malls of the Arizona desert, it'd be near-enough as comfortable as a Bentley.

Having said that, the fuel economy is only average for the segment. Official ratings are 10.5 L/100 km on the highway, and 14.2 L/100 km in the city. That's pretty thirsty, so it'd help if a regular commute weren't part of the picture. Observed fuel economy in mostly city driving was up around the 15 L/100 km mark.

When the solid UVO navigation (shared with Hyundai) helps you arrive at your destination, a top-down camera system makes parking this big beast a cinch. Like all similar camera-based systems, obsessing over perfect placement can become a bit of an itch needing to be scratched, but I found the Sedona just as easy to place curbside or in a cramped underground parking structure as any subcompact would be.

Comfortable, luxurious, quiet, well-appointed and absolutely no snob appeal whatsoever. It's the perfect fly-under-the-radar luxury vehicle for those who only occasionally (or maybe never) need to carry young folks. For parents, look either further down the model range, or perhaps elsewhere. But I don't need to tell you that – you've likely already got a Sorento brochure open on the desk in front of you.

5 years/100,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance

Honda Odyssey
Nissan Quest
Toyota Sienna
One of those Party Limos

Model Tested 2015 Kia Sedona SXL+
Base Price $45,995
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,715
Price as Tested $48,010
Optional Equipment
$200 (Metallic paint)