2015 Kia Sedona first drive: For people who need more room for their stuff rather than their egos

2015 Sedona SX Limited Yes, it’s true. The people-mover portion of the automotive market is one of the few moving down the ladder instead of up. The minivan segment has been seriously maligned with a case of “unhipness,” and families jumped ship as fast as the captain on the Titanic when the next cool thing (crossovers) came along. The truth is, it’s their loss – big time. Few vehicles are as practical – and comfortable — as the minivan. With so many buyers leaving the segment, the ones who are building these vans are deserting as well. While that may be bad news for many, it’s not for Kia. The new 2015 Sedona multipurpose vehicle (don’t call it a minivan) is poised and ready to take in all those lost souls who have been abandoned.

KiaSedonaSoulEV_Wave2-26The small-van segment is holding steady at about 500,000 units. Compared to the millions of sales from say, midsize sedans, that first number isn’t worth pursuing for some manufacturers. However, Kia was smart enough to realize this is a great business opportunity. It’s not like the brand had to create an all-new vehicle; the Sedona has been a popular model for over a decade, and has a long list of loyal owners who have been waiting for the all-new model. Plus, Kia will be happy to absorb those owners who will not be returning to Volkswagen or Dodge. Fewer vehicles offered means more segment share for Kia, as long as the product is good enough to grab those wandering in the abyss looking for their replacement family van.

2015 Sedona SX LimitedThose nomads can be confident the new Kia Sedona will be the perfect replacement for their aging ride. One reason is because there are now five trim levels instead of the previous three: L, LX, EX, SX and SX Limited, and the prices start at $26,759 including destination, and go up to just under $45,000 fully loaded, so there’s something for every budget. As a comparison to Honda and Toyota, the starting price is about $2K less, and the top end is comparable to the Odyssey, while less expensive than Sienna.

While we drove the topline SX Limited at the press event in Southern California (mostly because Kia wanted us to experience all the features), there’s plenty to be said for the entry level L series. For example, all the trims get the same 3.3-liter direct-injected V6 engine, which makes an impressive 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. That’s more horsepower than the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, and on par when it comes to torque.

Other features of the L include steering wheel audio controls, dual glovebox, Slide-N-Stop second-row seats, YES Essentials fabric, and more. Opt for the SX Limited, and you’re enjoying dual power sliding doors, cooling glovebox, tri-zone AC, pushbutton start and Smart Key, the awesomeness that is the Infinity sound system, second-row lounge seats, and more.

2015 Sedona SX LimitedSo the value story is there, but what about design? That’s there also. Kia’s approach to this segment is to bring buyers into the fold by offering the capability of a minivan, but the cool factor of a crossover. Outside, the Sedona has been touched by the creative hand of Chief Designer Peter Schreyer, who is responsible for the overall styling transformation at Kia, and he’s done a good job here: the look is sporty, sleek, and elegant. The grille is familiar to Kia, and the nose is more aggressive than one would expect from this segment. If you didn’t have to put a lot of body behind it, the front end would look great on a sedan or even a sport coupe.

2015 Sedona SX LimitedInside, the non-minivan image is there as well. The biggest tipoff to that is the full-width center console. While some may lament the loss of that open area between the front seats to store a purse or briefcase, the new thinking that went into this console approach has to be applauded. I must admit, I was in the former category at first, but the more I used the console space, the more it grew on me.

8456_2015_Sedona_EXThe seats are also something to brag about. The standard second-row bench is configured in a 40/20/40 design, but instead of dropping seats into the floor or having to remove them, Kia has invented the Slide-N-Stow seat, where the second row outboard seats fold up quickly and slide forward against the front seatbacks, making third-row entry relatively easy. It may not create a fully empty space for loading gear in from the sides, but it sure beats the grunting and groaning of trying to figure out how to raise and lower those suckers into a floor space that’s full of old French fries and empty water bottles, or even finding somewhere in the garage to store those heavy beasts  without ruining them.

8449_2015_Sedona_EXFor that secondary group who has sent the kids out of the house and is using the Sedona for entertaining couples for weekend trips or dinners out, the best seats in the house (or MPV, rather) have to be the second-row captain’s chairs. Why? Because they are first-class lounge seats. You forego the Slide-N-Stow function, but get a seat that reclines and has a footrest. Trust me, you get this model, and you’re friends and neighbors will be inventing excuses why you have to drive them everywhere.