2015 Kia Sedona long term review update: It’s all about the trip…and the tires

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At our last update, we had 45,000 real-world miles on our Kia Sedona MPV. Since then, we made the much-talked-about drive to the Chicago area and back. We have another 10,000 miles on the odometer, and outside of a tire issue, which we’ll talk about in a minute, we’ve loved having the Sedona in (or rather outside of) our garage. It continues to be a comfortable van with plenty of room and great styling, along with wonderful handling.

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Manteno, Illinois, is south of Chicago by about an hour. Small town charm at its best.

First, let’s talk about our road trip. We had a storage unit in a small Midwestern town called Manteno, in Illinois. (Long story how we got it, but it was BUILD BOOK related. If you want to know more about the BUILD BOOK, you can visit the website at buildbookusa.com) The goal was to get the storage unit cleaned out, and get back home before the harsh Midwest winter cam sweeping across the plains. The Kia Sedona is a lot of wonderful things, but what it isn’t is all-wheel drive, so we didn’t want to take a chance. Plus, we didn’t want all that wet, soggy snow anywhere near the paint job. Not that it would do anything, but this is a west-coast vehicle, and that white stuff can stay put where it is as far as we’re concerned.  Since the weather was still dry, we took the northern route through Colorado, and would take the southern route coming home, just in case (and we were right) the cold came down. We left Nevada with an empty van, and through Utah and the Rockies on an uphill climb, we still managed to make 25.4 mpg, better than the EPA highway average. In truth, we always do better than the EPA states, and we don’t drive lightly.

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The Big Texan in Amarillo is a must stop. Eat a 72-ounce steak and all the fixins and the meal is free,

We left Nevada on a 75-degree day, and in Manteno saw 22 degrees on the instrument panel readout. We’ve extolled the virtues of the Sedona’s heated and cooled seats, and both were used extensively on this trip. Because the drive distance is just over 1,750 miles, there’s plenty to see in this great country of ours. Which means we spent some time on Route 66, visited the St. Louis Arch in Missouri, ate dinner at the Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas (no we didn’t attempt the 72-ounce team dinner), and set a new record for Dairy Queen stops in as many cities as we could find. Our final round-trip tally after a week included 12 states, almost 4,000 miles, and an overall average of 24 mpg combined city/highway driving. Bottom line, we are as in love with this van at 50,000 miles as we were at the first 10 miles. We have had no need to retract anything we have said about the Sedona, be it comfort, driving enjoyment, build quality, or styling.

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Different tire models make a huge different in the ride and handling.

Of course we had the oil changed and tire pressures checked before we left, which leads us to the rest of this update. For a while now, we’ve been hearing a noise coming from the back of the Sedona. With our trained ear, we believed it to be a problem with the tires, not anything mechanical. We had the tires rotated, but the noise moved with the tire. We check the tread, and it still appeared to have plenty of depth, but we decided to replace all four tires anyway. Depending on the vehicle, the tires, driving habits, and the mileage, rubber shoes usually last anywhere between 40,000 and 65,000 miles during everyday use. We asked our local Kia dealership, which has been the only place our Sedona has been serviced to replace the tires with the same exact brand and model. Unfortunately, when we got the vehicle back, they had given us the right Kumho, but a different style. We had Crugens and we got back Solus. You wouldn’t think this would make a big difference, but it does. The Solus tires felt softer, slightly mushy, and didn’t deliver the handling we have come to appreciate in this van. For those who may not be aware, vehicle engineers spend countless hours and major money trying to find the perfect tire that delivers the ride and handling characteristics of a vehicle. We heard once up to 900 hours alone on tire testing for one manufacturer. When a customer or a dealership arbitrarily replaces the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) tire with something they feel is equal or similar, it can completely change the dynamics of the vehicle. Automotive tire engineers must cringe and cry when they see a vehicle they worked so hard to develop wearing bloated tires, crazy offsets, and ridiculous camber and toe setups. We feel their pain. We immediately took the van back and demanded the same exact tire be put back on the Sedona. In addition to wanting the same ride, the vehicle still belongs to Kia, and we were going to return it in the same condition it was received.

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The wear is on the inside of the tire. You can see there’s plenty of tread life left. This wear pattern was making a noise; that’s how we knew there was something wrong.

Once we got the OEM tires back on the van (and instantly noticed the quality ride and feel had returned), we turned our attention to the problem at hand. The tires that had come off the van had an interesting tell. Usually tires wear more on the outside edge, where they get a lot more scrubbing from going around corners. The weight of the vehicle causes the lean, which wears down the rubber. What was interesting about our tires is that the wear and rubdown was on the inside! The rest of the tread, as you can see, was still extremely usable. After much thought and consulting many friends who race cars, we decided that this could only be the result of a few options. First, the vehicle might be out of alignment. The only time the Sedona had been hit was at the first-ever service, when the dealership in Los Angeles, hit the side at a low-speed impact. You can read about what happened here. Usually vehicles that need alignment will let you know by pulling left or right, or not tracking straight. If our Kia Sedona tracked any straighter it would be the Pope. We literally can take our hands off the wheel and the Sedona would drive as if it were a Maglev train. The second explanation is that the engineers dialed in negative camber to give the Kia Sedona great handling characteristics, which we know is true.

Camber affects handling. Negative camber is when the tire tilts toward the inside of the vehicle; positive camber is when it tilts toward the outside.

Camber affects handling. Negative camber is when the tire tilts toward the inside of the vehicle; positive camber is when it tilts toward the outside.

For those who don’t know, a quick lesson on camber. Camber angle measures the difference between a wheel’s vertical alignment perpendicular to the surface. If a tires is straight up and down, perfectly perpendicular to the road, it has a camber of zero degrees. If the tire is tilted out toward the outside of the vehicle, it has positive camber. When the tire is tilted in toward the vehicle, it has negative camber. If you look at the photos of the tire, we’re not faulting the engineers for the setup. The truth is that on a vehicle, everything is a compromise. If you want a certain type of ride or a certain type of handling, you have to sacrifice something else to get there. That’s just the way it is. Otherwise, a Corvette would have the ride qualities of a Rolls-Royce, and the Rolls would have the handling of a Vette.

DSCN0306ARegardless, the tradeoff for the Sedona’s excellent handling is unusual tire wear. With the new set, we’ll see if we get the same result in another 40,000 miles. Now we may not have the Sedona that long through the good graces of Kia, but if we decide to purchase it, which is the likely outcome, we would still follow up. Bottom line: this is why we like doing real-world long-term testing: driving a vehicle for a week is a great first impression, but driving one for two years and 50,000 miles really tells the story. We have an oil change due now, and soon the big-daddy 60,000-mile checkup. Stay tuned!