Sedona earns five-star rating

Friday, December 17, 2004

srobertson

If minivans were sold by the pound, the Kia Sedona would be the class leader, with the best price-to-weight ratio on the market. Tipping the scale at a beefy 4,800 pounds, the economical import from Korea is heavier than most luxury sedans, and that translates into a cushy, quiet ride that you wouldn't expect at this price point.

In terms of size, the Sedona fits between the long vans, such as the Dodge Grand Caravan and Honda Odyssey, and the shorter vans such as the Mazda MPV. Sedona does not equal the spacious cabins of the Toyota Sienna or Chrysler Town and Country, but it offers a combination of comfort, convenience and safety that families need. And Sedona offers all this at a price that will make even the most conservative accountant smile.

The walk around

Sedona's attractive lines belie its low price. Its bold grill, big headlamps, body-colored roof rack and two-tone bodyside cladding are normally seen on vehicles costing thousands more. A quick glance at the window sticker reveals an MSRP of $25,675 for this top-of-the-line EX model equipped with luxuries like leather seats, sunroof, anti-lock brakes, rear spoiler and even a remote-start key fob. Another model is also available -- the LX -- that will get you into the minivan business for thousands less.

Nestled under the hood in a neat and tidy package is a transversely mounted 3.5-liter dual overhead cam V-6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. In back, a rear hatch opens easily, raising up and out of the way. Closing it takes more effort, requiring a determined tug.

Inside, it is apparent that Kia intends its owners to be comfortable. The leather-appointed interior features an eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar, and a four-way power front passenger seat. There are two more rows of seats for a total passenger capacity of seven, and the second row features two comfortable captain chairs that slide fore and aft several inches. The third row bench seat also slides fore and aft, folds and splits 60/40, and like the second row, is totally removable. Even full-size adults can ride comfortably in any of the seating positions. Getting out of the third row is easy--step on a small lever and the second row seatback folds forward and the entire seat slides out of the way. I also noted that all seats--not just the front ones--recline.

As mentioned, Sedona isn't as big as some other minivans, and there's not an excess of cargo room behind the third row. To make room for more cargo, the third seatback flips forward, then the seat tumbles out of the way, if you have removed the headrests first. The seats are also removable, but it's an involved process. (Other vans have seats that disappear into the floor--but they cost thousands more than Sedona.)

There's a handy overhead console with trip computer and Homelink garage-door opener. A leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel look classy next to the wood grain accents on the dashboard. A foldaway small table between the front captain chairs provides two cup holders and room for a couple of sandwiches. Another pair of cup holders pops out of the dashboard, and six others are scattered around the cabin. Front and rear air conditioning systems keep everyone comfortable, while a six-speaker CD audio system provides entertainment.

You won't find power sliding side doors, traction control or side air bags on Sedona, but its five star NHTSA crash rating makes air bags seem moot.

Out on the road

For such a heavy vehicle, the Kia feels surprisingly athletic, thanks in part to the new five-speed transmission, but mostly due to the V-6 engine which develops peak torque at just 3500 rpm. The smooth five-speed, once a feature found only on more expensive cars, has an extra-low first-gear ratio, and an overdrive fifth-gear. Sedona is rated for 16-mpg in the city and 22-mpg on the highway.

Sedona has a smooth, quiet ride, but it could use more roll control during hard maneuvers. This is a turnpike cruiser--not a backroads racer. But if you're delivering kids to the weekly soccer game, or making a run to Home Depot, I can't think of a better vehicle for the money. Throw in an incredible 10-year/100,000 powertrain warranty, and remarkable $1,000 and $2,000 rebates, and you'll understand why Sedona is outselling many domestic and imported brands.

Steve Robertson of Robertson's Creative Photography is a car enthusiast and former staff writer/photographer for the Southeast Missourian. Contact him at sjr1@robertsonsphotography.com.

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