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2016 Kia Sedona SXL Review by Carey Russ

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Kia Sedona

The exciting multipurpose vehicle


            • SEE ALSO: Kia Buyers Guide

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Kia Sedona

If minivans aren't the newest and hottest things in the automotive world, they are among the most useful and versatile. Kia is far from the best-known minivan manufacturer, but its Sedona is one of the best today. All-new last year, with little besides the name unchanged, the Sedona unsurprisingly enters model year 2016 with only minimal changes, mostly interior trim and materials.

And after a week with a top-of-the-line SX-L in seven-passenger configuration with the Technology Package (Xenon HID headlights, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System, Surround View Monitor, and Smart Cruise Control) I can say no changes needed. This is a family-sized vehicle that can hold people -- seven or eight depending on configuration -- and / or their belongings is the expected multiple seating configurations with the expected easy access from dual power sliding side doors and a power tailgate. It has the ride and handling characteristics of a sport-luxury sedan and I got 20 mpg during my week.

To please almost every budget from restrained to indulgent, there are five trim levels: L, LX, EX, SX, and SXL. MSRP at the time of writing goes from $26,400 for the L to $39,900 for the SXL. All have dual sliding doors, a full range of audio including Sirius/XM radio (subscription needed) and Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, audio, phone, and cruise controls on the steering wheel, power outlets, tilt- and telescope-adjustment for the steering wheel, air conditioning, a backup camera, and more. So even the L is a useful and fully-functional vehicle. The SXL is a near-luxury machine.

There is only one powertrain, a 3.3-liter V6 with direct fuel injection that sends 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic® manual-shift mode.

Function may be more important than styling in the minivan class, and the Sedona is as functional as anything there. It's also stylish, with leaner lines that are usual. "Frumpy family car" need not apply. Amusingly, Kia's press information uses the European term "multi-purpose vehicle" (MPV), not "minivan". But then, it does not look like the box it came in.

Why choose a minivan/MPV over a crossover? Even though contemporary crossovers, including Kia's own midsize Sorento and compact Sportage, are far from the trucks of the SUV past, they're still taller, with greater step-in height, than a minivan. If you really, honestly need three rows of seating, a minivan will give passengers much more space than a comparably-sized (outside) crossover. Space efficiency is the name of the game, and the ease of access to that space from the dual sliding doors and interior configurability means that space is useful and useable. And with its sleek styling, the Sedona barely looks like a minivan.

APPEARANCE: Simple shapes and clean lines work wonders. The name may evoke the American Southwest, but the Sedona's lines are more European than Asian or American. A sedan-like front clip, with the latest version of Kia's tabbed grille tastefully trimmed in chrome and that grille shape reprised in the lower fascia establishes it as a Kia. The swept-back windshield (tabbed at the top) and gently-arched roof help aerodynamics. A strong shoulder line, wheels that fill the wheel arches, and side windows that taper to the rear give a touch of elegance. On the SXL, lights in the front door handle pockets add convenience and safety after dark. Rear styling is also simple, with Kia trapezoidal taillights.

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2016 Kia Sedona (EX model shown)

COMFORT: Befitting its premium status, the Sedona SXL is fully-equipped and then some. There are no gimmicks -- no vacuum cleaner or kitchen sink -- just elegant design and useful features and plenty of functionality. If exterior dimensions have changed little, door panels and seats have been designed to improve useable interior space. Seating here is perforated leather, heated and cooled in front. Upright-folding second-row seats are found in lesser models; the SXL gets "First Class" lounge seating -- two captain's chairs than manually move considerably fore-and-aft and feature a near-complete recline and extensible leg-rests. Relax while gazing out the twin moonroofs… yes, this one is more for the "empty-nesters" than the kids. Each section of the 60/40 third row can be folded nearly flat into the rear cargo well -- and with the third row in place, the cargo well keeps grocery surprises at bay. Useful storage abounds in the dual gloveboxes (bottom locking and air-conditioned), large pockets with drink bottle holders in all doors, multiple cupholders, and large console box. USB charging, 12 VDC, and 115 VAC power outlets add convenience.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Kia Sedona (EX model shown)

Back up front, the instrument panel looks like it came from a European luxury car, not a spaceship. Textured soft-touch materials, aluminum-look bezels around the vents, instruments, and shifter on the console, and "Supervision" electroluminescent instruments in a simple, tasteful design will do that. Useful information is displayed between the tachometer and speedometer. Audio, UVO telematics, phone, navigation, and wifi hotspot systems are accessed through the touchscreen in the center of the dash and hard buttons below that in a simple, logical manner. Here both sliding doors and the tailgate are power-assisted. The tailgate may be programmed to automatically raise when the "key" fob is near for three seconds, useful with two hands full of groceries.

SAFETY: Kia's Iso-Structure™ design and construction ensure strong rigidity where needed, and deformable crush structures to protect passengers, and a full complement of airbags adds passive safety. Good maneuverability and handling and strong antilock brakes plus traction control and electronic stability control add active safety. Further enhancements, including forward collision warning and lane-departure warning systems and the Surround View Monitor system of front, rear, and side cameras add further safety and convenience.

RIDE AND HANDLING: That strong, rigid unibody also enhances the Sedona's abilities on the road. Suspension is fully independent, with MacPherson struts in front and a multilink system in the rear, no torsion beam axle to be found. Amplitude Selected (shock) Dampers and the Drive Mode Select system found in the SX and SXL mean a compliant and well-controlled ride quality, much in the vein of a European luxury car. Steering is not over-assisted, for good road feel and control. A tight 36.8-foot turning circle makes for easy maneuverability and parking. Drive modes are default, referenced above, and Comfort, softer for a more vintage-American softness. I left it in default or Eco, which seems the same for damping and reduces throttle sensitivity, useful when cruising on the highway or driving in slow city traffic.

PERFORMANCE: At 4700 pounds or so, the Sedona SXL is no lightweight. No problem, as the 3.3-liter V6 gets it moving quickly when necessary -- 0-60 takes about 7.5 seconds -- and with minimum fuss. It's a contemporary aluminum alloy engine with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Direct fuel injection is used, allowing a high 11.5:1 compression ratio for optimum extraction of power -- from unleaded regular. With horsepower peaking at 266 at 6000 rpm and torque peaking at 248 lb-ft at 5200, it sounds on paper like it would be peaky and need high revs. Continuously-variable cam phasing and three-stage variable-length intake manifolds ensure plenty of torque from right off idle, and the six-speed automatic transmission makes optimum efficient use of that. As is usual today, manual shifting can be done but is not really necessary. EPA fuel economy is listed as 17 mpg city, 22 highway, and 19 overall. With a mix of everything, I got 20.

CONCLUSIONS: A minivan, er, multipurpose vehicle, need not be a boring family hauler, at least if it's a Kia Sedona.


2016 Kia Sedona SX-L

Base Price $ 39,900

Price As Tested $ 43,495

Engine Type aluminum alloy 24-valve DOHC V6 with direct fuel injection

Engine Size 3.3 liters / 204 cu. in.

Horsepower 276 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 248 @ 5200 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode

Wheelbase / Length 120.4 in. / 201.4 in.

Curb Weight 4720 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 17.1

Fuel Capacity 21.1 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P235/55R19 Continental CrossContact Sport m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BAS, ESC, TCS, HAC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Ground Clearance 6.7 inches

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 22 / 20

0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec

Towing Capacity 3500 lbs.


SXL Technology Package -- includes: Xenon HID headlights, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System, Surround View Monitor, Smart Cruise Control $ 2,700

Destination Charge $ 895