Most road tests or vehicle reviews are based on just one week or less of exposure to the vehicle. Ideally there is enough time and distance as well as atmospheric and road conditions to allow a reasonable feel for the vehicle allowing the reviewer to describe what the consumer may expect. But it's not always the case.
In this case, however, I had the opportunity to make more than a passing acquaintance with the all-new Kia Sedona minivan after spending a full month with it. During that time I covered more than 10,000 km through 15 of the United States and three Canadian provinces.
Over that period, the Sedona encountered weather ranging from -23 Celsius and extreme winter conditions to bright sun and summer-like 27 Celsius temperatures.
Not the Kia of old
This brand new vehicle from the Hyundai-Kia conglomerate showcases everything the giant company has learned and accomplished, from engineering and production to technology and content.
Kia and its sibling Hyundai have made remarkable headway on the quality and reliability fronts since they first arrived on these shores with such lamentable efforts as the Pony and Sephia. Kia built its first car in 1986.
The brand ranked near or at the bottom of the prestigious annual J D Power Initial Quality survey those first few years. In the latest (2014) it had moved up to sixth among 32 manufacturers, trailing only Porsche, Jaguar, Lexus, Toyota, Chevrolet and yes, Hyundai – and besting all others!
New from the ground up
The 2015 Sedona is Kia’s third minivan. It is based on a new architecture, offering a stiffer body structure and a longer wheelbase, which results in more passenger space. It has a seriously updated powertrain, a raft of new safety and infotainment features and a more flexible seating system.
The new design is contemporary and, for a boxy minivan, quite stylish. The overhangs at both ends have been reduced. The corporate “tiger nose” grille is flanked by full xenon headlights and LED driving lights on the top trim levels, which also have wheel wells filled out by big 19-inch chrome alloy wheels.
How new is it? Several attempts to get the oil changed at the recommended 7,500-km mark proved difficult because the national quick-change chains did not yet have data re filter and the amount and type of oil recommended.
The tight schedule meant we were not in any one place long enough to schedule a visit to a dealer, but we did find one willing to accommodate the request on short notice. And even there, the technicians admitted it was the first that had been in for an oil change.
By the time it came into my hands for this extended test, it had been put through the ringer by half a dozen auto journalists and was wearing the scars – and kilometres – to show for the experience. Suffice it to say it had been truly “broken in.”
All this by way of saying the day of avoiding an entirely new vehicle “until the bugs are worked out” do not apply here.
Applause for the seats
The Sedona fit perfectly. The seats deserve special mention. I emerged after a couple of 12-hour days not exactly rested but with none of the lower back pain common to such conditions.
In addition to excellent basic structure of the seat, multiple electric adjustments, including that for lumbar support, combined with a tilt and telescope steering wheel share the credit.
The heated steering wheel, seats and mirrors were put to good use as were the cooled seats at the other temperature extremes we encountered.
The “Captain’s Chair” second row seats, complete with winged head restraints and flick-out footrests similar to those encountered on business class airline seats were used for carrying coats, gloves and hats in cold areas on most days and child seats for a few.
They also slide fore and aft through a long range or side-to-side for provide easier access to the tiny third row. They do not, however, fold out of the way for maximum cargo space, rather pushing up against the front seats.
The third row does flip and fold into the floor leaving a flat area when down and a spacious cargo bin when in place. Cargo volume ranges from an impressive 960-litres behind the third row to a whopping 4,022 with second and third rows out of the way.
Kudos for auxiliary functions
The extreme variety of atmospheric conditions tested the HVAC system with snow, thick fog and heavy rain putting the defrost system to work. It did so efficiently with all windows front to back – and there are a great deal of large ones in a minivan – remaining clear.
After sitting for hours in bright sun the automatic climate control system was able to bring conditions within acceptable levels quickly thanks to separate zones – one each for driver and passenger and a third for the rear compartment.
The voice-operated navigation system worked flawlessly. We only ran into issues when the driver chose to ignore its directions in the belief he knew better. He didn't! The system proved particularly useful when searching for food or accommodations in unfamiliar territory.
The back-up camera and around-view monitor made parking in tight quarter effortless, although like all others, the lens on the rear camera got dirty in wet conditions making the view on the big screen all but useless until the camera lens was wiped clear.
Similarly bad weather affected the automatic Smart Cruise Control system. In moist cold conditions the forward sensor iced up, rendering it useless. I've had the same experience with similar systems in a couple of luxury cars so knew what the problem was when the function ceased to operate.
For the rest of the journey I employed and benefitted from the automatic system, avoiding several radar traps and maintaining a set distance from the vehicle in front as traffic flow varied.
Top marks for convenience features
Interior features come into sharp focus during 12-hour driving sessions and the Sedona got top marks there.
It coddles occupants with a pair of 110-volt outlets, a raft of compartments and cubbyholes including two glove boxes (one of which can keep your beverage of choice cool), front and rear parking sensors, blind spot detection system and sun shades for the second and third rows.
The crisp and clear sounds from the Infinity audio system combined with Bluetooth wireless connectivity and satellite radio permitted unlimited audio from personal devices or the radio.
The well-equipped test vehicle also had a power lift gate activated when one stands in close proximity to the rear with the key fob on your person for more than three seconds. On occasion, however, this feature proved problematic when I stood close too long with no intent of opening the door. It doesn't recognize intent; just proximity.
The bright HID headlights were appreciated during night driving thanks to the added benefit of automatic levelling and high beam activation.
Silky smooth engine
The only engine offered on the new Sedona is the corporate 3.3-litre V-6, which replaces the 3.5-litre unit offered previously. This new engine is silky smooth and extremely quiet, even under sustained full throttle conditions.
It offers such state-of-the science technologies as dual-overhead camshafts, variable valve timing and direct injection and provides adequate, if not impressive, power for this large and heavy vehicle. It's certainly competitive in terms of both performance and economy.
The vast range of driving conditions I encountered with the Sedona included probably about 15 minutes of pushing the vehicle through the turns as I would a sportier conveyance – and most of that trying to recover from a navigational error.
The rest of the time was spent in rather boring conditions – hours of freeway driving, extended periods of heavy city traffic, slow drives through small communities and the occasional run to a nearby market. Everyday conditions in which the Sedona excelled!
The bottom line
While the $45,000 price tag for this range-topping SXL trim level may seem steep, it is thousands less than competitive vehicles with similar levels of equipment. And you can get into a less-loaded but still well-equipped Sedona for less than $30,000.
I entered this test with a long-standing dislike of minivans. I acknowledge they are perhaps the most sensible all-round vehicle on the market, but they are also the antithesis of what I prefer in a set of wheels. My vehicular tastes run more toward sports and performance than multi-passenger convenience.
But as I returned the Sedona, I looked back on the experience with a newfound respect not only for the brand but for minivans in general. I was forced to admit that for that extended drive over such a wide variety of conditions I could not have found a better alternative, except maybe for a nicely-equipped station wagon. And even that would not have had the capacity and tall driving position of the Sedona!
My test vehicle remained tight as the proverbial drum, devoid of any squeaks or rattles. It averaged a highly respectable 11.1 litres/100 km over the entire distance and the vast array of technologies and luxury features of the fully-loaded vehicle not only made the experience enjoyable, they all worked flawlessly.
From the worst winter in the history of the Maritime provinces to deep in the heart of rural Quebec to Miami Beach, the 2015 Kia Sedona proved that a minivan may well be the perfect vehicle for not only large families, but also for long distance driving.
As a result, I can heartily recommend the 2015 Kia Sedona, the latest minivan on the market, as a worthy contender for top spot in the category.
Model: 2015 Kia Sedona SXL
Price: $45,995 base, $47,960 as tested including freight.
Engine: 3.3-litre DOHC V-6, 276 horsepower, 248 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Consumption (NR Canada rating, city / highway): 14.2 /10.5 L/100 km
Length: 5,115 mm
Width: 1,985 mm
Wheelbase: 3,060 mm
Weight: 2,141 kg
Competitors: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna