I don't have kids, so driving a minivan is usually lost on me. But after a long test week in the 2016 Kia Sedona
during the holidays, I kind of see the point.
The test vehicle was an up-level SXL model with all the whistles and bells - which totally helped. Equipped with a 3.3-liter V-6 engine, the Sedona had plenty of get-up-and-go for highway merges and passing maneuvers, and it was incredibly comfortable for a 400-mile road trip.
After pushing all the buttons, sitting in all the seats and even standing (yes, standing!) in the cargo area, I have to say, there's a lot to love in this vehicle.
Here are my top-10 faves:
Around-view camera: Whether you live in a compact urban area or you have kids and toys that might be scattered on your driveway, a backup camera is always a good idea. Luckily, they'll be required fare in cars by 2018, but that's just the basic camera. Some automakers, such as Kia, take the next step, offering 360-degree views that can be operated in forward and rearward motion. This is invaluable when parallel parking or nosing around a tight parking lot. We wish this were standard, but on the Sedona, this is a part of the SXL Technology package ($2,800).
Heated front seats and steering wheel: I'm one of those people who's perpetually cold. I could keep the thermostat at 75 all year round and be perfectly happy - much to the dismay of my husband. So, heated seats and steering wheels aren't just a seasonal must for me. They get year-round usage when I'm driving. The top-of-the-line SXL trim of the Sedona includes both features as standard fare, but you can get them in lower trims as well. Heated seats are available starting in the LX ($28,500) and standard in the EX ($32,700). The heated steering wheel is a bit more premium, however, and is only available at the SX trim ($36,400) and standard on the SXL.
Separate climate controls: Someone once called dual climate controls a "marriage saver," and a year after saying "I do," I can say with absolute certainty that this is true. I set my heat on high most of the year, while my husband keeps his temperature set at a steady 68 year-round. I stay warm and don't sweat my husband out of the car. The Sedona takes this one-step further into familial bliss with Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control, which allows separate controls for each front seat as well as the rear seats. I wish we'd had this option for our family road trips when I was a kid!
Reclining rear seats: Kia calls the reclining rear seats "First Class Lounge Seating," and they are only available on the SXL model, where they are standard. You can opt for the 3-passenger second row, but if you have older kids, these reclining seats are ideal. They can turn on their mobile device, put on headphones and tune out the world. I will point out the reclining seats are completely manual and a bit tough to operate. Additionally, the second-row seats will need to slide all the way back on the track for the footrest to be deployed.
Driver's memory seat: It's rare that two drivers would have the exact same driving position - even if you're the same height. And, if you have a husband-wife team with a 6- to 12-inch height difference, the driving position will be even more drastic. Sometimes it takes me a couple days to find the exact right driving position when I'm in a new test car, and if I had to futz with the seat controls every time I swapped with my husband, it would drive me nuts. So, call the memory seats another marriage saver. This feature is available at the EX trim and standard on the SX and SXL.
Power rear doors: What I loved about this feature is that, from my perch in the driver's seat, I could easily open and close the rear sliding doors to let rear-seat passengers in and out of the vehicle. Redundant controls for the power doors are located on the key fob and B-pillar.
Rear plug and USB port: When I spent some time with my in-laws during the holidays, I noticed that my 12- and 14-year-old nephews each had their own cellphones and iPads. My 7-year-old niece had an iPad. And they were all glued to them if we weren't eating or doing something active. So, the ability to recharge for rear passengers is critical - especially when mobile device distraction means keeping the peace.
Safety systems galore: High-tech safety systems are finally starting to trickle down to non-luxury vehicles, and the availability of features such as lane departure warning or forward collision warning is more the rule than the exception. The Sedona comes standard with a rear backup camera, but available safety features include a back-up warning system, front and rear park assist, surround view monitor, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Of all the minivans currently on the market, the Sedona is actually the only one that gets an IIHS Top Safety Pick when equipped with these available features.
Smart liftgate: Chances are, if you need to put something in the back of a minivan, your arms are probably full. Fumbling in your pockets or purse for a key means you might drop something or you have to set something down. But with the smart liftgate, as long as you have the key on your person, the liftgate will open when you walk up to it. No balancing on one foot to kick under the bumper or waving an elbow in front of a rear emblem. It just opens. First introduced on the 2015 Hyundai Genesis, this feature is now finding its way into a wider variety of Hyundai and Kia vehicles. On the Sedona, it's standard at the EX trim.
Tons of cargo volume: A huge selling point for a minivan is the ability to carry both cargo and passengers, and the Sedona is no different. I appreciated the deep well behind the third-row seat that allowed me to stack a couple rollerboards and backpacks as well as holiday leftovers and shopping bags. This space behind the third row offers 33.9 cubic feet of cargo volume. If you drop the third and second rows of seats, cargo volume increases to 78.4 and 142 cubic feet, respectively.And, a few other things
It wouldn't be fair if I didn't point out the things I didn't love about the Sedona.
First, the step-in height was a bit high. My mother, who's had some issues with her back, couldn't actually make it up into the vehicle through the rear sliding doors. I'd gotten this vehicle to haul my family around during the holidays, and an integral part of my family couldn't get in it.
Second, while I love the peppy V-6 engine, I did not love the fuel economy. The Sedona has an EPA estimated rating of 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. During the test week of mostly highway driving, I found this to be relatively accurate, but 22 mpg at its best is tough to swallow for a family hauler. In fact, this is the lowest fuel economy rating of all the other minivans out there:
* Toyota Sienna: 18/25
* Honda Odyssey: 19/28
* Nissan Quest: 20/27
* Chrysler Town & Country: 17/25
* Dodge Grand Caravan: 17/25
On the bright side, however, the Sedona is one of the three safest minivans on the market right now.
The Sedona has a starting price of $27,295, which is lower than the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna - the other two minivans on the "safest" list.
However, the test vehicle as an SXL model had a base price of $40,795. It added the Technology Package and rear-seat entertainment for an as-tested price of $44,690. While that may seem steep for a minivan, the perks are unquestionable, and if you spend a good chunk of your day driving, it's totally worth it.
Read more from Jill Ciminillo:Video Time Out: How dummies save livesThree track skills that help in everyday drivingFab Features: Let's make life easier
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