Kia smartly re-enters the minivan segment with an upgraded Sedona

By: Mark Toljagic Special to the Star, Published on Fri Mar 27 2015

Until cryogenic freezing or anesthetic drugs are available over the counter, the minivan may be the best way to complete long road trips with children.

Minivans work marvelously because the farther apart you can seat the kids, the quieter the voyage will be (sans medication). My wife and I have been making the trek south every spring since our three daughters were tots.

Canucks still have an affinity for minivans. Many of the Dodge Grand Caravans, Toyota Siennas and Honda Odysseys we saw in Florida bore Ontario and Quebec plates.

After years of watching the others eat its lunch in the segment, Kia re-entered the fray with a reconstituted Sedona minivan for 2015. Last redesigned in 2006, the new Sedona is sleeker, shinier and considerably cooler than its predecessors, so much so that it might be the best-looking thing with sliding doors.

Engineered to impress, the Sedona doesn’t have to rely on low, low monthly payments anymore.

Kia specified plenty of high-strength steel. Along with structural adhesives and large-diameter welds, torsional stiffness is now 36 per cent higher than any competing van. It’s quieter than the Sienna and Odyssey, although Chrysler’s Town & Country still may be the librarian’s choice.

The Sedona is a couple of centimetres longer now and rides on a wheelbase stretched almost 4 cm. More space between the axles ought to yield additional passenger space, but while there’s more legroom for middle-row occupants, the third row and cargo area appear to be a little pinched.

The well that swallows the split-folding third-row bench is smaller than those of the Odysienna. Blame the Sedona¹s tapered profile. Lithe design comes at a price, that being less space in back, especially when equipped with the headroom-stealing dual sunroofs.

Being seasoned minivan owners, we took the Sedona for a 5,000-km test drive to Daytona Beach. Despite the proliferation of cheap flights from nearby U.S. airports, our family still makes the trip the old-fashioned way: a two-day marathon fueled by stale coffee and dry granola bars. We fled Toronto on a rainy Saturday morning. We crossed the border with relative ease and soon joined the I-79 at Erie, Pennsylvania, and steered our van southward.

Kia had given us a Sedona in full-zoot SXL+ trim, which included leather upholstery, second-row lounge chairs and a bevy of electronic driving aids, including surround-view cameras, lane minder and smart cruise control.

The Sedona felt weighty and immensely solid in my hands; expansion joints were a distant thrum under the 19-inch Continentals. With the multi-link rear suspension soaking up everything in stride, no road imperfections could unsettle this van.

The cockpit is wide and you sit in nicely bolstered seats, ensconced in leather and warmed by two sunroofs in the SXL. The instrument display is crisp, but Kia likes placing buttons in uniform rows, which doesn’t seem very intuitive. The climate controls baffled me throughout our journey.

Another peeve is the fixed console between the front seats. In the old days, the space was unobstructed, which allowed easy passage to the rear seats where mom could mete out justice with severe prejudice. Newer vans offer flexible consoles and trays that can be removed as required.

Not so the Sedona. Its console is permanently fixed, although it makes a nice home for the gear selector and useful cubbies. And the console can cool drinks, too.

South of Pittsburgh the topography gets lumpy as the road rises to meet the weatherworn Appalachians of West Virginia. Surprisingly the speed limit rises too, allowing us to legally breach the slopes at 70 mph (112 km/h).

The Sedona is up for the challenge with its direct-injected 3.3-L DOHC V6, a smallish motor that puts out a robust 276 hp and 248 lb.-ft. of torque. It works through a conventional six-speed automatic transmission that provides silky gear changes. The engine is scarcely turning 2100 rpm at 120 km/h, which adds to the serenity.

The loping motor makes for decent fuel economy on the highway, averaging 10.2 L/100 km (28 mpg) during our trip at supra-legal speeds. City driving proves less frugal; expect around 14.5 L/100 km (20 mpg). In comparison, an Odyssey we drove previously along the same route averaged 31 mpg, thanks in part to its cylinder deactivation system.

We divide our Florida d