SEDONA, Ariz. — In the 1980s, the world of suburban driving was changed forever by the Chrysler minivan, a now-classic solution for toting toddlers, Little League teams and groceries. In 2002, Kia, the self-nominated “little Korean car company that could,” is hoping for another minivan revolution in the form of the Sedona, a powerful, feature-laden model with pricing far lower than the gargantuan players in the niche. Starting at $18,995 and fully loaded at just over $24,000, Sedona is the culmination of a unique slow roll-out strategy in the United States market.
As the eighth Kia model to be introduced stateside, Sedona is evidence that Kia really does its homework before launching a new vehicle. On the outside, Sedona is, like a typical minivan, fairly basic in styling and construction. Built on a steel unibody frame with a 114.6-inch wheelbase (slightly longer than Dodge Caravan but shorter than the Grand Caravan), it features dual sliding doors for convenience and body-color moldings, bumpers and mirrors for a smoother, more monochromatic look than that of some competitor models.
Of note: rear doors are not powered, but Kia believes that automatic sliding-door technology is "not yet state- of- the- art. This jury remains not convinced on this quibble, although we found manually opening and closing the second-row doors a task of ease. However, during our day-long evaluation of the Sedona, we were absent infants on the hip and had no need to accrue goods beyond small quantities of southwestern trinkets.
Not just looks
This new minivan is impressive not just for its looks (we found the base LX somewhat plain and preferred the EX trim package with two-tone color, fog lights, alloy wheels and additional chrome exterior trim) but also for its drivetrain and carrying capacity. Boasting a 3.5-liter dual overhead cam V-6 with the largest displacement engine available in an import minivan, Sedona produces a respectable 195 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 218 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm, which means a lot of torque is available low in the range for safer maneuvering. Also unique is a five-speed electronically controlled transmission — the only five-speed automatic in the U.S. minivan market.