Kia Sedona First Drive, NHTSA Studies Ford, Best Pedestrian Cities: The Week In Reverse

October 11, 2014

We drive the new Kia Sedona; the Feds look into Ford power steering; hands-free calling takes another hit; and Fiat and Chrysler are getting hitched. It's the Week in Reverse, here at The Car Connection.

Can a minivan without fold-away middle seats win us over? After a drive in the new 2015 Kia Sedona, we're giving it a qualified thumbs up. The Sedona's been restyled in a handsome new vein, and it's upgraded its powertrain to the same V-6 found in the Sorento crossover. It's not fast or a brilliant handler, but the Sedona gets the driving job done. What minivan buyers care about is seating and storage--and the new Sedona has a revamped interior with slide-and-fold seats that tuck up close to boost cargo space. On some versions, the sliding seats make way for luxury airline-style seats like the ones in the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. With sliding doors, smartphone connectivity, USB and charging ports galore, and new safety options, the Sedona's now a good alternative to the Chrysler vans--at least for now, until a new Town & Country arrives next year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation of five recent Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models. The agency has collected more than 500 complaints of power-steering loss in some Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, and Mercury Milan sedans. Owners report a loss of power steering and a warning message on the dashboard, sometimes cured by a restart. Four complaints say that the loss of power steering resulted in a collision, though no injuries or fatalities have been reported. If this investigation evolves into a full recall, it will affect roughly 938,000 vehicles registered in the U.S.

Driving and talking on a hands-free phone can be just as distracting as talking on a handheld phone, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The survey put monitors on drivers and tasked them with driving and talking on a variety of systems from Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota. Drivers were graded for the level of distraction--and according to AAA, the limited-function Toyota Entune system was the least distracting for drivers. Hyundai's Blue Link and Chrysler's Uconnect system also fared well enough, with Ford's SYNC and Mercedes-Benz's COMAND system doing a bit worse. The most distracting of all was Chevrolet's MyLink, according to AAA. The big picture: distraction is a distraction, no matter what form it might take, but the study also suggests that shortcomings in voice-activated systems pose the most danger for drivers.

Are you better off walking? Liberty Mutual Insurance thinks you may be, if you live in one of the cities it deems most friendly to pedestrians. The company polled 2,500 U.S. adults and looked at traffic-incident data to rank America's 25 biggest cities according to both actual and perceived pedestrian safety. On the top of the list: Seattle, which logs fewer than 10 pedestrian deaths each year -- an amazing feat, considering that over 108,000 Seattle commuters travel by foot or mass transit. Also finishing in the top five: Boston, Washington, San Francisco, and New York.

Finally this week, it's wedding bells for Fiat and Chrysler. It's been a long time coming, so you're forgiven if you thought the two companies had already eloped to Amsterdam or London. Fiat took total control of Chrysler in January, and the newly minted, London-based company will hit the New York Stock Exchange on Monday in an initial public offering. With the union consummated, CEO Sergio Marchionne has started to make plans for an eventual exit--though with new minivans, new sport-utes, and Alfa Romeo yet to be launched, he's expected to stay through 2018.

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