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.
2002 Kia Sedona
As compared to Honda Odyssey or other models that require premium fuel to avoid knocking, this minivan runs on cheaper regular gas. Expect about 15 mpg in town, 20 mpg on the highway in Sedona, which is about average for the segment.
Sedona's cabin is built for family travel, with convenience features including beyond-average stowage space, comfortable seating and thoughtful, attractive lighting. Even the most harried soccer moms and dads will appreciate the standard eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, and rear cabin passengers can adjust forward or backward, recline or remove seats altogether.
Drivers and front row passengers have access to an overhead console, storage box on the instrument panel, two gloveboxes and a lockable bin under the shotgun seat. The aft cabin holds two rows of seats (constructed to be easily removable) and a 21.8 cubic-foot cargo space (larger than Grand Caravan). And, of course, a minivan these days wouldn't be complete without cupholders — the Sedona comes with eight.
Standard front airbags, height-adjustable seat belts and a latch system for child safety seat installation attend to safety. Kia includes a first aid kit on every Sedona, but side-impact airbags are neither standard nor optional.
In the entertainment department, Sedona comes with an AM/FM six-speaker stereo system, while the EX uplevel trim adds a CD player and two additional tweeters to the system. This van may not have the Chevy Venture's built-in DVD system, but it can accommodate technology addicts through three power points placed throughout the interior that allow passengers to plug in laptops, video systems or mini-TVs.
Additional interior conveniences include map lighting and reading lights overhead in the front and above each rear seat row, dual air conditioning for driver and passengers and power windows, mirrors and locks. Most models in this segment offer some combination of these features, but Sedona offers them all standard, on both trim levels.
The EX trim level also includes some quirky additions like a fold-away table with cupholders for long-haul dining, but the options list is short. Power tilt/slide moonroof, leather seating and the Homelink programmable garage door opener are some of the only non-standard features available on any Sedona.
2002 Kia Sedona
Carrying on the tradition of minivans that mimic sedans in handling and road manners, the Sedona is built on a platform that includes independent front suspension and five-link rear suspension, both supported by anti-roll bars. Rack-and pinion steering offers a crisp feel on the road. A power-assist front-disc, rear-drum brake configuration is adequate for safe stopping, but anti-lock brakes are available only as an option on both trim levels. We found it comfortable and competent in its ride and drive.
On the whole, Sedona offers a compelling package of convenience, power and value for the price. The latest in a short but notable line of bargain-basement-priced Kia vehicles with upmarket features and styling, this 2002 minivan will be a great option for young families with limited budgets but infinite transportation needs, but for others, as well.
Just as the minivan became the ultimate sign of suburban success in America in the 1980s, Kia now considers its new minivan to be the ultimate test for American success. In the current belt-tightening economic climate, Sedona just might be Kia's great hope for the future.
2002 Kia Sedona
Base price: $18,995
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Transmission: Five speed electronically controlled automatic with overdrive, front-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 114.6 in
Length: 194.1 in
Width: 74.6 in./1895 mm
Height: 69.3 in
Curb weight: 4,709 lbs
Fuel economy (city/hwy): 15/20 mpg
Safety equipment: Front airbags, side-door impact beams, child seat tether
anchors, side sliding door safety locks, first aid kit
Major standard equipment: Dual air conditioning, dual sliding side doors, AM/FM stereo, power windows/locks/mirrors
Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles