Budget is the name of the game with the Kia Sedona. The third generation of Kia’s minivan offering arrived for 2015, so it’s relatively new compared with older vans, like the Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest. But youth doesn’t guarantee a superior product, and rival vans offer better ride quality and, in some cases, unique features not offered on the Sedona.
So what does this van offer? In addition to looking less like a minivan and more like an SUV, it offers the best bang-for-your-buck proposition. In base form the Sedona costs less than the competition, and top tier trims of the Sedona undercut their similarly equipped counterparts. The Sedona also has some tricks up its sleeve, in the form of unique seating options and an impressively convenient Smart Tailgate.
So how much does budget mean to you? Is it enough of a dealmaker to get past the Sedona’s shortcomings? Read on to see if the Kia Sedona is the best minivan for your family.
2016 Kia Sedona Fast Facts
Seating: 7-passenger standard, 8-passenger optional
• SUV-like styling
• Smooth Ride on Long Trips
• Least expensive minivan
• Quiet Cabin
• Luxurious second-row captains chairs
• Foldaway arrangement
• Simple and easy-to-use infotainment
• Hands-free (and feet-free) Smart Liftgate
• IIHS Top Safety Pick
• Newer competition
• Heavy curb weight hurts MPG
• No AWD option
• Around-town ride quality suffers
• Marginal highway acceleration
Dealmakers: Kia Sedona’s Top Lifestyle Features
The Sedona is not without its faults, but it brings a lot to the table. In addition to some family-friendly options, the Sedona has more muscular styling than you might expect in the minivan market. It also has an infotainment system that is refreshingly easy to use.
Dealmaker: SUV-Like Styling
If you are coming out of a truck or SUV into your first minivan, it can be a bit of a crisis of personality. You might feel that you are giving up the autonomy of your youth. Well, Kia softens the blow with the SUV-inspired styling of the Sedona. Other entrants like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna try to incorporate car-like elements to their respective designs, and the results are sometimes mixed.
Kia intentionally brought brawny, squared-off styling to the Sedona, complementing the upright seating position and large proportions.
Dealmaker: Least Expensive Minivan Option
With a starting price of $26,400, the Kia Sedona is the most affordable minivan in the segment. It comes with Bluetooth connectivity, backup camera, remote keyless entry, dual glove boxes, conversation mirror, Slide-N-Stow second row seats, and a lot more. Compare that with the Toyota Sienna ($29,750), Honda Odyssey ($29,550), and Chrysler Pacifica ($28,595), and you start to see just how much the Sedona undercuts the competition. Only the Nissan Quest comes close in base price ($26,580), but the Sedona is a more complete van, and as you go up in trims on the Quest, the price climbs quickly.
A range-topping SXL trim with the available technology package comes in at $43,595. A fully loaded Toyota Sienna costs around $47,000; same goes for the Honda Odyssey. And an optioned-up Chrysler Pacifica will set you back $48,000. Granted, these vehicles offer some unique features not offered on the Sedona, like vacuums and seating that folds into the floor. But a Sedona with every option checked has all the creature comforts you might expect, like leather, heated seating, rear-seat entertainment system, navigation system, and advanced collision avoidance technologies. With a fully loaded Sedona, you’ll want for very little, and you’re paying less than the competition.
Dealmaker: Fold-Forward Seating and Ample Cargo Space
The Sedona comes standard with Slide-N-Stow seating for taking advantage of the total available cargo space. The second row seats can fold in on themselves, and then slide up toward the front row. The third row can fold back into the rear floor. With all seats up, you get 33.9 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the third row into the floor, and that number climbs to 78.4 cubic feet. With the third row folded away and the second row flipped up, the Sedona provides 142.0 cubic feet of total cargo space. As we’ll see later, there are some downsides to the Sedona’s seating sytem, but the Sedona has more total cargo space than the Nissan Quest and Chrysler Pacifica.
Dealmaker: Luxury Second-Row Captain’s Chairs
One of the many items found on the range-topping SXL trim is the second-row lounge seating. These second-row captain’s chairs not only recline, but have leg rests that deploy, like your recliner at home. Wrapped in leather, the seats recline up to 11 inches and can slide back 3.3 inches for added legroom. For long road trips, that sort of comfort is hard to beat.
Dealmaker: Kid-Watching Conversation Mirror
Kids often think parent have eyes in the back of their head. With the standard conversation mirror, you can help foster that myth. This simple, wide-angled mirror deploys from the overhead console, giving front-seat passengers a clear view of what’s going on in the second and third rows of the Sedona. If you’re taking half the team to practice, this is a great way to keep tabs on everyone without turning around.
Dealmaker: Super-Easy Infotainment
Kia’s available UVO infotainment is among the best and easiest to use in the industry. From the standard Bluetooth hands-free connectivity to the touch-screen functionality on LX-and-up trims, we were pleased with how simple the system is to use. It features a smartphone-like layout, and has Siri EyesFree support for iPhone users. There are also available enhanced services, like the ability to find your car in a garage on your smartphone, or plan trips on your computer at home and port it into the system. There is also Yelp and Google search functionality built into the navigation system to help find everything you need while on the road. The gold standard for ease-of-use is Chrysler’s Uconnect system, but the UVO is a close second, and well ahead of the frustrating infotainment tech in the Honda Odyssey.
Dealmaker: Chilled Glove Box
Standard on the EX, SX, and SXL trims and optional on the LX trim, the glove box features a small, adjustable vent. It pumps cold air in off the air-conditioning and, according to owners, keeps items pretty cold. The general consensus of surprise: “It works!” The glove box layout also lends itself to laying down a row of soda cans. It’s not a massive compartment (shown in the video above on the Kia Rio), but if it’s a hot day and you need to keep an item cool during tailgate or even if you’re running errands, this box will get it done.
And if you’re wondering where to put the owner’s manual when you’re trying to keep soda cold, the Sedona comes standard with dual glove boxes.
Dealmaker: Hands-Free (and Feet-Free) Power Rear Liftgate
Hands-free liftgates are becoming a popular convenience option around the industry. You’ve probably seen the ads, where someone with an arm full of stuff walks up to the back of the car and waves their foot under the rear bumper, and the liftgate magically deploys. Kia takes things a step further with its Smart Liftgate, standard on EX, SX, and SXL trims.
Rather than precariously balancing on one leg with your arms full of groceries, as you try to wave your other leg under the bumper, you simply need to be near the back of the Sedona. If the key fob is in your pocket or purse, simply walk to within one foot of the liftgate for three seconds, and the power liftgate deploys. You can also adjust the height to which the liftgate deploys. The Smart Liftgate is an evolution and improvement of an already clever innovation.
Dealbreakers: Kia Sedona’s Worst Lifestyle Features
The Sedona’s shortcomings come down to refinement. Not so much the refinement that you can perceive in the cabin, which is quiet and comfortable. Rather, the mechanical tuning isn’t up to snuff. The handling and ride quality excels in some areas but falters in others. This generation of the Sedona is a quantum leap from where Kia’s minivan was before, so there is some fine tuning still to be expected.
Dealbreaker: Cannot Remove or Completely Stow Rear Seats
The Slide-N-Stow seats are a clever way to make the most of the Sedona’s space, but it comes at a cost. The second row seats are not removable. That means you can’t take full advantage of the entire load floor of the van, the way you can with the Pacifica, Sienna, or Odyssey. The second-row seats fold up toward the front seats, and there they stay. This is a big problem if you use your minivan to, say, go to the hardware store and come home with large planks of wood for home improvement.
So they don’t fold into the floor, like the Pacifica’s Stow & Go seating, and more importantly, you can’t take them out. Technically you can remove them with tools and many steps, but it’s not the same easy-out you get with rivals.
Dealbreaker: Bad Fuel Economy
The Sedona has one of the highest curb weights in the class, despite having smaller dimensions than the Pacifica and Sienna. As such, the Sedona is not the fuel economy champion among the minivan set. Its fuel economy across the lineup is 18/24/20 MPG (city/highway/combined). Those numbers fall behind the Chrysler Pacifica (18/28/22), Nissan Quest (20/27/22), and Honda Odyssey (19/27/22). Don’t forget that a hybrid version of the Pacifica is on the way, which will immediately blow away the competition. If fuel economy is a priority, the Sedona isn’t the top dog.
Dealbreaker: No All-Wheel Drive
The only minivan with fuel economy as low as the Sedona is the Toyota Sienna, and that has a lot to do with the fact it is offered with all-wheel drive. The Sedona is only offered with front-wheel drive, and with the help of electronic stability control, it will be fine in a lot of climates. But if you live in an area that routinely gets a lot of snow, you may want to consider the traction advantages of the AWD Toyota Sienna. If you land on a Sedona and live in a snow-heavy region, consider winter tires.
Dealbreaker: Newer Rival Minivans
The third generation of the Kia Sedona arrived in 2014, with an all new design any many of the Dealmaker features discussed above. But Chrysler stole the show this year with the all-new Pacifica, offering a whole host of features that you won’t find on the Sedona, like Stow & Go seating, a built-in vacuum, and a networked seat-back entertainment system so the kids can play game against each other. Even the Honda Odyssey, which was new in 2011, received a considerable update in 2014 and has features like a vacuum and a second row that you can actually remove. The Sedona owns the budget game, but for the top end of the lineup, the competition has it in spades.
Dealmaker: Tall on Features, Short on Price
Buyers come to expect a lot out of a new minivan in 2016, and despite the Sedona’s shortcomings, it offers a lot for its low base price. As you’ll see, it has a long list of standard features, and yet undercuts rival minivans by thousands.
L: (MSRP: $26,400) 17-inch alloy wheels, LED turn signals integrated into side mirrors, 4.3-inch touch screen audio system control, Bluetooth hands-free smartphone connectivity, USB/auxiliary inputs, backup camera, remote keyless entry, dual glove boxes, conversation mirror, Slide-N-Stow second row seats, 50/50 split-fold rear seats that stow away into the floor.
LX: (MSRP $28,500, includes everything from L, plus) Power folding side mirrors, tinted rear and side windows, integrated roof rails, 8-way power driver’s seat, 3-passenger second row (boosts seating capacity to 8).
EX: (MSRP $32,700, includes everything from LX, plus) Heated side mirrors, Solar-Control windows (reduces heat buildup), power liftgate with “hands-free/feet-free” auto-open, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, UVO eServices connectivity, two additional USB ports, backup sensor system, push-button start, tri-zone climate control, integrated 2nd and 3rd row sunshades, leather seating, heated front seats.
SX: (MSRP $26,400, includes everything from EX, plus) Infiniti premium sound system, voice-command navigation w/ 8-inch touch screen inc. SiriusXM Traffic, 115-volt wall-style outlet in center console, blind-spot detection system, rear cross-traffic alert, 8-way power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated second row seats.
SXL: (MSRP $39,900, includes everything from SX, plus) Dual power sunroof, projector beam fog lights, 19-inch alloy wheels, front/rear parking sensors, upgraded premium Nappa leather seating, second-row lounge seating, heated steering wheel.
Dealbreaker: Mixed Results on the Road
Driving impressions on the Sedona have been perplexingly split, depending on whom you ask. Reviews range from extremely positive, to quite negative. Its handling has been described as both confident and clumsy. Upon further digging, it appears how and where you drive affects this opinion, and while the Sedona inspires confidence in certain driving scenarios, others leave this van feeling precarious.
Handling: Rough Around Town, Soft on the Open Road
There is a lot of help from the power steering, which does not always translate into good handling. According to Car and Driver, “The steering is light and the van is remarkably maneuverable thanks to the 36.8-foot turning circle.” But U.S. News & World Report says, “The Sedona handles corners poorly, even for a minivan.”
The ride quality varies depending on where you are driving. Around town, the Sedona has a somewhat bumpy ride that becomes more noticeable from the rear seats. As you get on the highway, this smooths out, and the Sedona becomes a much better cruiser at high speeds.
Drivetrain: A Sprinter Rather Than a Long Distance Runner
Getting up to those highway speeds it a bit of an issue, though. Around town, the V6 does a solid job getting the Sedona up to speed. As KBB.com puts it, “There’s no hesitation in the engine’s throttle response, and the operation of the minivan’s 6-speed automatic transmission is generally seamless.” But when you need to get up to highway speed or make a pass in the fast lane, things start to falter. Highway acceleration is not as swift as one might think when compared to how well it moves around town.
So you have a strange combination of attributes. Around town, acceleration is strong, but ride quality is marginal, and on the highway, the ride quality is terrific, but acceleration suffers. Depending on how and where you drive, these inconsistencies could either play a small role or be a big issue.
• Engine: 3.3-liter V6
• Output: 276 horsepower / 248 lb.-ft. of torque
• Transmission: 6-speed automatic
• Drivetrain: FWD
• 0-60 MPH: 7.4 sec
• Towing: 3,500 lbs.
• Fuel economy: 18/24/20 MPG (city/highway/combined)
Dealmaker: One of the Safest Minivans
There are two major safety organizations that test road cars and publish scores. They are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). NHTSA scores vehicles out of five stars, while the IIHS scores on a scale of Poor, Marginal, Acceptable, and Good. Additionally, the IIHS offers “Top Safety Pick” recommendations, as well as “Top Safety Pick +” for vehicles with advanced crash avoidance and mitigation features.
Crash Test Safety: Tied Among the Best
NHTSA Crash Test Data
|Minivan||NHTSA Overall Rating|
|Honda Odyssey||5/5 Stars|
|Kia Sedona||5/5 Stars|
|Toyota Sienna||5/5 Stars|
|Chrysler Pacifica||Not Rated|
|Nissan Quest||Not Rated|
The Sedona is tied for the best in NHTSA crash testing earns five stars for frontal and side crash ratings from NHTSA. It scores four out of five stars for rollover testing, but its still good enough to earn a five-star overall rating from NHTSA. The Kia Sedona and Honda Odyssey are the only two other minivans that can claim this. The Nissan Quest and Chrysler Pacifica have not been tested by NHTSA at this time.
IIHS Testing Awards
|Chrysler Pacifica||Top Safety Pick+|
|Honda Odyssey||Top Safety Pick|
|Kia Sedona||Top Safety Pick|
In IIHS crash testing, the Sedona does even better, earning the best score of Good in all phases of crash testing, including moderate front overlap, small front overlap, side impact, rear impact, and roof strength crash testing. This cemented its Top Safety Pick recommendation from the IIHS. The Odyssey is also a Top Safety Pick, while the all-new Chrysler Pacifica is a Top Safety Pick+. The Pacifica gets the added “+” because its forward collision system also incorporates autonomous braking if the driver does not respond. The available forward collision warning system on the Sedona warns, but does not automatically brake.
The autonomous braking functionality is coming to the Sedona for the 2017 model year. You can expect the IIHS ratings to reflect this, and the 2017 Sedona will likely be named a Top Safety Pick+
The Sedona comes standard with a full array of front and side impact airbags, side curtain airbags, rollover mitigation, stability control, traction control, cornering brake control, hill-start assit (rollback prevention), backup camera, tire pressure monitoring system, side impact door beams, front and rear crumple zones, and the LATCH child seat anchoring system.
Safety Tech: Elite Technology, but Only for the Elite
The Sedona EX is available with a Premium package that includes a blind-spot monitoring system, and rear-cross traffic alert, which warns you when backing out of a driveway or parking spot of oncoming traffic.
The SX and SXL both have an available Technology Package which incorporates high-tech safety gear such as forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree surround-view camera system, and automatic high beams.
You can’t get this package on the L, LX, or EX trims. The LX can be optioned out with front/rear parking sensors, but if safety is your priority and are on a tight budget, Kia doesn’t offer its high-tech safety gear on its low-cost trims. The best argument for the Sedona is that its overall lower price means you can get an uprated trim with the safety gear of the Technology Package at a lower price than you could on the Sienna or Odyssey.
Reliability: About Average
In J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey, the Sedona earned a middle-of-the road overall score, with a 3/5 overall rating. Its overall mechanical quality is a 3/5, while the powertrain’s mechanical quality is 4/5. Certain interior design and quality scores are only 2/5. In short, the reliability of the Sedona is middling-to-OK. With these results in mind, the Sedona’s five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty should offer some peace of mind.
Tiebreakers: Comparing the Kia Sedona to the Competition
The Sedona’s ace-in-the-hole is its price. It’s the most affordable option in the market, but as you move upmarket, you can get a Sedona loaded up with many of the high-end features offered on the competition, but at a lower price. But you can’t get everything, and if you are interested in features like built-in vacuums, second rows that completely fold away or are removable, or all-wheel drive, you’ll find the Sedona lacking. So how much does price come into play?
Toyota Sienna (MSRP $29,750-$47,310)
The Sienna is one of the most popular options in the minivan market.
Sienna vs. Sedona:
• Offers AWD (Sedona doesn’t)
• The Sienna’s second row seats are removable (Sedona’s aren’t)
• Largest cargo area in class (150 cubic ft. vs. Sedona’s 140 cubic ft.)
Learn more about the Toyota Sienna here.
Chrysler Pacifica (MSRP $28,595-$42,495)
Replacing the dated Town & Country, the Pacifica has sharp new styling. While the outgoing Town & Country was the bargain basement option, the Pacifica is more expensive, but is also more competent.
Pacifica vs. Sedona:
• Seating stows into floor (Sedona’s slide but don’t stow)
• More fuel efficient than Sedona
• Available vacuum and networked seat-back touch screens with games
Learn more about the Chrysler Pacifica here.
Honda Odyssey (MSRP $29,550-$45,025)
Like the Sienna, the Odyssey is one of the cornerstones of the minivan market. It has a reputation for a high-quality interior that borders on the luxurious. It can be optioned with features such as a built-in vacuum, but its control layout up front can be a bit frustrating.
Odyssey vs. Sedona:
• Available with a built-in vacuum
• Superior ride and handling quality
• Second row is heavy, but is removable
Learn more about the Honda Odyssey here.
Nissan Quest (MSRP $26,580-$43,230)
Positioned as the upscale option, the Quest features a high-end interior, with standard push-button start and available leather seating that is incredibly soft. But it has fewer seats than other options in the class, and those seats can be neither be removed nor folded into the floor. At least the Sedona’s fold forward, providing more access to the load floor. As a result, the Quest has far and away the least cargo space. This is a minivan for carting adults around.
Quest vs. Sedona:
• Far less cargo space than Sedona
• Inflexible seating configuration
• Luxurious leather available
Learn more about the Nissan Quest here.
Should I Buy a Kia Sedona?
The decision to buy a Kia Sedona all comes down to budget. From a comfort and ride-quality standpoint, there are more complete vans in the market. The Sienna and Odyssey have smooth rides and quality interior, and the Pacifica beats both of them in both categories. These rivals also offer some unique features that you won’t even find on the Sedona, such as a built-in vacuum, Stow & Go seating, an intercom with the rear seats, removable second row, and autonomous braking. Though if you hold out for the 2017 Sedona, autonomous braking will become available.
Each van in the market offers unique features. There are some you can expect from every van when fully loaded. This includes leather seating, heated front and second row seats, cooled front seats, navigation, dual moonroofs, rear seat entertainment system, and various levels of safety technology.
But with the Kia Sedona, you can get all these for less money than the competition.
So Which to Buy?
• If you’re on a tight budget: Kia Sedona
• If you require easily stowable seats: Chrysler Pacifica
• If you want the latest safety and infotainment tech: Chrysler Pacifica
• If you must have AWD: Toyota Sienna
• If you want Autonomous Braking and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto: Wait for 2017 Sedona
Dealmakers vs. Dealbreakers Final Tally
Dealmaker: Smooth ride on highways/long trips
Dealmaker: SUV-like appearance
Dealmaker: Least expensive minivan
Dealmaker: Quiet cabin
Dealmaker: Hands-free/feet-free Smart Lifgate
Dealmaker: Luxury second-row captains chairs
Dealmaker: Easy-to-use infotainment
Dealmaker: IIHS Top Safety Pick
Dealbreaker: Heavy, poor fuel economy numbers
Dealbreaker: No AWD
Dealbreaker: Second row not removable
Dealbreaker: Rough handling around town
Dealbreaker: Newer options in minivan market
Tossup: Mixed acceleration results
Final Tally: +3.5
Market Average: +3.8
Not only does the Sedona win out on base pricing, but if you check all the upgrade boxes, the Sedona beats similarly equipped rivals. The minivan market has entered a new space race of bringing unique, thoughtful, family-friendly features to the market. The result has been a new barrage of gear that never existed in the market years ago. But with the Sedona, you can check off all the luxury and technology boxes for less. And it has its fair share of unique features, like the hands-free/feet-free power liftgate.
Some rivals might have a better ride quality and handling, but if you’re trying to spend the least to check off the most options boxes, the Sedona is the perfect low-budget/high-content minivan option.