By Derek Price
That explains why the new-for-2015 Kia Sedona gets a crossover-like nose and why Kia’s spokespeople are loathe to call it a minivan. They prefer the term “multi-purpose vehicle,” as if they’re fooling us into thinking it’s really a Hummer with sliding doors.
Whatever. The Sedona is still a minivan, and a great one at that.
While the Sedona’s heavy makeover places a big emphasis on styling, making it more in tune with the times and perhaps the best-looking van on the market, the changes are more than skin deep. Several innovations in the cabin, an overall air of quality and value-oriented pricing make it a great alternative to the Japanese vans from Honda and Toyota that are dominating the market right now.
Let’s start with the seats, a frequent source of bragging rights in this segment.
Kia has developed an ingenious way of folding the middle-row seats out of the way when you want to haul cargo. Instead of making you remove the bulky, cumbersome seats like most vans do, or folding them into wells in the floor like Chrysler’s products, the bucket seats in the Sedona will slide forward and lift up to stow tightly against the front seats.
And on its high-end lines, you can opt for “First Class” seating on the second row that leans back and lets you prop your feet up like a living-room recliner. It felt weirdly similar to the back seat of the new Rolls-Royce Ghost I rode in a few weeks ago.
Yes, I just compared a Kia to a Rolls. What’s the car world coming to?
In any case, Kia has been on the upswing for a long time — along with its South Korean cousin, Hyundai — and the beautifully redesigned Sedona is just the latest home run from this brand.
It feels as sturdily built and drives with the same poise as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, both of which are priced a few thousand dollars more than the comparable Sedona at the top and bottom ends of the equipment spectrum. It starts at $25,900 for the base L model and ranges up to $39,700 for the luxurious SX Limited with Nappa leather seats.
On the same day I drove the Sedona, Kia also handed me the keys to the all-new electric version of the Soul, called the Soul EV.
And it’s the best all-electric car I’ve ever driven.
Admittedly, that’s like saying it has the straightest teeth in England. Most electric cars aren’t that great, since they drive more like oversized bicycles than actual automobiles. This one, though, felt like a real car — powerful, solid and substantial.
Range is estimated at 93 miles, making it ideal for people who do a lot of city driving. It can be charged to 80 percent within 33 minutes using a high-output fast charger or five hours using a 240-volt outlet.
It has the spunky style and fun, lovable driving spirit of the gas-powered Soul, but it doesn’t burn a drop of gasoline.
Pricing starts at $26,200 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. Initially available only in California, the Soul EV is expected to be rolled out in more markets over time.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2015 Kia Sedona. Base price: $25,900
Wheelbase: 120.5 in.
Length: 201.4 in.
Width: 89.3 in.
Height: 69.1 in.
Engine: 3.3-liter V6 (276 horsepower, 248 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 18 city, 24 highway
2015 Kia Sedona
Why buy it?
The new Sedona has handsome, crossover-like styling, innovative storage solutions and a quality feel. It’s a value-oriented alternative to Honda and Toyota minivans.