2004 Kia Sedona Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
A great value, now with DVD entertainment.
Kia Sedona offers a good value for big families that don't want to break the budget on a minivan. The Sedona is bigger than a Dodge Caravan and comes loaded with popular features, yet it costs about $4,500 less than other comparably equipped minivans.
Though relatively inexpensive, the Sedona is among the few minivans that have earned the Federal government's top five-star crash rating for both driver and front-seat passenger in a front impact, and for all front and rear-seat occupants in side-impact tests, an important consideration in a family vehicle.
Sedona drives well, too, with a responsive V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Its ride and handling are easy and smooth. The main difference is in the quality of the door handles and some of the interior finishes, and that's not much of a trade-off for $4,500.
For 2004, the Sedona offers an optional DVD entertainment system at both LX and EX trim levels.
Kia Sedona is available in two trim levels, LX ($19,975) and EX ($22,085). Both models are powered by a big 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. They provide seven-passenger seating and come standard with sliding doors on both sides.
LX is equipped well, even without options. Standard equipment includes front and rear air conditioning, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, power mirrors, power front windows, cruise control, an overhead console with storage, electric windshield de-icer, rear window defroster and wiper/washer, sophisticated interior lighting, three 12-volt power outlets, eight-way manually adjustable driver's seat, tilt steering column, a folding center tray table, even floor mats.
EX adds remote keyless entry, chrome exterior trim, fog lights, woodgrain interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a luggage rack, heated mirrors, power rear quarter windows, power seats for driver and passenger, second-row captain's chairs in place of the standard two-seat bench, a trip computer, alloy wheels, and an eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo.
Options include anti-lock brakes ($595), a roof rack for the LX ($200), and a trailer hitch ($350). A Leather Package ($850) and power tilt-and-slide glass sunroof ($700) are available for the EX. A DVD entertainment system is being added to the options list for 2004.
In terms of size, the Kia Sedona fits between the long vans, such as the Dodge Grand Caravan and Honda Odyssey, and the shorter vans such as the Caravan and Mazda MPV. Specifically, the Sedona measures 194 inches long and rides on a 114.6-inch wheelbase.
Overall, the Kia Sedona is an attractive vehicle. Kia's product planners in America worked with Kia's engineers and designers in South Korea to come up with a traditional minivan design. A minivan needs to look like a minivan, they said. Sedona styling cues include a bold grille (made somewhat bolder for '04), big headlamps, and a body-colored roof rack (on the EX). Two-tone bodyside cladding is standard on EX models, along with brightwork around the rear. Wheel designs for both models are new for 2004.
The outside door handles are easy to grab, and we like the design, but the finish is not up to par; their inside edges do not convey a sense of quality.
The rear hatch is easy to open. Pull on the lever and it raises itself up and out of the way. Anyone less than six feet tall can stand under the hatch without worrying about banging his or her head on it. Closing it takes a little effort, however, so you'll probably need both hands.
Living with the Sedona is convenient and comfortable. Visibility from the driver's seat is excellent. The view through the rearview mirror is hindered somewhat by the headrests, but there's a clear view down the middle. Big power side mirrors offer a good view rearward.
All seating positions are roomy and comfortable. The cloth seats in the LX are supportive, with a manually adjustable lumbar support, and the steering wheel is comfortable. The seat fabric feels like mouse fur, and may be a bit warm in the summer. Better are the EX model's optional leather-covered seats, which are firm and offer power lumbar adjustment. Sedona's seats seem smaller than those in a big SUV, and they suited us, though we would have preferred more side bolstering. Adjustable-height shoulder belts come standard and enhance comfort. (So make sure you use them, as seatbelts are your best defense in a crash.) The front-inside door handles are easy to find and operate, which isn't true in many SUVs.
The second row of seats is comfortable, particularly the captain's chairs in the EX. Second- and third-row seats recline, and occupants each have their own reading lights and cup holders.
Even the third row is a comfortable place for two adults, much more comfortable than the third-row seating in most sport-utility vehicles, even the big, expensive ones. There's lots of leg room and good hip room. Headroom is a little more limited, but fine for an average size adult. The rear quarter windows open manually on the LX, and electrically on the EX, where separate switches allow both the driver and the third-row passengers to control them.
Getting into and out of the third row is very easy, something that can't be said of any SUV, including the giant Suburban. To get out of the Sedona's third-row seat, simply press a foot lever, and the second-row seatback flips forward, then the whole seat automatically slides forward. Dual side doors easily slide open and closed manually. Power-operated doors are not available.
There isn't a whole lot of room for cargo behind the third row, but enough for a dozen bags of groceries, and hooks are provided on the backs of the third-row seats to help keep plastic grocery bags in place. To make room for more cargo, the third row flips forward, then tumbles; but you must first remove the headrests. The third-row seats can be removed, but they are heavy and cumbersome to carry, like those in many other minivans. The Kia's seats have grab handles, but the seatback doesn't stay locked down, making the whole package awkward to handle. The second-row seats are easy to latch in or out and, like the rearmost seats, are mounted on rollers. But like most minivan or SUV seats, when it comes time to lift them, they are still heavy and awkward.
Sedona's transmission lever comes out of the dash. A somewhat similar design is used for the Toyota Sienna and Lexus RX330. Odd at first glance, this design takes up less room and opens up some floor space between the front seats, a good spot for tote bags, purses, or a couple of sacks of groceries. This may help you reduce the number of items rolling around in the passenger-side footwell. And with the second-row captain's chairs in the EX, there's a nice aisle through the first and second rows for carrying long items.
Interior switchgear is functional, but not elegant to the touch. It does not impart a feeling of quality. Buttons for cruise control, rear defrost, and the audio system are mounted high for accessibility. But the buttons are small and fussy and lack sufficient tactile feedback.
Nice details include visor extensions for early morning or late afternoon driving. Two glove boxes provide storage, along with a compartment on top of the dash. The 2004 Sedona provides 10 cup holders for your drinking pleasure. For 2004, a folding tray table is standard on both models.
The Kia Sedona is an enjoyable vehicle to drive. Kia tuned its 3.5-liter V6 more for torque than horsepower, and peak torque comes at just 3500 rpm. Torque is that force that propels you away from intersections and up hills. By concentrating more of the power at lower rpm, the Sedona accelerates quickly off the line and offers good response around town. It's a good engine, at least as smooth as the V6 engines found in American minivans.
A five-speed automatic transmission, once a feature found only on expensive luxury cars, enhances the Sedona's responsive performance in all situations. It's also smooth. With five gears to choose from, it is able to keep the engine running at the best speed for all types of situations. Fifth gear is an overdrive for improved fuel economy on the highway.
Sedona rides well. It's smooth over road undulations. It handles well, the steering is tight, and it feels stable at high speeds. The headlamp/foglamp combination throws a decent beam.
Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are optional and help bring the Sedona to an undramatic stop even when pushed to the limit. We recommend ordering ABS because it helps the driver maintain steering control in an emergency braking maneuver: Mash down on the brake pedal hard, do not relax your foot off the pedal when you feel the ABS pulsing, and remember to steer around obstacles.
The Kia Sedona offers an outstanding value when compared with other minivans. As for quality, only time will tell. In the meantime, the Sedona guarantees much lower monthly payments, a responsive V6, an impressive list of features, and one of the best warranties in the business. Now it has DVD entertainment and 10 cup holders.
Kia Sedona LX ($19,975); EX ($22,085).
Hwasung, South Korea.
Options As Tested
Leather Package ($850); power sunroof ($700); ABS ($595).
Kia Sedona EX ($22,085).
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