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2015 Sedona SX Limited

2015 Kia Sedona

DANA POINT, Calif., – Many automakers have tried but not one has succeeded in changing the driving public’s perception of minivans. They are considered dowdy vehicles for people who are laden with kids and have no lives of their own.

Minivans are thought to be the lone vehicle that people buy not because they want to but because they need to after having a second child. To this ominous perception Kia introduces its 2015 Sedona minivan, eh; make that their multipurpose vehicle or MPV.

But it’ll take more than a change of tagline to alter the perception of the segment in general and create some excitement around the Sedona in particular. Kia just might be able to pull it off. We saw one of the two things it needs to get the job done.

The first is innovative product. The 2015 Kia Sedona was equipped with some stuff that really could inspire excitement. There was power. With a 3.3-liter direct injection V6 engine that made 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.

That oomph let our test vehicle handle the hills as well as the long upward swells of the local roads here without really working hard. The six-speed automatic shifted smoothly and decisively.

The 3.3-liter V6 is the lone powerplant. It had an EPA rating of 17 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined.

There was some truly innovative seating in the second row depending on the trim line. What Kia called Slide-N-Stow was second row track seating that slid forward and folded upright for storage. Third row seats folded flat into the floor.

Then, there was “First Class” lounge seating. The second row seats could be moved back providing extra leg room. They had retractable lower leg rests, like a lounge chair, and winged headrest much like first class airline seats on international flights. Some second row seats, depending on the trim line, were heated. What’s more, some second row seats were adjustable side-to-side.

Kia’s 2015 Sedona that went on sale in late October comes in five trim lines. The L starts at $25,900, base price for the LX is $28,100, the EX is $32,100, the SX is $36,100 and the SX Limited is $39,700. These prices do not include Kia’s $895 shipping charge for the Sedona.

But the real innovation with the 2015 Kia Sedona is felt not in the second row it is in the first row; specifically, from the driver’s seat. Kia dumped the gear shifter from the column and it eschewed putting it in one of those piers that juts out from the center stack. In fact, the automaker has done away with the center stack altogether.

The 2015 Sedona’s interior feels like that of a midsize sedan. Instruments were laid out horizontally, the gear shifter was in the newly installed center console, heck, and our top of the line SXL even had a dead pedal that was really comfortable.

It was easy to forget that we were driving a minivan, eh, MPV. The new Sedona had a Macpherson struts, coil springs and a roll bar front suspension. The rear suspension was a multilink setup with struts and coil springs. And surprise, surprise, steering was not electric power; it was rack and pinion with hydraulic power assist.

We kept calling the Sedona a car, that’s how it drove. It was nimble and maneuverable with a turning radius of 36.8 ft. Our test Kia Sedona MPV had the prerequisite stuff: satellite radio, a navigation system, backup camera, dual power sliding doors, tri-zone climate controls and more.

But there were a couple of things that stood out. It had drive-mode selection, a smart tailgate (just stand in front of it with key fob in pocket or purse and the tailgate opened) as well as front and rear park assist.

The $2,700 technology package had Xenon headlights, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, surround view monitor and smart cruise control. Our test vehicle was priced at $43,295, which is not outlandish for a well-equipped minivan or MPV or any other vehicle of this type with this equipment.

Here’s the deal. With the growing popularity of crossover vehicles, minivan sales have dropped by more than half during the last decade. However, transaction prices have increased by 17 percent. In other words, lots of profits can still be generated in this shrinking market that several automakers have chosen to ignore.

By targeting families but also people with active lifestyles, half of today’s minivan buyers don’t have kids at home; the 2015 Kia Sedona can make some headway in this market.

The brand is already the beneficiary of some of the slickest advertising and marketing in the industry. If they can pull another advertising hit, and the early ads suggest that they can, Kia can get something done with the 2015 Sedona. That’s the other shoe to getting buyers to think of the Sedona as an MPV.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.

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