BIG IT UP
If bigger is better but you can’t batter the budget, Kia’s Sedona is where the smart money goes. Andy Enright reports…
The thinking behind the old Kia Sedona was easy to grasp. If you needed a full-sized MPV, this was the cheapest. If, on the other hand, you wanted a full-sized MPV – and it’s worth considering the difference – chances are you’d buy something else. Although Kia would protest otherwise, the old car was often something of a distress purchase, bought out of necessity rather than choice. The latest model aims to change all that. If it’s to succeed, it’ll need to walk a fine line, balancing the keenest value on one side and newfound desirability on the other.
Press events usually see journalists scrambling for the keys of the most expensive variant, the pampered motor-noters wanting all of the climate controlled, leather-clad luxury they can get for the duration of their test drives. With the Kia Sedona, I decided to opt for the cheapest car of the selection available to get a better grasp of what customers really got, instead of swanking about in a model that looked as if the entire options list had been dumped into it.
What’s more, for the first hundred miles I didn’t even drive. I sat in the back. The car chosen was the entry level GS diesel, in this case fitted with an automatic gearbox. The basic car costs £15,995 with the five-speed auto tacking another £1,100 onto that figure. If you want an MPV with the latest flippy spinny seats that disappear into the floor as if conjured away by David Blaine, the Sedona emphatically is not your car. Both the middle and third rows of seats can slide on runners and it’s possible to recline them and fold them in half but that’s about the extent of the car’s party pieces. The seats can come out too, of course, raising the carrying capacity of the Sedona from 364 litres to 1,753 when the rears come out and then 3,440 litres if you convert your Kia into a sexy two-seater.
"Fit and finish is better than you’d have any reasonable right to expect in a car that costs this little"
The Sedona is a little shorter and a whole lot prettier than its predecessor, but repackaging the wheelbase means that the cabin is significantly bigger. This means that there’s more room for people and less sweaty brow when the time comes to parallel park the thing. A ‘walk through’ section between the front seats meant that, even at 6’4", I had Club Class style legroom in the second row. The need to carry a lot of bags in the back saw the rearmost seats slid to their foremost extent and this limits legroom for adults.
Fit and finish is better than you’d have any reasonable right to expect in a car that costs this little (from £15,995). Even the screwheads that hold the door pulls on are finished beneath hinged plastic covers. I’ve driven cars four times the Sedona’s price where this would never have occurred to the manufacturer. The dash is slightly busy but there’s a lot of equipment and a decent double-DIN sized JVC stereo. The twin sliding doors make access to the back easy and also mean that the kids won’t be knocking cobs out of other cars in the multi-storey. Front, side and full curtain airbags are standard on all models while the front passenger bag can be deactivated if you have a child seat fitted. ISOFIX anchor points and anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution are also present on all versions.
The range opens with the GS, then moves up through LS to the well equipped TS models. Most get rear parking sensors while the top spec car also benefits from active headrests, ESP stability control and traction control for added security. Even the entry-level variant gets air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, remote central locking, roof rails and a small ‘conversation mirror’ so you can see what the kids are up to in the back. Move up to the LS and you’ll also get climate control, electric side doors, privacy glass, metal dash inserts and leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear shifter. The top TS version is fitted with leather trim, cruise control, front seat warmers and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat as well as 17-inch alloy wheels.
A 185bhp 2.7-litre petrol engine is offered at the eye-catching price of £15,995 in GS trim but this is set to be a minority player, with fully 83 per cent of Sedona sales across Europe going to the diesel car. Private sales of full sized MPVs are diminishing while corporate buyers are still plentiful, one reason why the diesel models are way more sought-after.
The 2.9-litre CRDi diesel engine that forms the backbone of the Sedona range has been improved to offer more power (185bhp), better economy (36.2 mpg combined) and far better emissions at 206g/km than its predecessor. The second generation common rail fuelling and variable geometry turbocharger help here and while the Sedona is no ball of fire, accelerating to 60mph in 15 seconds, it’s acceptably refined at cruising speeds. Accelerate it hard and it becomes a little vocal. The brakes require a bit of a prod but they’re powerful and reassuring when they clamp down on the ventilated front discs. The steering is notably improved, although handling is still spongy and a little vague. The upside of this is that the Sedona now has ride quality to compare with the best. Refrain from chucking it at a corner and it feels a class act. Taller drivers may want a little more height adjustment on the front seats but aside from that and an optional roof-mounted DVD screen that obscures rear view mirror vision, ergonomics are largely good.
Kia had a number of objectives when developing this car and they appear to have hit them all. It may not be the most exciting but this unassuming budget MPV could just be the most impressive car I’ve driven this year. Job done.